Sometimes life gives you challenges. A few of them are brief. A few of them seem constant. I have had one in recent years that I would classify more as "ongoing" than constant. It doesn¹t take up every waking moment of the day and all of my REM time at night, but it shows up more often than I would prefer.
It all started a couple years ago. I was busy with the work of A.I. season and had several cows to breed one evening. I parked my four-wheeler right by the door of the cattle shed and went in to do my appointed task. The job lasted well beyond sunset. When it was time for me to go, I went to hop on my four-wheeler and encountered my challenge. Perched on top of the seat was a big ol' raccoon! This was not a moonlit night, so neither of us knew the other one was there. Climbing onto a four-wheeler is somewhat similar to climbing into a saddle. That transaction becomes complicated when your foot encounters an unexpected occupant on the seat. Ranger Rick and I did not exchange pleasantries like we had just met at the office Christmas party and accidentally bumped into one another. It was more like Ranger Rick and his pals had just egged my house at Halloween.
Words were exchanged. They were not friendly.
Fast-forward to this past summer. I was done baling hay one night when the dew never showed up until very late. It was well after 10:00 when I finally quit. The last bale I made was too small to be worth wrapping with plastic, so I decided to dump it in the bunker silo to feed to my heifers the next morning. I came around the corner of the bunker in my tractor and was greeted by FOURTEEN raccoons in the bunker. The silo was nearly empty, except for the last 10 or 12 feet of silage at the very back. The whole structure is about 40 feet wide, 125 feet long and 12 feet tall. All I could see were 28 shiny eyes staring back at me like I had interrupted their dinner party. There were big raccoons, medium-sized raccoons and several small raccoons. I skipped dumping the bale and drove back to the machine shed to get a tool.
I climbed into the skid loader, hooked onto the big bucket and then headed for the bunker silo with my lights off. Gotta use the element of surprise whenever you can.
I rounded the corner and flipped the switch on my lights. All those shiny eyes were staring back at me, but not for long. The veterans quickly decided I meant business, so they made a break for it and headed for the back of the bunker. I clicked the two-speed transmission switch on my hand lever and gained ground on the group as they waddled at breakneck speed. There were a couple schools of thought as to my strategy at the time. I could aim for the smallest ones and take out future generations of problems. I could aim for the veterans and take out command leadership. Or I could just weave all over the place and go completely postal on the whole works with no regard to seniority.
Half of the original eyes were no longer shining when I finished. No one looked like a pirate with an eye patch, either. My efforts took out mainly the junior brigade. They couldn't climb the face of the silage to get away. Their elders could climb it, though, and didn¹t really go very far. Two of them actually sat on top of the silage pile and watched.
I drove out of the bunker after the showdown and parked a few yards away as I shut off my skid loader. I knew what would happen next, because it happens each night when I feed cattle. The first group of raccoons would run away, but they would return within seconds of my lights turning off. Less than a minute after parking, I cranked up the skid loader and hit the lights. Right in the center of the floor of the bunker silo was a huge raccoon! His little Ranger Rick mug was staring straight at me. It was go time.
Ranger Rick made a break for it and tried to scamper away to the wall of silage as fast as he could. I decided to use a little psychological intimidation on him, though. Rather than just flying after him in the skid loader, I decided to put the bucket down on the floor and a make a truly intimidating rumbling noise as I bore down on him. It must have caught his attention, because he started to zig and zag as he ran.
Step aside for a moment here and ask yourself a question. Have you ever heard the following phrase? "As graceful as a raccoon."
I thought so.
Ranger Rick lost his focus and could not scale the face of the silage. Sir Edmund Hillary, he was not. Instead, he made one quick attempt at it and then decided to turn and make a break for it in a different direction. He ran to the other end of the face and managed to scale that in a rather unglamorous fashion. I did my best to cash in his life insurance, but to no avail. I assumed the position at the other end of the bunker again with my lights off.
It didn't take long for the scene to reset itself. This time Ranger Rick had just climbed down the face of the silage and was at the base instead of out in the middle of the floor. This time he had a different plan. He was not going to get stuck sliding off the face of the pile and then get crushed by the skid loader. He would make a break for it by running out the other end of the bunker silo - right at me!
I fired up the skid loader, flipped the two-speed transmission switch to HIGH and headed straight for him. It was surreal to see a critter like that, with such determination, running straight at me.
As I was barreling down the length of the bunker, a thought occurred to me: I have my bucket raised to the approximate height where I would clothesline Ranger Rick when we met at full speed. Worst-case scenario: what if Ranger Rick uses his fancy footwork and makes one of those Heisman-quality jumps at the last minute? That would pretty much end with me, seat-belted into my skid loader, face to face with a snarling varmint in my lap with a bad attitude and one wicked grudge to settle.
It was pure humiliation, but I swerved at the last second. Yes, it's true. I basically played a game of chicken with a raccoon from the seat of a four-ton machine . . . AND I LOST!!!
There were two grudges established that night. In my Jerry Seinfeld-like world, things have a way of evening out. Let's just say that - sometime later - I settled the score.
Guy No. 2