Lee Pitts: Hypothetically speaking
I got a kick out of a CBS report that said raccoons are taking over New York City. It seems that the masked marauders are breaking into garbage cans and homes in the Big Apple, New Yorkers are being terrorized and their children are refusing to go outside and play. Wow, I wonder how they’d react if they had a few wolves, bears and mountain lions in their neighborhood like our government is forcing down our throats.
I had to laugh at the author who wrote that “raccoons are hard to trap.” Once upon a time, so long ago that I’m excused by the statute of limitations, I trapped 22 raccoons on my front lawn in 21 nights. (I caught a double one night when a sexy raccoon and her paramour ended up in the trap together.) I relocated the raccoons and stopped trapping because I’d brought their population more in balance and because I trapped a fox on the 22nd night. Now there’s an animal to be afraid of! When I opened the trap door it actually ran back at me! Turn a few of those loose on the New Yorkers and they’d quake in their knickerboxers.
In my trapping days I was always fearful of catching a skunk. Recently an urbane couple bought a house in our neighborhood as a second home and they quickly discovered that wild animals were living under their home. Just like the fraidy-cat New Yorkers, the man of the house was beside himself. I guess he didn’t notice when he bought the place that his back yard was an 8,000 acre state park that makes the Amazon jungle look like Central Park. So, like me, he set a trap and quickly caught a fox. But unlike me, the next five animals he caught were skunks, and everyone in the neighborhood knew when he caught one because he shot them. But before they died they left us all with a little putrid something to remember them by.
After our neighbor assassinated one he’d leave and go back to his other house 150 miles away where the smell wasn’t quite as strong. All of us who didn’t own another house to escape to were nauseated by the skunk smell, as was his wife who he left behind. She closed all the windows and heater vents and placed wet towels wherever there was a draft, but still got violent headaches from the sickening smell. Needless to say, everyone was ready to murder the skunk killer, including his wife.
One day a state Fish and Wildlife truck pulled up to the skunk house and after the ranger couldn’t raise anyone he drove over to my place. He was a nice guy and we chitchatted but after he gained my trust he set the trap: “We got an anonymous call that someone was trapping and killing skunks. Know anything about that?” he asked,
I hemmed and hawed and looked down at the ground. “Is that illegal?” I asked.
“It sure is,” he said. “Only a licensed trapper can trap a wild animal and you can’t discharge a firearm in this neck of the woods unless it’s hunting season.”
“Let me just ask you a hypothetical question,” I replied, still avoiding eye contact. “Suppose someone caught a hypothetical member of the skunk family in a hypothetical trap and hypothetically shot them with his hypothetical high powered air rifle. Would that hypothetical person have to serve time in a hypothetical prison?” (Just because I didn’t approve of the skunk killings didn’t mean I would rat someone out and put him in jail. His wife might have but I wouldn’t.) “And suppose this hypothetical person were to call you instead. What would you do about a hypothetical family of skunks living under your hypothetical house?”
“We would fill out the appropriate paperwork and send out a licensed trapper.”
“And what would the trapper do after he trapped the hypothetical skunks?”
“He would shoot them.”
“So we’d still smell skunks, only now it would be a legal stench?” I asked.
“Hypothetically speaking, I suppose you could say that,” the officer replied sheepishly.