I got Halloween off to a good start by sharing here a story about a mysterious visitor who came to my yard after dark a few weeks ago. Autumn in the south is the season with the most bumps at night. The nights are getting longer, and a newfound blanket of fallen leaves on the ground makes it easier to hear the marauders.
My intruder’s handiwork was hard to ignore. Some mornings I found a bird feeder knocked to the ground and falling apart. The sophistication of vandalism hinted at a raccoon. They have quick minds and quick limbs, both perfect attributes for thieves.
My wife suggested installing surveillance cameras to identify the culprit, but I resisted. The internet is full of funny videos of night creatures doing all sorts of pranks, but I prefer a little mystery in my life. It seemed more fun to speculate than to get a definite answer.
After all, there are almost as good things as motion-activated cameras when it comes to home security. Men of a certain age who have to get up multiple times each night to use the bathroom.
That’s how I woke up the other night when there was a rustle behind my bedroom window. He told me he was prying. Peeking through the curtain, I saw a craggy silhouette of a sweet olive branch. Its outline is about the size of a Christmas ham. Intrigued, I crept into the dining room. There are large windows that give a nice view.
By then, a shadowy entity had slid down the trunk and was behind our maple tree.
The raccoons I discovered are so accustomed to city lights that they are not too deterred by bright night spaces. Both were burly, striding like brothers from pub to pub under the full moon.
One of them seemed encouraged by the extra light that gave him a better view of the quarry and returned to his roost surrounded by sweet olive trees. He banged the bird feeder like a piñata for a while before giving up, then had a drink with his partner in the sugar kettle before they retreated to the shrubbery.
I haven’t found them since, but I think I’ve revisited them a few times.
Old vacant homes are often encouraged to find new hobbies. You might start waking up in the middle of the night not because you have to, but because you want to, sitting by the window and watching who shows up next.
Email Danny Heitman (firstname.lastname@example.org).