one of those things is my littlest hen. the other thing is the raccoon that ate her. RIP to everyone involved.
a round of tears, bullets and several life lessons later, I’m here to report that I — yes, your little teet — singlehandedly purchased a firearm, trapped a raccoon, shot, killed and disposed of its carcass.
there are two ways to tell this story. there’s the lighthearted city-girl-kills-first-coon sort of version, where theteet gets spittin’ mad and sets out for blood, but i think i might have to save that version for a few months down the road when the novelty has worn off. for now, the tale is mostly traumatizing.
you see, as complicated as our circulatory systems might be, we are very, very mortal. did you know that you are a few pints of blood, one sharp metal object or blunt trauma away from leaving this earth? when people are sick, or when we’re in a situation where we must acknowledge this truth in any way, things become uncomfortable. despite the fact that it’s the only thing we have in common, death is something we rarely talk about. we change the subject.
this same don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy has infiltrated our food/consumer supply and our relationship with god and plant and beast. i bet today you’ve already eaten one or two different animals or used their skin or eyes or teeth or whatever they put in shampoo and stuff. in other words, i can’t believe it took me 25 years to do the dirty deed myself for once.
thursday night, a raccoon dug a small moat around our chicken coop until he found a penetrable spot by the wheel. he snuck in, grabbed the tiny chicken i had nursed back to ‘health’ (she was still the littlest one. we called her ‘Gimp’) and he ate it, presumably while the other chickens were running around wild-scared inside the coop. it looked like a feather bomb had gone off, if such a thing exists.
seth had to leave for business, so it was up to me to protect the flock.
i decided that trapping and then shooting the critter would be the best move. (i know-what?!) there were other options — i could string moth balls around the cage, sprinkle coyote urine, or try other various things to deter the raccoon with no guaranteed success. 1-8-7 was the only fullproof option. i made the decision that the raccoon had breached contract and must die. i didn’t want to loose one chicken per night testing out other methods.
plus, i knew that even if i managed to a) buy a gun that day, and b) stake out a decent spot to shoot the critter, c) was able to stay up all night, and d) was lucky enough to SEE a raccoon, i would not be lucky enough to shoot and kill it. i would probably blow off a paw or shoot it in the gut or, most likely, miss it all together.
so after work friday i bought a live trap at TSC and i called my father, who served up a harsh reality check:
“Lyndsey, you’re going to have a pissed off raccoon in that trap when you wake up tomorrow morning.”
Father, a professional raccoon sniper himself, warned me that when approached, the raccoon would sound and act like a grizzly bear. he would hiss, growl and snarl. he would dig up all the grass around the trap. if i reached for the handle, he would bite, scratch, claw and “scare the shit” out of me. if i opened the cage, he would come after me. there would be no setting the animal free. no turning back.
so i set the trap that night and secured the chickens in the garage (that’s another story all together — it involves a ladder and a flock of chickens roosting in the top of an apple tree. oh, and the organizational director of “My Ohio Now.”) and i went to bed praying that the raccoon would be too smart to be tempted by the jam sandwich i had left for him in the trap.
at 7 a.m. the next morning, i had a raccoon in the trap. the problem was, he wasn’t pissed off. the raccoon was as docile and polite as you could imagine. he sat like a cute little housecat, digging at the bottom of the cage. the only sound he made was a short, terrified breathing noise as he looked up and saw me standing there. the shit was not scared out of me. i did not fear for my life. in fact, it almost seemed like i had just lured a defenseless animal with blueberry jam and trapped him in a cage. i went into my bedroom and cried for five minutes, and then i set out for the store.
Wal-Mart doesn’t sell guns until 9 a.m., FYI. even then, the friendly gun salesmen were not taking me very seriously. the night before, as i was browsing their selection, they had told me that i didn’t know enough about guns to buy one, that i needed training first and that i should come back later — with my husband — all but refusing to sell me a firearm.
this morning, there were more serious circumstances, and (thank god) a different salesman. he told me the story of the time he shot a raccoon between the eyes, only to have it stand up on two legs and charge after him like a bear. perfect.
after a background check, a few manager’s signatures and an escort back to the Honda, i made my purchase — a lady-sized .22 rifle — and was on my way. for the first time in my life, i had the thought: “which is more dangerous: the gun in my back seat, or the car i’m driving it home in?”
45 minutes of target practice later, i had no other acceptable excuse to delay. i had read the user manual 12 times, and all the while, the raccoon had been scared to death in his little cage. the longer i waited, the further i would prolong his suffering. i walked over to the raccoon and i said a prayer out loud to Jesus: “please do not let this raccoon suffer, and more importantly, please do not let me suffer as a result of killing this raccoon.”
i pointed the rifle at the raccoon. he looked at me, and looked away quickly. i told him not to move, and he looked back with his big brown eyes and his fuzzy little face and i pulled the trigger. for the next 5-5,555 seconds the the raccoon twitched wildly inside the cage. i saw that i had hit him between the eyes, but just to be sure i didn’t eff it up, i shot him 2 more times in the head. later, people would tell me that this was unnecessary.
i immediately begun shouting the lord’s name — i’m not sure if it was in vain, or if i was really crying for his assistance — until the raccoon stopped moving. it was finished. i cried for five more minutes, and put the dead raccoon out in the field, where the buzzards circle him now.
whether you think i’m a wuss or a monster, the truth is, i’m a better person for have killing this varmint. i can’t really explain it right now, but there is some lesson in death, suffering, protecting the flock, being on top of the food chain, etc. etc. i passed about a dozen dead raccoon carcasses on the side of the road today, but it doesn’t diminish this feeling. that only happens with time.
Editor’s Note: This is Part Eight of our ongoing series about theteet’s foray into the world of the chicken farmer. Descriptions are graphic.
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