The older you get, the more the immutable laws of nature are revealed to you. Monday afternoon immersed me in a hands-on tutorial of one such law: The difficulty involved in working on a ladder is directly proportional to your age.
I started Monday’s project in the mood for a victory dance. A months-long battle with a pair of raccoons finally was settled, and in our favor. Now it was time to repair the damage, and I was pumped.
Off and on we have been plagued with raccoons digging into the yankee gutter of our historic house and taking up residence behind our slate mansard roof.
The first three times that this happened — yes three — the creatures dug through the top of the yankee gutter. They were as safety minded as they were destructive, as they chewed though at least two places so as to have a second exit.
My experience eliminating groundhogs somewhat prepared me for my tactical fight with the raccoons. I wasn’t out for blood so I first tried a live trap, only to learn the raccoons, unlike some of the groundhogs, were too smart for a live trap.
So I instead resorted to large body traps placed over the holes at the top of the gutter. In each and every case I eventually bagged the trespassing ‘coons.
This latest raccoon invasion, however, was different. The cussed creatures chewed into the bottom of the yankee gutter to gain access behind the walls, preventing me from placing the traps atop their entrances.
I again tried the live trap, placed on the roof nearby, and again the raccoons were too smart. I used a can of cat food for bait, and each time I set the trap they figured out how to trip it to the side so the can would slide over to the side so they could scoop out the food. I also tried the lethal body traps on the roof and the gutter itself, but they avoided these traps.
Despite the failure of the traps, U.S. 127 gave us a partial victory last month when a car or truck took out one of the raccoons. We heard a thump out in front of the house early one morning, and at first we feared our mailbox had again become vehicle fender fodder. A bit later the sun came up, illuminating our fortunately upright mailbox and also a very large and very dead raccoon at the edge of the road.
Our final victory — at least this time around — came after Diane suggested placing a body trap atop a chimney cap near one of their entrances. Sunday night, two nights after trying this new location, we were successful. The trap bagged a second very large raccoon.
We waited a couple of days to be sure we didn’t hear any more activity behind the walls, and then Monday I concluded to seal up the raccoon holes.
This, of course, is where the law of nature involving age and ladders comes in. This project involved not only setting up the ladder — did I mention ladders get heavier as you age — but also climbing up and down the ladder many times.
First I had to climb up the ladder to the measure the first hole, then back down to cut a board. Then I had to climb back up to screw it in place, then I had to climb back down because the screws I had were too long and I had to drive into town to buy shorter screws.
When I returned I had to climb back up the ladder to affix the repair board, then back down to change the bit in the drill from a square drive to a star pattern to fit the new screws. After screwing one end in place I had to climb back down the ladder to get the original screws because I needed longer ones for this spot, then back up again to drive these screws in place and measure for a second repair board, which needed to be notched to avoid a vent pipe.
Eventually I was ready to move the ladder — and yes it seemed even heavier than it was earlier in the day — to the area below the second raccoon hole. From there I of course pretty well had to repeat the process.
Finally, after nearly three hours of climbing up and down the ladder, I was finished. This left only the process of putting my tools away, cleaning up the scrap wood and of course taking down that even now heavier ladder and putting it away.
Because the work on the ladder involved bending over at an odd angle, as I write this the next day my lower back is a bit stiff and sore, tempering my urge to do a victory dance. Quite frankly I really don’t derive any pleasure killing these creatures, even if they are bent on destroying my home, so I can forgo the dance.
Fortunately, though, we remain undefeated vs. the raccoons. If we never have to face them again it will be a true victory, allowing me to leave that ladder packed away where it belongs.
Don Allison is an author, columnist and retired editor of The Bryan Times.