If he had know he would be cutting the head off the raccoon and getting it tested for rabies he might not have gotten involved. We can't be absolutely certain of that though—he was always looking for "Experience Adventures".
Thom and Kim started calling him "Nature Boy" years ago when he was just a kid, fresh out of high school and helping them start a theater. His given name was Benjamin and with the exception of one school bus driver and one elementary school principle that called him "Benny" everyone else knew him as Ben. Why, exactly, Thom and Kim called him "Nature Boy" is forgotten—it probably had something to do with the fact that he lived on a farm. But lately Ben felt he was just a little too close to nature.
It started with the skunk on Friday afternoon. Walking to the house from the machine shed, he could tell a skunk was–or had been–in the vicinity very recently. Noticing that Gus, one of the dogs, was rolling in the snow, he went to see what Gus was doing. That's when he saw the skunk. Ben and the dogs "ran like the wind" and as he turned to watch (from a safe distance) the skunk headed toward the open side door of the garage. Ben yelled to the smelly animal,
" Don't go in the garage, don't go in the garage, don't go in the..... "
Of course it went in the garage where upon it began eating dog food. Entering the house from another door he ran downstairs to get the rifle–you gotta figure the dogs are in the garage defending their food, right? Yelling at the dogs to stay out of the garage, and spilling shells all over the counter he managed to get the gun loaded. By this time the skunk had left both the garage and his smell. He found it again in front of the house and he could see it did not look healthy–covered with burdocks, probably hungry, ( don't skunks hibernate? )–the warm weather had probably woken it up. Still yelling at the dogs to get away from it, he managed to get a shot off and kill it. It never actually sprayed, which doesn't mean it smelled any less, but at this point it urinated and it is a good thing it was a windy day so he was able to stay upwind. Getting a very long shovel, he carried it way back behind the machine shed and threw it off into the trees.
That night the dogs, Gus and Zack, got a raccoon as it came down out of the corn silo and with Ben's help, managed to kill that. Now, it's not that he dislikes raccoons... but they are messy. They live down in the hay bales in the pole barn and in the old granary and they poop on top of the hay bales and in the oats bins. They also live under the feed bunk and in the winter especially, they come out and eat left over corn silage from the feed bunk. They also can crawl up the doors of the corn silo and eat up there inside the silo. See, doors on silos are smooth on the inside, but have handles sort of like a ladder so a person can crawl up the outside to service the equipment. The doors are inside a chute, because that's also the place where the feed comes down, and in the older silo, it is dark in there. It is not a good place to meet a raccoon. Fortunately, they only go up there in the dark and he only goes up there in the light. ( Some clarification on silos: We are talking about those gray cement silos. The blue silos are sealed and are called "Oxygen Limiting" and you DO NOT ENTER. Some of the cement silos are also sealed. If it has the typical dome roof, it is a conventional silo with doors. If it has a sort of flat roof, it is probably a sealed type.)
That's why when he turns the unloader on at night to feed the cows, the dogs are waiting right there, because sometimes after a few seconds a coon will come scrambling down. Interestingly, they seem to know enough to stay off the actual machine. Only once in the past 15 years has he actually killed a raccoon that got caught in the unloader.
In a fight between one dog and a raccoon, the odds favor the coon. Two dogs and a raccoon even things up. As long as the coon doesn't get through a hole in the fence or under a door where the dogs can't go, they will probably be able to kill it. Usually, though Ben will use a long fork to try to pin down the coon or at least stop it from getting away. When the battle is finally over, the dogs drag the coon out into the snow, and everybody sort of collapses to rest. Nature Boy included. That's how it went Friday night.
Sunday night the dogs again got a raccoon coming down out of the silo. In the midst of the battle, Zack grabbed the raccoon and backed-up with it, right under our Nature Boy and between his legs. At this point, the raccoon got hold of Ben with something–probably his claw, probably not his mouth–but in the heat of the moment who can really tell these things.
He has discovered something about the way he yells in situations like this:
He would like to think a "Manly" sort-of-yell would escape his mouth. However, that time when he was focusing lights at the Rep and the ladder slipped out from under him, it was more of a weak, gasping sort of squeal, that came out. An odd enough noise that it was a minute or two before Vicky came out of the office and asked what was that noise, if he was all right. And again in this situation with the coon hanging under his pants, he did notice that it was an odd sort of yelling, squeal that escaped.
As for where exactly the coon got hold; let's just say, upper left thigh, inside, "too close for comfort" he might put it. Well, he wasn't about to let this one get away now! And they did get it. And after the required rest, he called the vet who said to cut the head off, bring it down the next day and they would send it in to be tested for rabies. ( Do I need to point out that the attack did indeed draw blood? And as for cutting the animal's head off...well, that was another new experience for Nature Boy. ) The vet was very adamant... Don't let the dogs drag it away! If there is no animal to test, it is considered positive for rabies and the rabies vaccine is given.
Of course the inevitable trip to the Emergency Room is also part of this story. Despite the large crowd of people in the waiting room, the clerk registering Ben informed him that he got to go right back. Cool! And of course the ER at 11:00pm in your little curtained room is always an interesting place to hear stories... Kind of like radio theater... No visible action, only audio images of skiing accidents and weak hearts. The Doctors gave him some antibiotics ( "...animal bites are notoriously dirty..." ) and sent him home. Although one Doctor didn't realize he had actually killed the raccoon and started talking about getting the shots and how it didn't matter if it was a bite or scratch and then proceeded to reminisce about his adventures with raccoons. There's not much more to say about this. The veterinarian said if an animal is being tested because of a human bite, there is no charge for the testing and it's pretty unlikely that it really has rabies anyway. The suspected animal is sent to a lab at the University of MN and results are expected in about 1 week. The woman from the county Health Department who called on Tuesday said if it was positive you could expect to hear sooner. In the meantime, life goes on for Nature Boy. The wound is healing nicely, thank-you-very-much, with only minor discomfort. He continues being out in nature, always on the look out for Bald Eagles, Wild Turkeys and Red Tailed Hawks. When he starts the corn silo unloader at night, it is with only the slightest twinge of anxiety. Will he become less involved with raccoons in the future? One would think so, but, he hasn't quite decided yet. Have to see how things turn out with this one.
One more thing he has noticed; the dairy cows and heifers seem really fascinated by the Canadian Geese out in the pasture. The beef cows don't pay any attention, they see them all the time apparently, but the the dairy animals line up at the fence line to look at them. Interesting, eh?
This incident took place February 7, 1999
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