Monday, June 30, 2008

Face to Face Encounter

I went outside to smoke about 10:30 at night. The breeze was in my face. As I sat, I noticed a large animal lumbering in the dark under the trees. It definitely was NOT a bunny.

It lumbered through the dark into the light of my neighbor's front porch. (He leaves the porch light on all night). Yup, it was a large raccoon, at least 40 pounds.

Reflecting on the raccoon's sharp teeth and claws, I thought about the birds, squirrels and rabbits who always seem to be at least on orange alert--always aware of their surroundings. This animal's dum-de-dum-de-doh behavior seemed to indicate no anxiety. The raccoon wasn't noticin' nuthin' as it searched for any edible trash left lying around. Finding none on my neighbor's porch, it moved back to the sidewalk and ambled towards me.

Surely it would walk on by, but nope, less than four feet from me, it started to turn in to my porch. With a surge of adrenalin, I stamped my foot and hissed: "Heeccch!"

The raccoon lifted a startled face to mine, turned, and ran amazingly fast across the ground and around the next building.

Dumpster-diving raccoons, by the way, really stink.

Much of the wildlife is doing quite well co-existing with humans in the Metroplex. Back in the late '70s, Six Flags Over Texas had a pair of beaver move into the Lazy River ride. They gnawed down some small trees and basically shut the ride down. Six Flags tried trapping with no success. They couldn't kill the cute beaver in front of the families and kids thronging the park. Finally, they drained the whole ride and caught the animals, which were transported to other climes. Beaver do quite well in the rivers and streams here. They are not hunted, since the temperate Texas winters leave them with an undesirably thin pelt. Coyotes have actually increased, leading to the occasional disappearance of family cats and small dogs. Possoms are also plentiful, as are skunks. Skunks are the most susceptible to rabies (if you see a skunk out in the middle of the day, stay far, far away and immediately call animal control). They are quite entertaining standing on their hind legs to snap at moths around outside lights, but fortunately, I've seen none here.

I have heard owls, and hope some night to catch a glimpse of the bobcat that has mothered several litters in the neighborhood over the past few years. All in all, rats and mice in this area lead a perilous existence.

That's just fine with me.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Most Gallant Lie

This past week, I got together with some old journalism buddies, and of course, we told stories. Well, I still write a better story than I tell. So I'm going to relate one of mine.

Back when I was a reporter, I had a "beat" which is what we call an area of reporting that involves expertise, sources, etc., in a specific area. I worked closely with the CEO of a large cooperation, and he had pretty much an open door policy with me. I liked and respected him tremendously. He did his job extremely well.

Well, we got a letter at the paper from a soldier overseas. It rambled, and it didn't always make good sense, but the bottom line was, he accused this CEO of having an affair with his wife. He admitted she had filed for a divorce, but he said she was still married to him, and she worked for the CEO. Which she did, as head of one of the departments.

So, while we were skeptical--the longtime single CEO had a reputation for NOT fooling around, and the letter was a bit wacky--I was sent to confront him. Chee, I was uncomfortable. But it was my job, and I did it. And he responded. He always had. He was quiet for a moment.

Then, with a little smile, he asked, "Have you seen her?"

Oh, yes, I had. Petite, with a kind of church lady plainness and prettiness, and glasses. Rather earnest. He was in his late 50's, and she wasn't much younger. They were of an age, anyway. If you gave me a list of 100 women who might be having affairs--this was back in the 70's when just separating didn't necessarily mean you were free--she wouldn't even have made the 51st possibility.

I nodded. He sighed. He said the accusations were preposterous, and if he were having an affair with a staff member, weren't there a number of women more likely? Much more attractive?

Thinking over some of his professional women staff members in my mind, I could think of two or three who were extremely attractive, outgoing, and really smart cookies. I agreed. He shook his head dismissively. He said the idea of him and the department head just didn't made good sense. Well, gee, that was pretty much what I had thought.

I went back to my bosses, told them what he'd said, and we simply went on to other things. We wrote nothing. We didn't think much about it.

And within the year, the CEO and the department head quietly were maried. When I saw them together, it was obvious that he adored her.

But talking to me, he'd thrown her under the bus. To my younger self, it didn't seem very nice. Now, I think it was the most gallant fight for a lady I've ever known personally. If I had pursued the story, he would have been caught out. And he knew me well enough to know I would have quoted him quite accurately. He took a chance. And it worked.

And he did it, mostly, I still believe, for love.