I am friends with four old bachelor goats. Every morning they call me to my duties. These duties include letting all the chickens out into the wide world and feeding the old bachelor goats their breakfast. Their version of granola is kept in a galvanized steel feed can in the little feed room which is part of the barn where the bachelor goats repair each evening to discuss the meanings of things.
I used to be amazed that one old fellow, Louie as it happened, would always wait for me to open the feed room door. As soon as the opportunity presented, he would always thrust his head in to have a look around. For months I thought this endearing habit was an echo of human intelligence and curiosity, mislaid by Nature, to trouble an innocent beast for the amusement of a temporarily fallen angel.
But, as the months passed, some strange things came to pass. First, I think, was the upset of a feed can in the chicken yard. Then the sad loss of a hen (I should have named her!) called all things into question. Soon the feed room was being pillaged. No fringe group came forward to claim credit. Then I recalled Louie and realized that he had been trying to breach our language barrier for all these many weeks.
There were certainly signs of guests, stinks and whatnot. I put out a trap and caught the largest rat I have seen in Oklahoma. I enrolled him at the Sorbonne and sent him to France. But the depredations were only starting. Locks were wrenched and cans upset. Stinks grew larger and whatnots got huge. Louie was clearly worried.
A couple of evenings ago I got out both the little wire trap that caught our scholar, and a really big one meant to accommodate something dangerous. I baited them with old cans of tuna I had in my camping supplies and retired with my glass and book.
The next morning, the little trap was empty of bait and baited, its springs and door awry. The big trap held a young mother raccoon (Algonquian for really cute) and her adolescent daughter. I explained the problem I was having with the feed and the stink and the whatnot and they very generously offered to relocate along a river bank some ten miles distant.
The last thing Ms. R said to me before she scuttled into the bushes was to be sure to keep an eye out for her old man and to be sure he came to no harm, even if he was an irascible and pugnacious young punk. I gave her my solemn word. The next morning I watched the fellow bolt from the same trap and follow the same scented track into the same bushes. How they will allocate blame or credit for their dislocation is anybody’s guess. Such is marriage.