Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The Curious Incident of the Fried Raccoon in the Nighttime
Raccoon-Terror Alert is at "SPASTIC." I repeat, "SPASTIC." Prepare accordingly.
You know we have a history with this particular class of varmint, right? Well, we do. Catch up. I'll wait. Somehow, I thought that we might escape them in the move. Silly, silly me. I should have been clued in by the particularly huge squirrels, but in any case, it wasn't long before the raccoons showed up. BIG ones. With large families.
But wait. I am going to tell this story first from the perspective of my brain, which has perhaps read too many novels and seen too many movies. Here's what happened.
The other night, sometime after midnight, when we were lying in bed, watching TV with multiple fans blowing on us and wishing it would cool off enough to make sleep possible (when your daytime high is 108, your AC can't really keep up very well), there was a loud BANG! from outside, and then our power went out. I take it for granted, but since I know that it's different in other parts of the country, let me establish for you that our home is all electric. Everything. So when the power failed, my first thought was, "Wow, it's quiet." My next thought was, "Wow, we had a LOT of electricity going!" My third thought was, "DANG, those frogs are loud." I just want that out of the way--that I had three whole rational thoughts before beginning to lose my mind. Because my fourth thought? My fourth thought was, "Someone deliberately cut our power and is coming to get us."
And that is how my brain works, especially in the dark. And let me tell you, this was some DARK dark. Because we're down in a holler, AND because we have intense tree-cover blocking out the moon, AND because the nearest streetlight is hundreds of yards away and through many trees, when the power went out here, it was DARKETY-dark. We have a couple of night-watchers out around the property, and usually, at night, the light from those shines around the edges of our window-blinds and into our darkened bedroom. But the outage took those, too, of course. What I'm trying to get across here is that it was suddenly dark. And quiet. And there were bad guys about. I kept this to myself at first, because the part of my brain that knew I was being silly was still in control at this point.
After a minute or two, it became of critical importance to me to know whether this was an area power outage (routine), or if it was just us (sabotage). Alex knew which way the wind was blowing, so was doing his utmost to advance the "area power outage" theory. He looked out the bedroom windows, and said, "Look--the outside lights are out. It's not just us." Only problem was, as I reminded him in what I'm sure was a calm and rational manner, those outside lights are ours. Wired into the rest of our circuit. And then there was the matter of that loud Bang! which might have occurred when our transformer was blasted with a shotgun, or previously-planted small explosive charges.
Just when I was getting ready to call the power company, Alex was putting his shoes on and getting the Q-beam flashlight that provides miles of visibility and blinds anything in its path. This is where I politely inquired as to what in the heck he might possibly be thinking about going OUTSIDE for, because if there was anything bad going down, OUTSIDE was most certainly where it was going to start, not INSIDE behind the protection of the battery-powered burglar alarm and many locks. Although the abundance of windows in the living room was starting to unnerve me a little, what with all the dark out there. I couldn't get Alex all the way to my "ascairt" level, but he was just cautious enough that when he did go out, he was carrying the only gun allowed near the house, a .22 rifle. Unfortunately, the other thing he insisted on taking outside with him, besides the flashlight, was...me.
I think that on about the 13th repetition of "WHATAREYOUGOINGOUTSIDEFOR?" I had to take a breath, which lasted long enough for him to tell me that he was going to check the circuit box. This was, I believe, the tipping point for my imagination to run completely amok. What was he thinking? Did he really not know that THAT'S WHERE THEY GET YOU? While you're checking the circuit box? You're standing there, all absorbed in the switches, and then BAM! You're messily decapitated. HAPPY NOW? He also gave me the job of holding the flashlight, which incited a lot of yelling. AT me, not BY me, because I was being super-quiet. If the monsters were coming, they were gonna get Loud Boy first. And I could not keep the light trained on the circuit breakers, because I kept having to swing it around and sweep the area...and then I heard the chittering.
Somewhere, from behind us, in fact right near the location of a power pole, was a good bit of hushed activity, in the form of rustling and the aforementioned chittering. It was creepy as all get-out, and I was done with the circuit box, thankyouverymuch.
We got back inside, doors locked and alarm re-set, and Alex got on the phone. Guess what? No area outage! JUST US. I wasn't huddled in the floor rocking back and forth, but it was a near thing. Alex left a message reporting the outage, and lit a bunch of candles, and we went into the only room that is bearable with no air-conditioning, the living room. With all the windows. And now, with all the candlelight, we were sitting ducks! Worse than sitting ducks--we were sitting...whatever would be in a glass enclosure waiting to get slaughtered. Lobsters, maybe. We'd escaped disaster when we hadn't gotten caught in the old "cut their power and then wait for them to come out to the circuit box" trick, but that was just dumb luck. Now we waited.
We waited less than ten minutes before I spotted, way up at the top of the hill through the trees, the headlights and running lights of a large vehicle beginning to wind its way down our drive. I know what you're thinking, because it's the same thing I was thinking: Ten minutes for a utility service call, at 1:30 AM? Not blinking likely. As the truck got closer, it became apparent that it was, indeed, an electric co-op truck, and Alex bounced up to rush outside and meet it, ignoring my suggestion to "take the gun." I locked the door behind him. Hey, I love him, but at this point, he was already a goner when it turned out that the Deranged Killer had already murdered the REAL electric-company technician and taken his place, and I had a sleeping child to consider. I heard some conversation, and then Alex disappeared with whoever was driving the truck, toward the back of the property where I'd heard the creepy disturbance earlier.
They were gone a LONG time. Not only did this allow me plenty of time to flesh out the whole "Electric Co-op Killer" storyline, in which a maniac killed a hapless utility worker in order to take his place in his repair truck, and then go around all night long knocking folks' power out and then waiting for them to place a service call, so he could intercept it and go kill them too, but the entire time they were gone, the truck was there. Still running, still with all its lights on. It sat there and rumbled that throaty, evil diesel-engine noise while glaring in through my living room windows at me, and I swear I saw the cherry-picker mounted on the back of the truck move at least once. Even the frogs shut up for a while.
It was only when the power came back on, and Alex returned alive and well, and the truck drove away, that I began to relax, and was ready to hear the "real" story. Much less scary...unless you're a raccoon. This raccoon, to be exact. This had to be one of the family of FIVE I'd spotted sitting atop our trash cans and eating cocktail sauce earlier in the week, because he was a little guy. Apparently, he'd gone for what looked like a really convenient handhold while negotiating the powerline superhighway, and that was his last mistake. Here's what he grabbed--see the ring?
That ring just happens to be attached to the transformer's fuse, so when Mr. Raccoon was instantly flash-fried, he dropped to the ground, pulling the blown fuse with him. Alex says it was a simple procedure for the technician to replace the fuse, using just a long, flexible pole from his Truck of Evil. Sorry--it's hard to get out of horror mode once you're there.
So yeah. All's well that ends well in this story...unless you're a raccoon. We're hoping that the whole thing will serve as a cautionary tale to the other raccoons, because they are driving us nuts with their destruction, and also their massive pooping in the bed of our pickup truck. I suspect they might have gotten a couple of our koi, too. BEGONE, critters, before someone fries you, too! Ahem.
One of the funniest parts of the story, now that I can laugh about it, came when I was relating the tale to Jer. I got to the part about the imposter electric company technician coming to the house, and he said, "Yeah--instead of the real guy, it could have been four raccoons all stacked up inside a trenchcoat!"