This morning I had to climb up on the roof to release a squirrel caught in our trap. I have to check the wire cage every morning, so the little darlings aren’t without water, or sitting in the sun, or being deprived of the garbage in my cans for too long. Besides, they’re not what we’re after. This squirrel, I saw, once I got high off the ground, was a big bastard—well-muscled, -fatted, -furred—and as full of angry chatter as a provost. He rammed the sides of the trap several times while I tried to free him, and when the gate came up an inch or two, he made a crazy, sprawling leap across the void and clawed his way up an elm.
The live trap is for raccoons that recently tore a hole in our porch roof to make a nest. The porch isn’t enclosed, and there’s no passage to the attic, but we still had to pay to have it fixed. Despite the fact that the coons then ripped up more shingles a few feet away, I honestly hate to trap them. Rascal, by Sterling North , was my absolute favorite childhood book. (It was also a Disney movie and an anime series, with Hayao Miyazake  as one of the lead animators.) And if the agricultural fields that lure them weren’t razed every fall, leaving an iron-hard desert around Inner Station all winter, they wouldn’t be so aggressive in their search for food and shelter.
Still, everyone should have a trapper, like a personal trainer, a family physician, and a good therapist. Ours is knowledgeable, humane, and startlingly handsome, despite his five missing teeth. At least we can get him out to the house, unlike the other trades in this town. And when Steve pulls up in his pickup with the ladders mounted on top and the bed full of animal traps, we know there’ll be an adventure.
When he came to leave us our trap, he said the bobcat scare in town was a false alarm. We’d read the rumor on a community listserv. The woman said she knew what she was talking about: She was from Canada. As it turned out, she was a client of Steve’s, and he told us she’d seen something in an alley at one in the morning. He laughed. She had bobcats on the brain, he said, because he’d put bobcat musk in her attic to keep out the squirrels, and she was convinced every bobcat in the Midwest was on its way to her house for a good time.
A rumor of coyotes was not false, however. One recently ran out of some bushes in a new subdivision on the edge of town and snatched a tiny rat dog off its leash, right out of the owner’s hand. Steve and I agreed there wasn’t much meat on a Yorkie, and I wished the coyote well. He reached into the cab of his truck for a teddy bear he’d had some guy in Arkansas make for him. It was sewn from coyote and other pelts Steve had taken in his job, and he smiled a big toothless smile, proud as hell. It was too big, maybe two feet high, and had tufts of hair sprouting from its ears. The ruff of the coyote was aligned with the back of the teddy bear’s neck, and unlike a beautiful wild animal, this thing looked creepy and grotesque—pure evil—and Steve said he could set me up with one if I wanted to give some little kid an extra-special birthday present.
Starbuck wanted to see the two coons and a squirrel he had in his truck. Steve started to talk about them, but I interrupted at some point to say he was taking them out to give them a new happy home. (He’s not allowed to euthanize some of the animals and does indeed take them to an idyllic farm in the next county.) Then Steve told a long story about daddy Black Bears killing their own cubs, so you had to be careful about trapping all boars, because paradoxically you get a population explosion the next season. Starbuck looked at me quizzically.
When I asked if he had a skunk somewhere in the jumble of traps, he said it was only their “essence,” which he extracted from glands before incineration. He held up a balsamic vinegar bottle full of skunk juice and said I was smelling it through the glass bottle. One drop on the sidewalk, he said, would make my block unlivable for several hours. “I get a hunnert-twenty bucks for a bottle like this at trade shows,” he said. I knew then what I would get my acquaintance Chaz for Christmas, but I wasn’t sure how I’d make the bottle break when he unwrapped it.
When the spring semester was in progress, many things had to wait. Even now, with things winding down, my priorities are:
1) Serving up, to you, gentle reader, a hot steamin’ plate of the best bloggin’ on the web. Yum!
2) Feeding my children
3) Grading last things and recording final grades
4) Starting my new novel
5) Personal hygiene
7) Home repair
Five and six are always variable, and the coons had a reprieve for a while, but summer means changes are at hand.