Raccoon Encounters

For the second time in just over a week, a raccoon managed to make its way to our back deck, which is at least seventeen feet above the ground. Metal tubes, wrapped around the middle sections of six by six posts supporting the deck, ostensibly prevent the beasts from reaching the deck. The tubes are useless. Raccoons have made their way up to the deck before. But, until just over a week ago, they waited until it was dark. No more. Now, they seem willing to venture out before the sun goes down. Yesterday, for the second time, I confronted the masked criminal directly. The encounter did not go as planned.

My intent was to frighten the beast so badly that it would dive off the deck to the rocks seventeen feet below. I was that angry when I saw it greedily slurping the sugar-water from the hummingbird feeder hanging from a metal arch affixed to the deck railing. I crept out to the screen porch, then carefully opened the screen door and stepped out onto the deck. With my right hand, I reached for the walking stick I’d made from a thick crepe myrtle branch late last winter. I crept up behind the raccoon, raised the stick high above my head, and–as I slammed the stick down on the top of the horizontal railing next to where the raccoon was crouching–screamed “Hey!”

Much to my surprise, the raccoon did not, in abject terror, spring off the deck. Instead, it spun around and leapt at me, hissing and growling and clawing at me. I tried to escape by stepping backward, but I was too slow. I felt the beast’s claws slice across my face, though I felt no pain. I reacted by grabbing the monster by its neck and squeezing, hard, as it wiggled frantically, trying to free itself. I held my ground, squeezing hard. All the while, both its front and back claws spun like it was running. Every stride struck my lower arms, drawing blood from deep scratches. My face started to sting and I saw blood dripping on my shirt. I felt the creature’s jaw and neck muscles flinch as it tried to open its mouth, no doubt intending to bite its way out of my grip. I knew it could do serious damage if I let it loose, so I held on for dear life, hoping to feel the animal’s body go limp from lack of oxygen.

Suddenly, as if an enormous surge of power filled its body, the raccoon put its two front paws between my hands and its neck and forcefully loosened my grip. At that moment, its eyed locked on mine and its mouth opened wide, revealing teeth that looked like long, white sabers. I swung at the beast with all my strength, but it dodged my arm and, taking advantage of the fact that my right arm crossed my chest, thrust its right paw at me, striking me directly above my mouth and below my nose. I felt like I’d been punched by a boxer as I stumbled backward. I tried to stay upright, but the back of my knees hit the arm of a wrought-iron chair, causing me to fall backward onto the chair. The raccoon was on me in an instant, hissing and growling and biting.

Though I continued trying to push it away, I couldn’t. It was moving too frantically for me to grab its neck or legs. It must have been only seconds, but it seemed like hours, that it was on me. During that time, I imagined the newspaper headline: “Man Attacked and Killed by Angry Raccoon.” About the time I had given up hope, a blackening sky and a loud hum stunned me. Hundreds of hummingbirds descended from above me and attacked my attacker. I saw their long beaks zip through its fur into the raccoon’s flesh. The raccoon squealed and spun away from me. The hummingbirds were relentless, jabbing it in the face and  legs and back.

As quickly as the event started, it was over. The raccoon leapt over the railing to the ground below. I heard it crash through branches to the thick bed of leaves covering the ground. I heard it scramble through the bramble and leaves, evidence that it was alive, at least, if not uninjured. The birds flew away in all directions. I was alone in my embarrassment, sitting in a pool of my own blood. If the raccoon was rabid, I suppose I’ll develop symptoms in three to eight weeks, though they could come sooner or, according to Wikipedia, as late as seven years after exposure. In the meantime, I’ll hope it was just an animal with attitude and that my scars will heal quickly, without any infection.

You will, by now, have deduced that this story was fiction, bunk, hallucinations flowing from my fingertips. But it is true that, a few weeks ago, I frightened a raccoon away, before dark, as it was drinking hummingbird nectar from a feeder on our deck. And it’s true that, yesterday, a creature that I assume was a raccoon, knocked that same feeder to the ground seventeen feet below. I haven’t climbed down there yet. I hope the feeder is not broken.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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