Midnight snacks, scaredy-cats, and raccoon burglars

The picture is of 4 x 6 inch water color and penciled drawing by Nelda Curtiss called “Banshees screaming!”

Movin’ On with Nellie

With Spring here, I woke in the middle of the night and shuffled my way to the back of the cottage where the bathroom was. As I always do, I checked which “kitty” was on the deck. Adjusting the curtained backdoor window, I looked face to face with a robust raccoon downing the cat chow on the deck rail. I screamed and he screamed like in that John Candy movie, The Great Outdoors, when Candy met Bart the Bear.

The moment felt like slow motion and that scream went on and on and on and on some more. I could see his teeth, his nostrils, his claws. Still, I was brave enough to open the back door and yell at the scavenger, “You get out of here! Bad Racoon. Get!”

As I lopped a handy water bowl at him, I watched the unscathed critter zip through the fence hole by the wild olive tree. Then, I noticed two quiet cats frozen like statues. Scaredy-cat Whiney Winnie was under the bistro chair; LoopieLoo was slightly off the deck hidden by dried Hollyhock stalks.

Across the frozen tundra still buried by a hardened snow blanket, Tigger bounced directly onto the deck. Despite Whiney slapping at the air as he zoomed past, Tigger made it inside with a swivel of his tail and his head propped high. Directly behind him came the tortoise-shelled lollygagger, Rooroo, who took immediate control of the feed station across from the washing machine.

On cue, Punky stuck her head out from around the blue tarped cat condos under the lean-to. She meowed as she does. Then on the other side, Rupurrt swagged his way through the yard to go nose-to-nose with Whiney. “Hi brother,” they greeted each other. Alphie lumbered out from the open-air garage.

Harley poked his head out from under the deck. I could see that the felines had the same instinct as I did: a need for snacks. I craved a sandwich at midnight before Spring sprang. They were all calm now and not hiding since the wiry racoon had left the yard. So, I placed their feed outside for a quick snack, and watched from behind the door where it was 30 degrees warmer, at least. When they had all gobbled their fill, and stretched, then slinked off the deck for the rest of the nightly z’s, I brought all the dishes inside and locked the door. I always lock the doors because I have heard tales of raccoons opening doors. “None of those guys will get in here again,” I remembered thinking.

I had to close up the doggie door a few years ago when one raccoon slipped in to raid the cat scraps and doggy dish in the kitchen. I had no idea I was in raccoon-held country, prime raccoon real estate, until I looked up from a story I was writing to see the “bear” (as Beavis and Butthead recently referred to a raccoon as). The four-legged burglar was a bear relative pausing to look around at the treasure he’d found.

My party cocker spaniel Schroeder flew across the dining room to chase that invading raccoon out the doggy door, across the broken sidewalk, all the way to the back fence. Calling after Schroeder didn’t work because he had gotten another scent, a skunk. (I wrote about that episode in an earlier column that readers may remember. Revisit that one: alamosanews.com/article/not-punkd-but-skunked-at-2-am)

Needless to say, removing kibble after feeding pets and community cats is important to avoid marauding disease-carrying wildlife like racoons and skunks. Lesson learned, again.

— Nelda Curtiss is a retired college educator and long-time local columnist. Reach her at columnsbynellie.com or email her at [email protected]