Behind my house on the Rebel Drive cul-de-sac is an old graveyard of several acres. Its ownership is unclear. Since our one neighbor who owns a bushhog has moved to Madison, the graveyard is returning to the woods it used to be when we first moved in 13 years ago.
Rebel Drive is off of Northeast Drive, which is off of Meadowbrook Drive, which is off of I-55. When the wind blows to the east, I can hear the 18-wheelers and, far worse, the screaming motorcycles that race around late on Sunday night.
In other words, we live in the city. But the old graveyard affords me a wonderful sense of being in the country. Sitting on my back porch, I see nothing but woods. Now that I finally spent some money on mosquito control, I sit outside and enjoy morning coffee.
Unfortunately, with woods come critters. Mississippi has a lot of critters and none smarter or more mischievous than the raccoon.
The raccoon is truly American, discovered by Christopher Columbus, although the species has now found its way to central Europe and Japan. Their hands have five digits, like man, and they have the peculiar habit of washing their food before eating. How civilized.
When I was a child, I had a pet raccoon. My father loved to bring home various exotic animals for pets. Invariably this ended in disaster, usually befalling my mom, me and my sister while my father was comfortable at work.
“Ferocious” was the name of my pet raccoon. We caught him young, but as the name implies, he was born to be wild.
I’ll never forget the night my father had friends over and wanted me to display our pet raccoon. With thick gloves, my father placed Ferocious on my shoulders to demonstrate his cuddliness. Ferocious proceeded to climb to the top of my head, from which point he leaned over and did his best to scratch my eyes out.
Shortly thereafter, Ferocious managed to escape. When a neighbor complained, I was sent to retrieve Ferocious from his attic. It was dark and cramped. Flashlight in hand, I cornered Ferocious in the attic. He won. No doubt Ferocious and his progeny have been plaguing suburban Houston attics since.
What goes around comes around. Fifty years later, the five Emmerichs all left our home on Rebel Drive for two weeks for the first time ever. The raccoons in our graveyard noticed. We moved out. They moved in.
At first I ignored Ginny’s complaint that she was hearing something behind the walls. She’s always hearing something.
Then Sunday after church, Ginny demanded I come to the bedroom. She insisted I stand and listen. “Do you hear that?” she asked.
There was no denying a large critter was behind a wall or in the attic. I got a ladder and flashlight and pushed open the attic scuttle hole. I immediately spotted a large raccoon about 20 feet away, its green eyes reflecting the flashlight’s beams in the dark.
I headed to my gun safe to retrieve my 22 rifle, which conveniently had a scope. I velcroed my maglite to the top of the scope and was ready to go coon hunting. Fifty years later, revenge was mine. But something stayed my hand.
“I bet it would be a good idea if I researched this a bit on the Internet first,” I thought to myself.
Sure enough, there was a huge amount of great advice on the Internet about getting rid of raccoons. I love the Internet, even though it hasn’t really helped my business.
Turns out, 90 percent of the time you see a raccoon in your attic, it is a mother raccoon with a den of cubs nearby (raccoons are related to bears). Kill momma, and the cubs scream for two weeks while they starve to death, leaving a terrible stench to go with your guilt.
Instead, ask one simple question: Why did the raccoons move in? Answer: They liked the digs. How do you make them leave? Change their opinion about the pleasantness of their accommodations.
First, I ran an extension cord and lit up the attic. They don’t like light. Second, make it noisy with a boombox. Finally, I sprayed ammonia all over the attic. Raccoons hate the smell of ammonia. Sight, sound and smell. Make them hate your attic.
The next afternoon, Ginny texted me photos of the momma leaving with cubs in her mouth. Cub by cub, she climbed the crepe myrtle, walked around the chimney to the hard-to-see hole up under an eave on our roof and relocated her den to the woods.
So far, it’s been as quiet as a mouse.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.