Sunday, September 21, 2008

Day 50: Convenient new inventions

When I am not making much apparent progress on the map and the river gyres in the pasture, I have to invent ways to convince myself I am moving on. I need not go crazy here, there is some place a little further on for that.

I start marking my endpoints on my map. The distance between two points is disappointingly short, but put down three, four of them and it suggests I might be getting somewhere.

Bridges are major landmarks anytime, but especially so when I'm feeling slow. Cliff swallows happily make summer homes on the underside. Their flying meals are surprised by the birds swooping out of the downward-facing holes, built that way so they don't need an extra room for the loo. I looked up under one bridge and the entirety was covered with mud stain in an intricate web, the memory of forgotten houses. I wondered if the bridge was entirely covered in nests one year, or if they vary their places each time, to eventually generate this honeycomb pattern.

I was quite proud to cross under three bridges, all arched affairs built from the same concrete moulds, and in roughly the same crumbling state, showing the underlying rebar in the structure and supports.

I was also quite happy to see several raccoons, and their courage surprised me. Four cubs hid in the bushes while their mother climbed a tree and growled at me as I slid past. They are like small bears; omnivores and generalists with little hands. If the red panda and great panda are closely related that suggests to me a bear really is a kind of giant raccoon.

The biology teachers at my high school, Mr. and Mrs. Ulmer, were some of the most peaceful, nature-loving people I know. But Mr. Ulmer's raccoons were my mallards. They built their house in the woods and were constantly dealing with raccons raiding their garbage and garage.

Now the improvised weapons of the nonviolent are often horrific compared to the worn tools of the seasoned killer. Such was the case when Mr. Ulmer suddenly found violent cause. His first attempt was a kind of spear which I think was made by taping a garden trowel to a broom handle. This was difficult to aim or throw with sufficient power.

One day, Mr. Ulmer heard some raccoons foraging in his garage, which was paneled with those old boards with holes drilled every inch, meant for hanging tools. From which apparently Mr. Ulmer took his electric drill, and attached a bit the same diameter as the holes. He pulled the trigger and kept jamming that thing into the board wherever he thought he saw fur. We were not told if any raccoons died that day, only that the bit did need to be frequently cleaned of fur and blood.

Day 50 ended: 50*31.815N, 103*09.125W

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