Raccoon

I’m feeling better about my life; thanks for asking.

In my experience, there are two ways to pull of this feat.

One, actually have your life start working out better.

Two, compare yourself to someone having a really bad day.

South of our farm is a small dip in the field, just a few acres that’s a little bit too wet some of the time. About forty years ago, we installed a system of tile that allows the excess water to seep away, with a five-thousand-gallon reservoir and a pump to empty it when full. Saturday morning, I sauntered down the hill to flip the “on” switch. It made all the right sounds, but no water came out, until it came in a rush, pushing a vastly disgruntled raccoon ahead of it.

Apparently, he’d been sleeping in - until he was hit in the face with a thousand gallons of icy water.

If I were a better person, I probably wouldn’t have laughed. But I would have had to be a WAY better person, because when he hit the ground and stumbled away from the stream, he gave me a look that I found hilarious.

I don’t speak raccoon, but his expression clearly said, “Dude, c’mon, it’s Saturday morning. I was asleep!”

Imagine waking up your obnoxious roommate with a glass of water, but instead of a roommate it’s a raccoon, and instead of a glass of water it’s about one thousand gallons of water full of ice chunks. It was just like that.

He knew it was my fault, too. I thought he was going to squelch over to take a swing at me, but he gave me one final glare and stalked off through the prairie grass, dragging his soggy tail behind him.

Let me set the scene a little better. We built the reservoir using silo staves – it’s about eight feet across and twelve feet deep. A pipe goes into it that runs about five feet under the ground out to the middle of the wet spot. Usually, water just seeps into that main pipe from a bunch of connecting pipes, but there’s also an inlet, about two hundred feet out in the field, in case we get a sudden downpour. A heavy wooden cover keeps deer, rabbits, and pheasant hunters from falling in. One day I lifted the lid to check on things and was almost smacked by a green winged teal zooming past my ear. We’d just had a heavy rain, and the duck must have been swimming over the tile inlet when the pump turned on. It was sucked down into the ground, through two hundred feet of pipe, and then splashed out into the reservoir. Much the same thing happened in Port Royal, Jamaica, during the earthquake of 1692. A man was swallowed up by the earth and then spit into the sea a quarter mile away. He survived and became a missionary. I don’t know what the duck did.

That experience took a few years off my life, and it couldn’t have been good for the duck either. I put a guard around the inlet so it couldn’t happen again, and it didn’t. Not exactly.

A couple years after the duck and a couple decades before the raccoon, I lifted the lid and peered down to check out the equipment. The reservoir was empty, except for a pacing muskrat.

If you've never met a muskrat, I’d describe them as halfway between a rat and a beaver, but void of their sweet personalities. I slid a ladder down and left the lid open so he could escape. When I checked back the next morning he was still in there, walking in circles, carefully avoiding the ladder.

I trudged back to the house, got a pair of leather gloves and then climbed down in the hole. I felt a little like a gladiator coming out of the tunnel into the Coliseum. The muskrat and I sparred a little, he faked left and went right, and I scooped him out with both hands and flung him over my head right out of the hole.

He landed safely and then, either because he was disorientated or just being a jerk, he leaped back into the hole, using my shoulder to break his fall.

We repeated our dance, but the second time I flung him far enough so he regained his wits before he jumped back in a third time.

I’ve heard there are people who talk about the boring lives country folk lead. Sure, I may not be able to get a decent bagel, but how many people in New York City can say they flung a muskrat?

Twice.

Copyright 2022 Brent Olson