Timing is everything.
About a month ago, I drudged up the story of the raccoon that took residence in our attic. It was an old story, but a funny one that I wanted to share.
And it was also perfect timing to set the stage for part two.
On occasion, Justin and I would hear something inside our chimney that sounded like mortar or bricks falling. We thought little of it, as the house is pretty old, and the chimney is non-functioning. This continued for a month or two.
One evening, Justin stepped outside for a moment, and when he came back in, he announced, "I think there are bats living in the chimney."
I made a face. Even though the chimney was sealed on the inside of the house, the thought of flying rodents that close to my head gave me the heeby-jeebies. When I asked for confirmation, he suggested I come outside with him and look.
He went back outside while I slipped on a pair of shoes. I barely had my feet touching the soles of my shoes when Justin burst back inside through the door, blurted out an expletive, and followed that up immediately with, "It's a raccoon!"
I laughed. I didn't mean to, but it just came out. Memories of his previous battle with a raccoon, still fresh in my mind from writing a column about it, danced through my head. "How do you know it was a raccoon?"
"It was looking down at me!" he shouted, indirectly claiming that the raccoon was somehow "taunting" him. He did a little heeby-jeeby dance of his own and shuddered, "I hate raccoons!"
I walked outside into our front yard and peered up at the chimney. Sure enough, I saw a furry hump sticking out of the top, moving around. The hump disappeared, and then the head of the masked foe popped up. It placed its hands on the chimney ledge and stared down at me through its masked eyes. It looked awfully confident and relaxed, and he gave me a nonchalant glance as if to say, "Yo. What's up?"
"Well hi, Mr. Raccoon," I found myself saying to it. I started waving, as if it was going to wave back or somehow acknowledge my greeting. Instead, it ignored me and ducked back down into the chimney.
When I walked inside, Justin was already on his smart phone doing an intense google search. What he was searching, who knows - maybe how to make raccoon stew. Then he called his dad, and after a few minutes on the phone with him, Justin decided to purchase a catch and release trap in the hopes of beating this masked foe.
Justin set up the trap in the backyard by the garbage cans. He'd baited the trap with some chicken scraps we had leftover, wet cat food and apples. After dark, Justin stood at the door staring out into the blackness. As he stood and watched, he complained that what looked like two raccoons were reaching into the cage from the outside trying to get the chicken. I suggested he sit down, and before I went to bed, I told him to relax. The last thing I wanted was for him to stare out that door every 15 minutes.
It was dark when we woke the next morning, and Justin walked outside to check the trap. He came back in and said, "Well, I caught something, but I better get my glasses." So, armed with his extra eyes and a flashlight, he headed out the back door once again.
When he came back inside, he made the grand announcement: "It's a cat."
"Some black and white cat I don't remember seeing around here," he continued. He chuckled at his own expense and then said, "Well, I guess it probably wants out," and went outside again to set it free.
The next night, Justin rigged up the cage so it was cornered behind a bale of straw. It was a pretty good set up - if the raccoon wanted the chicken, he'd have to go inside the cage to get it.
In the morning, Justin checked the trap, and lo and behold, a raccoon! After confirming it and then taking a photo for Facebook, he took the raccoon out to the country and set it free. Thankfully, Justin did not follow his dad's recommendation of "hanging its hide from the chimney to scare off other animals."
After some discussion about whether or not this was the right raccoon, and since he thought he'd seen two raccoons outside the first night, Justin put the trap out again the next night. In the morning, he found his next prize: a possum!
Justin complained it was hissing at him.
"Of course it's hissing," I said. "You'd be in a bad mood too if you got stuck inside a cage all night."
I had to help him free the possum, since he was leery about sticking his hand by the trap to open it. So I had to distract this poor hissing creature with a large stick while Justin undid the latches. When the trap opened, the possum darted out, ran all of four feet and dove into a hole underneath a wooden tree house in the neighboring yard.
I assumed Justin's reign of terror as the neighborhood critter catcher was over when the next night he caught nothing. Perhaps word was spreading among the animal kingdom to avoid the Hershberger residence. However, he set the trap out again and caught another raccoon, which he also took on a road trip and set free.
Justin was feeling quite victorious until he heard some chirping coming from inside the chimney while he was in the attic. He made me come upstairs and listen, and we immediately googled "baby raccoon sounds." Sure sounded like what we were hearing. Now what? We didn't have a tall enough ladder for Justin to get on the roof, nor did we have the means to get a bigger ladder there. So Justin did the best he could and filled a divided bowl with some water and some cat food and put it up on the roof, hoping that if the little raccoons came out, they'd get some food. We really weren't sure what else to do.
We heard the chirping the next day, but the following day heard nothing. Justin, or "Jack Hanna" as my dad started calling him, had been reading about orphaned raccoons online. Apparently they wait a few days and then will leave the den. We also wonder if the second raccoon was the mother and somehow found her way back, since Justin only took her a mile or so away to the woods near Oglebay.
Whatever happened, I can say with certainty that I haven't seen too many critters roaming our yard since - no neighborhood cats, either. Even the deer seem to be staying away. Perhaps they've all learned a valuable lesson. Don't mess with Justin "the raccoon slayer" Hershberger.