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« On The Road | Main | Stagnation »

In The Nick Of Time

I was in the kitchen, opening a bottle of Merlot purchased the day before at an Anderson Valley winery, when the ruckus started.

Growls erupted out on the deck of our vacation rental, and scuffling, like a dogfight from hades. But it didn't sound quite like a dog; the growls had a more feral quality to them, deep and primitive.

I ran outside to try to save the steak that I'd left sitting on a table next to the grill, which I was sure was the instigator of the commotion. I didn't take the time to grab any kind of weapon--I guess I just assumed that my presence would disturb whatever it was. I fully expected to see the ten-dollar rib steak gone when I opened the door.

I saw no sign of what had happened. The steak was still there, apparently undisturbed. I walked out toward the grill, and heard more noises under the deck, and more growling.

Now I recognized the sound. It was the same one that we'd heard occasionally outside our bedroom window in Redondo Beach in the past, in the depths of the night, drowning out the gentle burbling of the artificial stream that runs past it. In the morning I'd go out and find the rocks in it disturbed, strewn around. One night Patricia stuck a flashlight out the window, and saw the masked face, like a nocturnal bandit, which of course was exactly what it was, both then, and now in the yard of the little cottage on the ocean in Westport, California.

Sure enough, I saw it stick its head around the corner of the house. It was a 'coon. After a while, it disappeared, presumably back to whence it came, perhaps up in the hills across the road. I put the steak on the grill with its mate ("it" referring to the steak, not the 'coon), and left it, confident that raccoons are smart enough not to mess with a hot charcoal grill.

The actual train of events, and the participants, remains a mystery.

What were the growls about? Were there two of them, fighting over the treat? If so, why not wait until they had the prize in hand (or in jaw)? Were they partners in crime who had a falling out before actually acquiring the booty? Or did we have a secret watchdog, both solicitous of our nutritional and fiscal wellbeing, and indifferent to fresh beef? How, in any case, did the steak (and our dinner) survive?

Further theories are welcomed in comments.

Posted by Rand Simberg at September 08, 2003 10:29 AM
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Perhaps it was a male and female raccoon and you misinterpreted their, uh, vocalizations...

Posted by eli at September 8, 2003 11:02 AM

'Coons are greedy, ornery little thieves. Once they figure out that Treats ( = garbage, human food, pet food, etc.,) exist, they become obsessed and will go to any lengths to get it. They are also territorial and have no problems letting other critters know when they've trespassed; at 70+ lbs. ( for a good-sized male) they're not afraid of much, including people. Since your rental place is a rich source of Treats, you're probably going to be visited again. Mt advice is to keep a plinking rifle handy (a Marlin .22 Rimfire is ideal) and try for a head shot next time. They make great hats.

Posted by bchan at September 8, 2003 11:11 AM

I suppose that's possible, Eli, but it seems like an interesting coincidence that they would choose a site within a few feet of a fresh steak for a tryst, when we hadn't heard them all weekend previously...

Posted by Rand Simberg at September 8, 2003 11:17 AM

You never know, the steak could have been like a beef "Ladies Night" sign for those raccoons.

Posted by eli at September 8, 2003 11:37 AM

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