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...And never a dull moment

It's a sure cure for boredom. Eighteen years ago, when Husband-John and I took on the gratifying - though very unprofitable - task of rehabilitating distressed wildlings, a small A-frame structure was adequate shelter for the twenty-five to thirty-five furred and feathered creatures brought to us during the borning-hatching season. When the number of wild residents climbed to seventy-five, the A-frame was hastily remodeled to provide additional floor and roosting space. Next spring, when over one hundred woods dwellers were delivered at our door, the shelter began bulging at its seams. Husband-John worked into the early morning hours, building the small dens and pens that began mushrooming in our backyard. Then came the biggie - that spring we found ourselves looking into the bewildered faces of more than two hundred wildlings. There was no more space and no funds for materials with which to construct the needed pens and cages. There was no place to take the overflow - no place except into our own under-renovation dwelling. That's when the hectic times began.

A bottle-raised red squirrel made his nest atop a kitchen cabinet, lining it with fluffy feathers which he'd harvested from the tail feathers of an agitated young peacock who had been stashed in the mudroom. Another squirrel was bedded down in a box of facial tissues on the bathroom wall. His presence there caused countless visitors to shriek with surprise when they reached for a tissue and their fingers came in contact with a warm ball of fur. Even the bird in the cuckoo clock was jolted by our resident rodents. After dutifully announcing the hour, the cuckoo was unable to return inside the clock, because a squirrel had jammed the door with an Oreo cookie. A small woodchuck nested within the sink cabinet and a young fox napped between the pedals of the chord organ. When we were notified that ''an ailing kingfisher'' was being brought in, we readied a kingfisher-size cage. The ''kingfisher'' turned out to be a three-foot-tall heron who was hurriedly tucked behind the shower curtains in the bathtub.

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To connect the two structures, we had had the mudroom put in between our living quarters and a small building that served as a laundry. The bathroom window, rim-level with the tub, looked into the mudroom. The young peacock, spooked by a rabbit bouncing between his legs, had kicked the glass from the window. Since the window opened into the heated mudroom, the glass hadn't been replaced.

When a pair of late-litter raccoons were brought in, Husband-John and I built a cage for them in the mudroom. It was a top-loading model with a framed glass door which could be opened only if we stood in the bathtub and reached through the window.

The maturing raccoons soon began lifting the door a few inches by pressing their heads against it. To prevent the ring-tailed mischief makers from pushing their way out, four cartons of floor tiles were placed on the doorframe. It set the scene for inevitable disaster.

One evening, as I was about to remove a saucepan of fudge from the stove, I heard the nerve-numbing sound of splintering glass. Rushing into the bathroom, pan of fudge in hand, I found my fears confirmed. The raccoons had bumped their heads against the cage door, jarring the cartons of heavy floor tiles from the frame and through the glass. The masked rascals were hoisting their plump selves through the emptied frame, hungrily eyeing the ruffed grouse, whose cage was placed above theirs.

At that moment, Husband-John entered the kitchen carrying an armload of firewood. Hearing my cries for help, he threw the wood onto the floor and began running through the rooms, calling, ''Where are you?? Where are you!!'' Since he had, long ago, become hardened to hectic happenings, he didn't bat an eye when he dashed into the bathroom and found me balanced on one foot in the tub, frantically stirring a pan of fudge while, with the other foot shoved through the window, I was failing miserably at pushing the raccoons back in their cage.

As the energetic little beasts surged over the top, I hysterically instructed Husband-John to head for the mudroom and rescue the ruffed grouse. He did, but, in the confusion, forgot to latch the gate at the end of the hall. Within seconds, the young doe deer, who was wintering on the sunporch, bounded down the hall with our tiny poodle yapping happily at her heels. The commotion roused a recuperating rooster, who promptly fell out of his clothes basket and began crowing lustily.

Refusing to sacrifice the fudge, I poured it into a pan to cool, then herded the doe back to the porch and secured the gate behind her high-kicking hooves. I smoothed the feathers of the rooster and returned him to his basket.

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In the meantime, Husband-John had gathered a raccoon under each arm and shut them in the laundry before heading for the shed to make a replacement door for the cage.

After picking up the glass from the shattered door, I went into the laundry to check on the raccoons. It was like some crazy scene from a Disney film. They were swinging from the curtains, chewing up the broom, peering cutely from behind washer and dryer, and upsetting everything not fastened down. Before they had completely wrecked the room, I grabbed the cavorting critters, plopped them in their cage, and sat on the opening until Husband-John returned to install the door. So ended another ''altogether normal and average'' day in this wild life with wildlife.

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