Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Dangerous Suburban Gangster Raccoons
Living in the middle of cancerous suburban sprawl I have had many chances to see local wildlife try to adapt to the human encroachment on what was just a few years ago either woods or farmland. These displaced wild inhabitants of South Carolina have yet to understand how humans have changed the environment with them not necessarily any part of the future picture. However, evolutionary denial being a backbone of the local landscape and philosophy these wild creatures still find a way to adapt and to live.
Like the possum that took up residence in my garage one night when my wife left the door open. A huge cottonmouth water moccasin that decided to visit the local zoo the same time several school tours were going on but due to an alert zoo staff member became a full time but unwilling resident. And what had to be a bear that partied far too much down on the coast in Horry County because it stumbled out of the woods onto a busy highway. The stunned bear quickly realized how dangerous the place had become, turned around quickly and ran back into the disappearing woods. However the best example I have of human destruction of the local environment took place in the small and reactionary berg I live in now.
One of the things that I find strange with the near warp-speed pace of development is how any number of national corporate franchises will seemly build their businesses on top of one another, or at least within rock throwing distance as we say here in the South. I’m not singling out any particular type of business because there are numerous examples of restaurant, video rental, retail or grocery store chains, fast food, and drugstore clones choking the landscape. I guess this is the result of scores of high paid suits sitting in air conditioned offices figuring that if their companies opens another drugstore (for example) right next their chief competitor they might yet squeeze out a few more percentage points in annual profit. The little berg I live in now is a prime example of such attitudes, for several reasons, making it less a small American town than an united fiefdom with various corporate entities providing the only thing America has been really good at for the last twenty to thirty years, not technical advancement or new ideas but simply commercial convenience for the bloated masses at the expense of everything else.
A few weeks ago while working a Saturday at the hospital my wife called to tell me that I needed to pick up a few over the counter medicine items from the drugstore after she and the kids had picked up some cold bug. Usually when I’m tasked with picking up a few items on the way home from work I make a habit of stopping at the various stores in the main section of Columbia itself before heading home. This is done so I don’t have navigate the always crowded, screwed up streets of the town I live in now with its odd placement of businesses and drivers Hell bent on being the very first to whatever destination they are heading. But the small errand my wife had given me had slipped my feeble mind on the way homes and I was already way on the northwest side of town before I remembered forcing me to negotiate the streets, and I admit the people, I try so hard to avoid.
Entering town I hit the first place that I saw that had the small advantage of not being completely snarled up in Saturday afternoon traffic at that moment. Being as fast as possible I pulled into the parking lot of the conglomeration of buildings occupying a seriously too small a space. Had I the inclination not only could I buy the cold medicines my wife wanted but within a few feet of each other I could sample fake Mexican cuisine, buy burgers from both the clown and the king, rent a DVD, and get my car washed. Literally a few further yards away I could buy auto parts from two different stores, visit a tanning salon, buy a cell phone, and attend an up and coming area church. Looking back now I find it slightly strange that in what amounted to corporate enterprise heaven that the small church in the middle of all that still displayed the cross and not the dollar sign on the front door.
Anyway, I grabbed the stuff I needed, paid for it, and got back in my car to leave. Now leaving this hodgepodge of national chain stores should have been an issue. Of the two main exits leading back out onto the road both had in the space of twenty minutes become clogged with heavy traffic. This is where some suit really earned his or her money that day upon allowing such a cluster of building in such a small place. A entirely separate back street had been cut, mainly to allow the semis access to offload yet more cheap stuff for the shelves, but also to provide the good customers a relatively an easy exit to the main road away from the greatest part of the traffic.
Slipping through that back street takes you directly behind most of the businesses offering a view of their respective trash containers on one side and on the other a small piece of wooded land, virgin territory for more businesses yet to chop all the trees down and lay a concrete foundation all in the name of profit, growth, and progress. Obeying the low posted speed limit I had a chance to spy movement off next several overflowing trash cans beside a larger dumpster. The movement I saw was a raccoon family scavenging for their afternoon meal.
Being an American male hopelessly mired in the patriarchal mindset I saw what I will assume was papa raccoon ambling out one of the cans while mama and at least two baby raccoons stayed behind looking for cover from the strange being usually intent on running then off any place they find to live. As papa raccoon drew closer he stood up on his back two legs examining my car. It’s always a mistake to attribute human emotions and intent to wild animals by if asked the look on his face could have been easily voiced by Robert DeNiro speaking in a New York accent.
“You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you're talking to?" Papa raccoon seemed to be saying barely a few feet from my car, looking like at any moment he could pull a weapon and open up, firing away. I couldn’t help myself but feel amused at the thought of a raccoon spouting lines from an old DeNiro movie.
It would be a mistake to ever think raccoons are just cuddly, cute animals out for a piece of food and to make humans happy with their antics. Old Southern lore has them about as viscous badgers despite the cute bandit face. Although, I will admit that my dad kept a raccoon as a pet when he was a kid. It was a fairly common practice until the early 1950’s with the raccoons born in captivity and even then they had a very nasty tendency to turn on their owners. With these wild raccoons, pushed from their natural habitat into suburban confines, looking for something to eat from the refuse of the over indulgence of human civilization I admit that they did take on a slight air of menace one might feel entering a bad neighborhood. That bandit face of papa raccoon with his pseudo-arrogant DeNiro look looked less and less cute with it becoming more accusatory.
“Look where you and your kind have pushed us. And don’t think it’s going to better for either us if things keep going this way.” It seemed to be saying as I drove away leaving them to their desperate ingenuity and our trash.
Lakeland, Florida -- A Lakeland woman is recovering from serious injuries in the hospital after sheriff's investigators say she was "gang attacked" by five raccoons Saturday afternoon.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says 74-year-old Gretchen Whitted was trying to shoo the animals away from her front door when they suddenly attacked.
"When she fell down, they enveloped her," said Sheriff Judd in a news
conference called Sunday to warn the public of the aggressive raccoons.
Raccoons are known to be aggressive when going after food, but the sheriff called Saturday's attack very unusual.