It was a dark and stormy night. Lots of classic stories start that way. This is me, though. In my world, it was actually a bright and sunny day when my phone rang. My dad, The Chairman Emeritus, was the caller.
"Say, what are you up to? Nancy (one of our neighbors) called and she has a raccoon in her yard. I told her we'd take care of it," The Chairman informed me.
Let's go back to English 101 for a moment here and deconstruct a little bit, shall we? Notice how I was circuitously brought into the conversation at the beginning without Nancy actually involving me, and now Dad had pretty much assigned me to a task by telling Nancy that "we" would take care of her situation. I knew what "we" meant. There was nothing collective about it. This had me and me alone written all over it.
Of course, there was a raccoon involved, so The Chairman knew I'd be on that job in a heartbeat without any persuasion required. You could say that I've been involved in a skirmish with Ranger Rick & Associates for some time now. I hate raccoons.
"But, Jeff, hate is a strong word, isn't it?" you ask.
Okay, I'll give you that. I'll also have you know that it actually undersells my feelings toward raccoons. In the big equation of wildlife and creatures on God's green earth, I see raccoons as only a negative. By my math, they should only be subtracted.
As it turns out, Nancy was calling to see if we could do some math for her. This was kind of a "Sopranos" episode. She and her family had a situation that required swift action. The best solution would probably involve violence and gun-play, but she and her family wanted nothing to do with it. They could place a fairly innocuous call to someone and the situation would be handled. No muss, no fuss, no involvement, no evidence.
At the moment, I was chopping stalks in a cornfield. I wasn't right next to the buildings, but I was close enough that I could get there in fairly short order when my mobster hit-man services were requested. This was probably going to involve the whacking of one of Ranger Rick's crew, so I'm always available for that on a second's notice.
I drove back to the buildings and switched to Lieutenant Howard Hunter from "Hill Street Blues" mode. Evaluate the situation, talk to the person in charge at headquarters, then assemble the firepower and transportation to go to the incident scene and "take him out."
The perpetrator had arrived on the scene in the middle of the day. He was loitering and being uncooperative when asked politely to leave. The perp had decided to move into the neighborhood and set up residence without an invitation. He was described by witnesses as "just not right." Perhaps he had been bumped on the nearby highway, which may have left him dazed and confused and added to his belligerence.
I've seen this episode before. A young tough gets himself hopped up on some mind-altering substance (probably some nearly-fermented corn silage from one of my bags, I figured) and then stumbles into traffic, gets tapped by a vehicle, takes over a nearby residence and blames it all on society keeping him down.
Typical Hill Street Blues episode. It was probably either Angel dust or corn silage. Tough call. I'd assess the situation when I got on scene.
First, it was time for hardware choices. What to take, what to take? Feels like a 12-gauge day, I thought. To add some variety, I'd go with a potpourri of ammo, though. Some deer slugs and some regular 4-shot would probably do the trick. One type for an introduction and one to close the deal.
On the way to the scene, I was running all kinds of scenarios through my head. Most of them involved the potential incident scene layout and my plan to deal with the all the factors. I was hoping I'd find The Rickster crouching in the road ditch, dazed and confused from his Firestone interaction on the road. A quick introduction, a short fireworks display and I'd be back chopping stalks in a couple minutes.
Nope, The Rickster wasn't going to throw me a bone like that. Instead, he had decided to walk to a corner of the dwelling and hide behind a bunch of shovels, rakes and hoses neatly organized in the corner between the garage and the house. This was not what the sniper community would call a good shooting alley. It was going to be major, major ricochet time if I dispatched Ranger Rick as quickly as I wished.
Ranger Rick's 'shooting alley' is not ideal, so other measures must be taken.
I switched to guidance counselor mode. Provide some insight to Ranger Rick and show him the various paths available to him. Talk in vague generalities, but don't get all that specific about the end game. The end game was an obituary and it was ready to be sent to the printer, as far as I was concerned. My mission was to make sure it was Ranger Rick's and not my own from bad shot selection!
Like any good guidance counselor, I had an incentive program. It was a livestock sorting stick I had in the back of my utility vehicle. If Rickster wasn't going to listen to my suggestions for paths to follow, I'd get more aggressive with my suggestions.
Got an animal cornered and don't know what to do? Poke him with a stick!
That's on Page 1 of The Genius Manual.
There's a reason you don't see The Welcome Wagon Lady walk up to the front door of new neighbors with a big sorting stick in her hands. Who knew?
Turns out Ranger Rick wasn't really into my form of guidance counseling. He made that pretty clear to me. He snarled and swatted quite aggressively as I offered him guidance . . . repeatedly.
That's when I decided to change plans. If The Rickster wasn't going to come out of his lair peaceably, I'd try a different route. I got in my UTV and headed back to my place to get a box trap from next to the silage bags. It's kind of where I wanted Rick or his associates to be at some point. I was just being more helpful in the transition for him/them.
The box trap was set and placed in a spot where Rick would have to walk almost into it to get out of his corner. I did him a favor and put a delicious Brach's Orange Slice in as an incentive to explore his new surroundings.
Rick didn't move. His Vitamin C levels were just fine, thank you.
So I poked him with the stick again.
That's on Page 2 of The Genius Manual.
All of my years of handling livestock did not provide enough experience to herd raccoons. Ranger Rick snarled at me again and walked right past the giant open door of the box trap. He headed for the backyard.
I set my guidance pole in the back of the UTV and switched tools. Rick was headed to a much better location now. No more Ricochet Alley. We were headed for more of an open prairie now. This looked like it was time for some potpourri.
I came around the corner of the house and expected to see Ranger Rick heading for a nearby open field. Instead, he had decided to climb the dog kennel in the backyard and maybe head up higher from there. The Rickster's road rash from his earlier encounter made it hard for him to climb like a monkey.
"Nice try. Guess again. Get down here and let's get this done," I told Ranger Rick as I waited patiently for him to undo his poor life choices.
It was a fairly short track meet when Ranger Rick climbed down and made a break for safety. He was tripped up by some potpourri. It was a large container.
The desired result is achieved.
Nancy and Jim were very happy with the guidance I provided to Ranger Rick. In true Sopranos style, we talked about what happened without saying anything. There was a problem. There was a request. There was violence. There was a solution. Oh, and there was a corpse. We talked about weather and family.
Sherill and I drove home from dinner at Estelle's recently. There was something in the middle of the road that looked like a dirty cardboard box, so I drove around it as we made our way down the highway, not far from home. It was not a box. It was a raccoon. It was a live raccoon and I didn't hit it!
Of the two of us in the truck, guess who wanted to turn around and who refused to allow that to happen?
I was simply looking to go back and offer some guidance to Ranger Rick.
It's what I do. Capiche?
Guy No. 2