Raccoons in the Corn

In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, I though I’d embellish yet another rendition of hilarity that made up the life that my Dad led with his beautiful wife, my step-mom, Mrs. Jean.

Daddy grew up on a farm in West Tennessee.  He dropped out of school to work on the farm- at least that’s what he told me.  I’m sure it had nothing at all to do with the fact that he really disliked school.  Really.  Disliked.  School. Anyway, even into his final years, Daddy felt it necessary to raise a garden.  Farming and gardening was in his blood.  He loved working the soil, watching the amazing transformation of seeds sewn in naked, brown, rich earth to hilly, grassy patch, to finally, a grassy patch that had some beans growing in it.  Well- beans, tomatoes, peppers, corn, watermelon and cantaloupes… you get the idea.  Rows and rows of wholesome fruits and vegetables, grown by hand; soil worked in the early morning before the sun was its hottest; rows watered and fertilized to offer the greatest harvest possible.  And by the time you counted the seed and fertilizer and water costs, the time involved, you could actually purchase the food at the market or grocery store for less.   But, nooooo, Daddy wanted a garden.  It was in his blood, you know.

Toward the end of one corn-growing season, Daddy noticed that the raccoons or ‘possoms or some other nocturnal animal was getting in his corn.  He would find cobs, gnawed bare, in piles on the ground, or sometimes even still on the stalk, half-eaten and still dripping with corn juice (Yes, there is juice in corn).  Daddy was convinced the animals were coming across the highway to his garden, doing the damage, then escaping back across to the fields and woods beyond.

Having had enough of losing corn to the local wildlife, Daddy devised a sure-fire plan to scare off the marauders, and save the corn crop he could have purchased for less at Kroger.  Daddy’s plan was brilliant and simple: in the evening, he would put a two-way radio inside an ice cream bucket, and leave it in the garden next to the corn rows, power turned on.  During the evening and night, following each hourly trip to the, um, library, Daddy would transmit from the radio’s twin some kind of banshee scream followed by something like, “You’d better get out of my corn, you dadgum, good-for-nothing, theivin’ peckerwoods, or I’m gonna come down there and gitcha!”  This would happen several times a night, because, uh, Daddy read a lot.  There was one tiny flaw in the plan-though I’m sure that through eons of evolution, by now all the animals in the forest have learned to understand english, would obey the threat, and maybe apologize on the way out.  The flaw was that the ‘coons had been stealing from that garden for a long time, and would not be deterred by an old man’s voice coming from an empty ice cream bucket, no matter what the voice said.

Confident and committed, Daddy put his plan in motion- one ice cream bucket, empty of its intended contents, and replaced with a Motorla Two-Way radio, lid open ever-so-slightly.  Bucket placed near the rows of corn.  Power, on….

During the night, on several occasions, Daddy yelled into the radio his prepared threats.  Several times, Mrs. Jean cringed.  The last time, however, she laughed….

The next morning, my Dad went hurriedly down to the garden to check his crop.  Confident his plan worked and he would find his corn intact, he went straight to the stalks for the examination.  He didn’t consider, however, that my clever and sneaky step-mother had been paying attention to the operation of that little radio transmitter.  He didn’t consider that she enjoyed a joke as much as he did.  And just as he reached the corn rows to check the stalks, my sweet Mrs. Jean let out a banshee yell of her own into that little radio and then shouted, “You’d better get out of my corn, you dadgum, good-for-nothing, theivin’ peckerwood, or I’m gonna come down there and gitcha!”

For several moments, time stood still for Daddy.  Frightened and confused, he looked around to see who was yelling at him.  That’s when he saw the ice cream bucket, lid cracked, and heard Mrs. Jean laughing like a little school girl.

A grin and a knowing cackle escaped the corner of his weathered mouth.  He had been had by his own better half!  Played by his own team!  What’s worse, his brilliant plan failed- the raccoons had gotten his corn again, despite the radio rants during the night. Foiled again!

In my mind’s eye, I can see Mrs. Jean, eyes sparkling and smile gently bending the corners of her mouth, watching dad drive down the road and pull in next to the garden.  I can see her, waiting for just the right moment… waiting… and suddenly giving Daddy quite a shock!  I can also see my dad, that look of clueless surprise he often pulled out- just for fun of it, when he first heard the radio crackle to life; then, the knowing smile and high-pitched laugh that came so often and so easily to him.

No value can be placed on having those kinds of relationships.  I cherish the thoughts of my Dad and Mom, and precious Mrs. Jean and how they have helped shape my own life.  I want to live my life so that someday my wife and kids, my friends and family will remember my easy smile, my silly laugh, and deep compassion for them, and for others.

Happy Father’s Day.  Now, go out and make a memory.

P.S.  You’ll never believe where the raccoons were really living…. but that’s another story for another time….

What are your favorite memories of my dad?  What are your favorite memories of your dad?

  1. #1 by Katy on June 17, 2011 - 8:02 PM

    That was a great story! You should submit to NPR’s Story Core program.

  2. #2 by brett elbon on June 17, 2011 - 10:48 PM

    Thanks for sharing those great memories Eric!

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