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John Howell’s Column

Elusive coon makes laughingstock of would-be trapper

The score at Annie Glenn’s Bed and Breakfast is Brother Houdini Coon 3, me 0.

His ring-tailed highness has thwarted, for the last three nights in a row, my attempts to catch him in a trap.

Brother Houdini Coon has made  me the laughingstock of the backyard menagerie. He started by showing up to eat the damncats’ food at night. In the process, he forget he was a coon or they forgot they were damncats. They all ended up eating together.

Sometimes I have watched him from my car when he strolled up to eat. He doesn’t need the steps; he just walks up the post undergirding the small porch at the top of the steps.

Once I quietly exited the car and slipped up on him, momentarily cornering him at the top of the steps. When he raised up and grinned his toothy grin at me, I realized that I really didn’t want to keep him cornered. He waddled down the steps and I chased him around the yard. Later, I wondered if the neighbors might have  called the humane society and reported me as an abuser.

Meanwhile, the squirrels talk about what a sap I am, sitting up on their  haunches and gossiping excitedly among themselves as they make their daylight feeding rounds.

Daytime creatures that squirrels are, they heard about it from the crow high up in an oak tree. There she violates the silence she usually maintains when in the vicinity of her nest.

“Nynk, nynk,” she laughs aloud to herself when I walk through the yard, recalling the version of events she heard about the night before from the skunks who saw it all while they were digging through the flower bulbs for the grubs in the ground.

It’s not that the coon is staying out of the trap. It’s baited with the same jack mackeral that he has grown to love when he finds bits of it mixed into the damncats’ dried food.

The live trap has a spring-loaded door on each end and a triggering mechanism in the middle. The bait is placed on the triggering mechanism and when the animal takes the bait, he also jiggles the trigger, forcing the doors to slam shut.

To catch Brother Houdini Coon, I have only set one trap door and then pushed that end of the trap out over the edge of the porch far enough so the damncats can’t get in.

On the first night, the damncats, smelling that essence of jack mackeral, climbed all over the trap, but none would risk trying to get into the open end of the trap hanging out in mid-air.

But I knew that Brother Houdini Coon wouldn’t let that stop him. And it didn’t. The next morning when I checked, the trap door had slammed shut, but the bait had been cleaned out without a trace.

The second morning, after I had tied the bait securely to the floor of the trap hoping to force Mr. Houdini Coon to sufficiently jingle the trigger to get at it, I found the bait again cleaned out. This time, the trap door remained open. But this morning, bait was gone, the trap door had been triggered and slammed shut, but the trap was empty and cleaned from the last remnant of bait.

I could understand if Mr. Houdini Coon could get in, take the bait and get out. But how he gets in, eats every last piece of the bait, gets out and then manages to trip the trap door shut without getting himself caught has earned him his name.