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"Shorts, Outtakes and Rants"

Most weeks I write a column for my paper; occasionally my daughter writes one. Usually they're focused at local issues, but every now and then I come up with one that I think Spearfish Lake Tales readers would find interesting, so I post them on the Spearfish Lake Tales Message Board. Since I've been neglecting "Shorts, Outtakes and Rants" recently, I decided to repost a few of them here, like this one. I hope you enjoy it! -- Wes

Guarding the Bird Feeders

June 14, 2012

I suppose it's a sign of advancing age, but I just don't bounce back from a short night like I did when I was but a young lad.

Take the other day. It was last Wednesday morning, as a matter of fact. Now, I tend to be a little bit of a night owl anyway, but I'd stayed up late to watch the end of the transit of Venus on the NASA channel, so that had me up a little longer than normal. That by itself is no excuse, but when I did get to bed I didn't get to sleep very quickly, for no good reason. I know I saw 2:30 AM go sliding by on the digital clock a few inches from my nose, and that cuts things a little tight right there.

However, along about 6:30 AM I was awakened by my wife, who has an earlier schedule than I do. She was upset: "I've had a tough time with the raccoon in the bird feeders again," she complained. "I've had to chase him out of there half a dozen times. I wish you'd take a gun and shoot it."

Now, I'm not a gun nut. I'm not opposed to them in any way, it's just that they don't interest me that much. "Yeah, right," I yawned. "I haven't shot a gun since 1973, you know that."

"Yes," she replied. "But he's really being a pest. Sit out on the porch, shoot him when he shows up and throw the body out in the weeds." We can do that, since we live out in the country, but I really hated to break a string that long, if you know what I mean.

I can tell you how long it's been since I shot a gun, since I remember it clearly. I was living in a mountain town out in Colorado not long before I returned to Michigan. The guy I was rooming with bought a new .22 Ruger, and we took it out to the town garbage dump to sight it in on some empty tin cans.

Now, reprocess that last sentence: how long has it been since you've seen a town garbage dump anywhere? I don't mean a sanitary landfill, I mean a dump. Twenty years, at least. Maybe more.

But I digress. As the result of not having much sleep and being rudely awakened, I decided that keeping my wife happy was the better part of valor. So, I pulled on some clothes and shoes and went to where we keep the guns. All of them are left over from my father, and some of them are antiques I wouldn't dare shoot if I wanted to. I suppose I ought to think about selling them some day, and I probably will eventually, but for now they represent memories of my father, my grandfather, and my youth.

Reasoning that the noise of firing a shotgun would upset all the human and feline critters in the house, I decided I'd better use one of the .22 revolvers my father bought back in the forties. A few minutes of pawing around turned up a box of ammo that had been sitting on a shelf for at least twenty years, most likely more.

I had to stop and refresh myself on even how to get the cylinder out of the revolver; I hadn't had it in my hands in who knows when, except to move it from one place to another when we moved years ago. While I was going through all this hassle, my wife left for work.

So, finally, I took the revolver, a bottle of orange juice, and a book out onto the porch to stand guard over the bird feeders.

Of course, no raccoon. I figure the noise of the garage door opening must have made him go somewhere else for a while. Discretion proved to be the better part of valor for him, not that I stood much chance of hitting him at thirty feet with a .22 revolver after being out of practice for coming up on 40 years.

Now if the stupid raccoon will just stay away from the bird feeders for a while, at least when my wife is around, I may be able to keep my string intact. And get some sleep.

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