“There’s something getting in the trash again,” said my neighbor, Tom, not long ago.
“Really?” I answered, half-heartedly. The last time this happened, I spent way too much of my life picking up trash strewn across the yard. I define “way too much of my life,” in this instance, as any more than five minutes a year. We seemed to have solved the problem the last time by making sure we surrounded the full trash can with empty ones, creating enough of a barrier that we thwarted the rodent busting into our trash.
A few days before Tom mentioned this about the trash situation, I had walked out into the back yard in the morning to find the lid of my compost container on the lawn. This puzzled me, since I generally only open the door in the lid long enough to dump whatever kitchen scraps I’m ditching in the hole, then slam it shut. Maybe a neighbor thought the compost needed more air?
I didn’t put Tom’s comment and the compost bin incident together until the following night, when I was sitting out on the back porch.
It was the unmistakeable sound, coming from the pitch black 30 yards away from me, of the compost bin lid hitting the ground.
I shot out of my chair, heart pounding. “Hey,” I shouted across the yard. “Who’s out there?”
No one answered, so I went inside for a flashlight. The light beam I sent across the yard caught the again-open compost bin, and the lid lying on the lawn again. There was no one in sight.
I decided to leave the lid there until morning, and sat back down at the table I keep on my porch. All stayed quiet in the yard for maybe 10 minutes.
This time the sound came from 30 feet away, just to the left of the porch. A trash can taking a tumble.
Barefoot, which occurred to me only later as a stupid idea, I grabbed the flashlight and sprinted around the corner. The trash can lay on its side, its lid strewn to the side, and obvious claw marks in the trash bag.
I checked to make sure a rabid raccoon wasn’t about to bite my toe before setting it upright again and returning to the porch. I swung the light around the whole area, but located nothing resembling a nocturnal rodent.
“Dude!” I yelled, as if the raccoon was my long-lost, highly annoying buddy. “Stop it!”
I returned to the scene of the crime, uprighted the trash can once more, and this time, remembered the old trick of surrounding it with the empties.
In the morning, the can was still upright, but the lid was up and the bags inside were shredded. Across the lawn, a few English muffins I’d tossed in the compost bin lay half-chewed and crumbly. And everywhere, smeared up the side of the compost bin, on the bin’s lid, and along the trash can lids, were little muddy pawprints. A raccoon. No question about it.