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Ranger Rick enters my 57-step rehab program

You can take a mess and get it corrected sometimes with a little effort. Some messes don't get straightened out as easily. The extra effort isn't always appropriately rewarded. Other times, minimal effort yields big results. The final outcome is all that really matters. 

There has been an ongoing struggle between me and the local raccoon population for a number of years. It reached feud stage a few years ago during A.I. season. I parked my ATV outside the cattle shed one evening while I got my cows sorted off and put into the working facilities to get bred. By the time I was done, it was dark outside. It's not the worst place in the world to work a lot of the time, because the working facilities are frequently right next to the area where I store a bunch of big square bales of alfalfa. The people at Glade would be hard-pressed to make an air freshener as potent or as pervasive as a few tons of decent hay. 

I walked outside to my four-wheeler and swung my leg over the seat to get on and head in for something to eat. Right as my leg made the peak of its arc, it met some stiff resistance. That resistance was in the form of Ranger Rick, who had taken his position on the seat before climbing the stack of bales to rest for the evening. 

A bold move on his part, no question. A wise one? Hardly. 

Game on, Rickster!

We skipped the pleasant introductions and exchanged words with one another. It wasn't good. 

From that point forward, I made it my mission to shrink the population of Ranger Rick & Co. 

While baling hay near the buildings recently, I came past the grain bit site to finish my windrow of hay and head back to the rest of the field further away. Walking across the yard in the middle of the afternoon was none other than The Rickster. This wasn't a stroll at dusk or in the dark of night. This was 3:00 in the middle of the afternoon in the summer! Majorly bold move, I felt, especially since The Rickster didn't appear to be foaming at the mouth or ill in any fashion. Quite the opposite. He seemed more than healthy. Even a little chunky, I thought. 

I quickly turned around and headed back into the building site to see if my eyes had deceived me. A trip around the buildings didn't reveal any sign of the intruder. That's when I hopped out of the cab and walked around the bins on foot. Something moved around the corner of a bin as I came around the other side. Lo and behold, it was The Rickster! 

A few math problems started running through my head right away.  We have eight bins in two rows. The Rickster and I could end up putting on a lot of miles in our circular pursuit if I kept after him and weaved around several bins. Just then, The Rickster did the math for me. Rather than doing a series of figure eights, he made another decision on his escape plan.The newest bin has a circular staircase going up the side of it instead of the standard ladder like all of the other bins. The Rickster decided he'd just scale the stairs and dodge me completely. I came around the corner just in time to see him heading up the stairs. 

He stopped near the top to look back at me.  I'm pretty sure he sneered. 

I did the only thing that seemed to be my best option. I followed him.  That really freaked him out! He quickly scurried up the steps and hopped onto the ladder on the roof. 

My aversion to heights brought me to a stop partway up the stairs. That's when I had a vision. It involved me making it to the top of the stairs and meeting The Rickster pretty much at the edge of the roof. We'd end up having another one of those uncomfortable greetings like we'd had at the cattle shed years before.  This time, it was going to be my kind of meeting, though. I quickly went back down the stairs and stood back to see if The Rickster was perched on top the bin, which he was. He looked to be camped out. 

Good choice, Rickster. 

Running won't help when there's only one place to go.  He could either take the stairs back down, or take one really, really big leap off the roof.  What with the eave being 30 feet off the ground, I figured that the stairs would be his only true option. 

Helpful cuss that I am, I decided to aid The Rickster in his decision-making process. Assistance was summoned. It appeared in the form of Guy No. 1 and one of my friends, Mr. Winchester.   

Even though I've never played chess, I'm vaguely familiar with the concept.  You always need to be thinking ahead. It looked to me like the idea of walking up the stairs with a loaded weapon and being greeted by The Rickster at the top may not be the most desirable. This is a bin staircase, not a hotel lobby. Space is kind of tight up there. I wasn't exactly in a safety harness, either, so I didn't think the idea of getting all kinds of recoil was the best way to stabilize myself at the top of the stairs as a snarling Rickster came at me! 

Another mechanical issue presented itself. We switched from filling the bins with augers to a pneumatic system a couple years ago. The corn flows from the dryer into a tube where a giant blower forces the corn through the tube and up the side of the bin. The tube then reaches an endpoint where an attachment directs the corn into the bin below. 

Escape artist genius that he felt he was, Ranger Rick decided he'd simply crawl into the tube and get away from us. Practicality came back and bit him in the butt, though. That freshly-bitten butt was too husky to fit inside the tube! Ranger Rick was pretty much an ostrich with his head in the sand up there on top the bin roof. He kept trying and trying to get himself into the tube, but couldn't make it happen. 

Once again, always the Good Samaritan, I went the extra mile. I walked over to the control panel on the hopper bin by the dryer and flipped the switch. A large and sudden blast of air did a really nice job of changing The Rickster's thoughts on air tube escapes. 

Well, that's just mean, you're thinking. Yeah, well, chess is fun, the way I play it. My game, my rules. Deal with it. 

The Rickster never saw that move coming. 

He then moved himself partway down the roof and decided he'd try to climb around the roof to get away. Maybe hiding under one of the support pipes would be his salvation. 

That's the same concept as an elephant hiding behind a sapling. It’s not even close to effective. In fact, it just made me pull out another weapon.  This one was a rifle.  A couple warning shots near The Rickster's head got him nervous enough to move from his lair under the pipe.  We had to be careful to keep the shots at or above his level, though.  No sense putting a hole in the roof of the bin and later have a few thousand bushels of corn rot from the rain and snow that would creep in the hole. 

With the air blowing through the pneumatic tube and the ongoing volley of rifle fire, The Rickster was faced with dwindling options.  This chess game was not working out like he'd planned. We took a brief break so as to totally psych him out. No noise. No movement. The coast sure looked clear from The Rickster's viewpoint. 

That's when he gave up and made his bold move. He'd head down those stairs and get the heck out of this crazy place! 

I stepped out from behind my location right as The Rickster was partway down the stairs. He paused briefly to look at me. I smiled as he turned to accelerate his descent down the steps and get away from me.

Darn the luck, geometry and geography were not in The Rickster's favor. The steps of the bin and his position as he descended them worked great for me. One or two steps into his descent after our renewed acquaintance, he crossed a step that lined up perfectly for me and my weapon. All I saw at the end of my barrel was daylight as I was standing to the side of the stairs. When the daylight was eclipsed by Rickster's torso, I squeezed the trigger. 

Let's just say that The Rickster made much better time getting down from the bin than he did getting up. It was 57 steps to get into my special rehab program, but The Rickster was a star student. He finished the second half of the program in about sixteen. 

The final move in the chess game was made by the buzzards. They play as a team and always take the time to think things through. 

Check and mate, Rickster.  Your move. 

Guy No. 2