A Doug's Life: "I'll Get You, You Rascal"

Springtime has arrived in Menifee, and the critters are coming out to play.

It started with rabbits. Cute little things that run (hop) in bunches around the neighborhood. I have no problem with them -- maybe because they've stayed out of my back yard.

Unfortunately, other varmints haven't.

Several weeks ago, I noticed a rather large hole at one end of the dirt embankment at the back of our property. "Snake," was my first thought. I started to peer down into the hole until I had visions of a giant python clamping onto my shnoz.

"Let's just wait and see what happens," I said to myself, and walked away.

Sometime later, about 50 feet across the embankment, I discovered a similar but somewhat smaller hole. Now I'm thinking Monty Python has completed a secret passage roughly the size of the Holland Tunnel, in snake scale. Now I'm concerned. But still, I haven't seen any creature emerge from its front or back door.

As time went on, I was reminded of the arrival of animals and insects that were relatively dormant during the cold winter months. As soon as we had a couple warm days, I noticed that our neighbor's pretty violet ground cover had become Hotel California for approximately 9 million bees. Next, after forgetting to close the screen door a couple times while letting the breeze in, I inadvertently invited a clan of "Daddy Longlegs" (the scientific term) into the house.

But still no snakes, nor anything bigger than an insect. Only the haunting evidence of such.

Then came the frantic barks of our Golden Retriever, Binny, at some unseen enemy out back. Why is it that the beast can sense danger a mile away, yet can't hold a "sit" command for more than two seconds? Anyway, I knew something was out there. And when I saw Binny digging up the big hole and sticking his nose in there, I almost expected him to come out with only half a snout. But nothing.

The next time my gardener came around, I showed him the first hole. His response:

"You got a raccoon."

"Are you sure?" I responded. "Have you seen him?"

"Nope," he replied. "But there's raccoon poop all along the base of your fence."

Apparently, the experts can tell raccoon poop from that of a dog, cat, weasel or any number of other critters. I took his word for it. The hole is now filled in and the gardener is on the lookout. The smaller hole, he said, is home to a gopher.

"I'll get him," he said.

I trust him, but now he's got me thinking. It isn't even May yet. What do I have to look forward to? Coyotes? Scorpions? Rattlers? This is pretty much the desert, right?

"Prairie dogs, maybe," said my gardener. "Beautiful creatures. Wait 'til you see one standing there on his hind legs, just staring at you."

Yeah, I can wait.

Trust me, I'm no stranger to back yard creatures. At our home in Temple City, possums were frequent visitors. Nasty things. I would be awakened by the sound of our previous dog, an ornery yellow lab, tossing around a possum like a rag doll. I'd find them dead in the yard. One even ended up in the house, finding convenient entry through the dog door.

I chased birds, mice, rats and possums out of our old house. One time, in the dark, my bare foot stepped on a half-eaten squirrel. But raccoons and snakes? Don't know if I'm ready for that.

As I've said many times before, something about this town appeals to me. Much of that appeal has to do with animals -- horses, especially. But no horse has ever tried to reconstruct my back planter, and I doubt one ever would.

As for Mr. Raccoon, well ... I'm not going down without a fight. Bring it on, you little masked mischief maker. Two of us are meeting in that back yard and one is coming out in a cage.

Wonder if I'm claustrophobic.


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