Marian Wood, raccoons

One more from the incomparable, the impeccable Marian Wood. She writes:

Years ago, a colleague who lived in Westchester and had a lovely soft heart for animals told me she had a terrible problem: Raccoons had entered the crawl space in her home. Now I happen to love raccoons (more below) but the problem was much the same as with the squirrels (note from KJF: see earlier Marian Wood post). So I told her to wait until they left for the day, throw camphor into the crawl space, then cover the chimney entrance they were using. It worked—for a day. Then they were back inside. Turned out, she needed to use a really strong cover for the chimney entrance—as in, a huge boulder. This time it really worked. But as she was in her kitchen at the sink, she looked up to see the entire raccoon family on the roadside, staring at her through the window. Then they turned away and left. She was in tears.

Raccoons: When I was working in a summer camp for underprivileged kids, the local ranger would sometimes stop by. One night, he asked if a few of us wanted to watch the raccoons dance—it was a full moon. We piled into his car after midnight and rode to a hill. Then he cut the engine and coasted silently down. And there they were—dancing (DANCING! I kid you not) in the moonlight.

Marian Wood, squirrels (and one monkey thrown in)

Part Two from Marian Wood’s series of wild life encounters.  Read it together with Kristin Livdahl’s earlier squirrel entry.  Apparently there is more to squirrels than meets the eye.  They are organized and they have demands!

The Great Squirrel Assault

Tony and I bought a top floor apartment in a small four-story coop in Brooklyn in 1984. All went well until one morning I awoke to the sound of bird feet in the crawl space above our bed. Clearly, a bird was trapped there. I had an author who was really good about wildlife and I asked for help. “Nothing you can do except wait for the bird to die and then fumigate.” Urg.  But he was right. Pigeons had managed to make their way through the front façade and we were all prisoners. The smell was ghastly. Then summer turned toward winter and one morning I awoke to the pitter-patter of running feet. I knew that sound. Back when we were newly returned to New York, my parents bought a very old Victorian house. There were squirrels and we all thought they were terrific—and fed them richly. Then, as winter arrived, they moved in. Again, in the crawl space, this time between the second floor and the third. Turned out NY State had a ruling against exterminating squirrels. Our gardener showed my mother how to deal with them: Watch for their entry (a great old wild cherry tree in the back yard), wait until they left for the day, climb up and find the entry hole and fill it with camphor, wait until they returned and decamped, then seal the hole, cut off the tree limb they were using to jump the roof, and voila. So when 25 years later my husband and I were faced with the same problem, we wondered who would help us find the hole and get rid of the creatures. Turned out, we didn’t have to look far. Our garden floor neighbor, it being chilly, decided to light a fire in his fireplace. The sound of squirrel nails across the ceiling running in panic told me they had abandoned ship.


But here is the end story: The next day, they attacked every one of the fairy lights he’d hung in his garden. Chomp chomp.


Ever since a squirrel got trapped between the front doors in that Victorian house in Brooklyn, I have to admit I have hated them. It was truly terrifying. How to get it out without being bitten? My mother managed to do the deed. Brave woman. And we never fed them again. Then there was the time we went to Nuevo Laredo in Mexico (from the Army Air Corps base in San Antonio) and an organ grinder’s monkey grabbed me by the hair and would not let go. Can’t say I have loved monkeys since—sorry. Sometimes things just happen—and they leave a scar.

Marian Wood, crows

Marian Wood, my beloved editor for mumble mumble years, has sent a number of fascinating encounters. Although I quite like the “my life as a series of animal encounters” aspect of it, I’ve decided to post it one animal at a time and over several weeks. This way, every story gets its due. Here then is Marian’s first post:

My husband and I, a few years after we married, took the major step of visiting his parents in Fordingbridge, England—edge of the New Forest. Not a particularly salubrious encounter as my husband had actually been alienated from his parents from the age of 13 when he was expelled from his public school and ended up in Belfast with an aunt and uncle for the rest of his formal education, which ended at the age of 16 when the war broke out and he decamped to Dublin and joined the Irish Republican Army—until he found they did not issue sheets or undergarments, and he crossed the Irish Sea to join the RAF. The point is, the reunion in Fordingbridge was fraught. We had rented a car and I was the driver. One day, to put some space between us and the family, we took off to visit a quaint village along a little river afloat in Moscovy ducks. Alas, in the pull up to park, we had a huge screaming match. He saying I had mis-parked alongside the river, and me telling him to shut up since he couldn’t drive. (He could, but had no license ever since a massive car crash in Spain some eight years before.) We exited the car, still yelling at each other (not, I must say, a commonplace of our marriage). And as we stood beside the river/car, a huge angry sound—crows—approached, the air full of noise and black wings. Next thing I knew, they were bombing poor Tony, who was covered in crow shit. I was untouched. And I began to laugh like a banshee. After all, the crows had picked the right target. I have to admit I have always been fascinated by crows, but this cinched that love affair. (We managed to get over it and lasted until his death 45 years later.)