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How to Handle The Cunning 'Coon

AN electric fence needs parts. The charger apparatus that hangs on the wall and plugs into the extortion company needs a pulser to make it pulse, two telltale lamp bulbs to tell if it's working, and two 1-amp fuses to make it work. You will be glad to know this if suddenly you find yourself in dire need of an electric fence and approach a merchandiser. The part that does the charging seems to endure, but the others need renewal from time to time.

In other words, I have just had a big fight with the mail-order house that sold me an electric fence. I hadn't bought anything from it in quite some time, so we've been at peace lately. But in recent instances, it does seem that every time I buy anything we get into a bind.

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My electric fence is used exclusively, and with relative kindness, on raccoons. I beg the indulgence, and forgiveness, of all the lovely people who are enamored of raccoons and think they are cunning and amusing, pleasant to have around, and deserve hand-outs at the patio. The Thornton W. Burgess myths of the Mother West Wind series persist in spite of me. Since it is impossible to grow sweetcorn in my precinct without reckoning with raccoons, I put up my electric fence each August as an alternative to the finality of open warfare and an improvement on doing without sweetcorn altogether.

If there be those who deplore the electric fence, let me assure them it is much less disastrous to raccoons than is the astonishing report of a 10-gauge shotgun at midnight in a sleeping community. Since I bought the electric fence 16 years ago at a capital outlay of $45.90 (including tax) I have not had a raccoon in my sweetcorn. Meantime, my neighbors who rely on other restraining methods get their gardens ransacked in the fearful manner only a raccoon can contrive - a hurricane never wreaked such total destruction as comes from a pair of accomplished raccoons bent on willful trespass.

So early this August past I made application to the store of my mail-order friends, asking for a new pulser, two telltale bulbs, and two fuses - required to put my charger on line. I was told these are not carried in stock, so would have to be sent later by mail and it would take a week to 10 days. My sweetcorn was planted late this year, so I had time.

By the time the ears were imminent, I would get my package in the mail, complete the circuit, and could sleep soundly the whole night through without hearing the raccoons pillaging my sass. Although I did wonder why a store that sells electric fence parts didn't have them in stock during electric-fence season. I cannot answer that.

I bided, and my sweetcorn came on apace. August waned and September morned. My sweetcorn looked some old goo-ood, and my hanker flexed its muscles. It came time, indeed, for Master Sammy 'Coon to appear, gaze about in wild surmise, and go to work.

So I took steps. I went to an electrical shop over on the next road which is operated by a man who does not keep a cash register but makes change from his pocket, one who never heard of MIT and is a stranger to mass merchandising, and I said, ``How about parts for my electric fan?''

He said, ``Certainly.''

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I said, ``A pulser, two bulbs, two fuses.''

He said, ``And is there anything else?''

He also said, ``With the tax, that's four-seventy-six.''

I then went home, started up my fence, and the sweetcorn season came and went and we had some for supper every evening right through to the 20th of September. Not a kernel went to a raccoon. Then, the crop depleted down to the merest nubbins, I shut off the fence and went into the doldrums. The next morning Sammy & Friends had left evidence - every last nubbin was gone, and every cornstock was flat and trodden. It took them just one night to find the fence was unplugged.

So the next day I got an itemized bill from the mail-order people for $11.58. Then, the next day, I got in the mail two pulsers, one bulb, and one fuse.

Then we had the fight. After I had stated an introductory explanation of my woe, the clerk said, ``Well, I'm sorry - but, you see, the computer ... ''

``There is not a raccoon,'' I said, ``in the entire state of Maine that knows what a computer is.'' Then I went home to put my electric fence in storage until next August.

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