Wednesday August 5, 2015
The clear warm juice runs down my face and I act surprised as if it were the first time I have bitten into the first peach of the season. It just tastes like summer and all the critters know exactly when they are ready, eager to begin their assault on these prized fruit. Of course I net the trees, wrapping them like Christmas presents locked with chain mail paper. The birds begin to work the perimeter looking for weak spots like the velociraptors attacking the fence in the first Jurassic Park movie. Pecked fruit is sometimes the tradeoff for the still delicious slightly scarred produce. The bees move in and picking is done more gingerly after careless first harvests with sting-inflected hands.
This year I had to use my Sherlock Holmes skills to identify a new critter that developed a taste for my prized peaches. The morning light unveiled half eaten fruit at the base of the tree with decidedly un-bird like bites. These human like marks made all the neighbors suspects. How did the fruit get picked off the tree behind the net? Was it Mr. Owens who peculiarly asked every morning on his suspicious “like clockwork” stroll about the status of the ripeness? Or perhaps the too “happy all the time” neighbor woman who offered to help harvest these anticipated treasures? It was a yellow peach after all. I needed to set a trap and I knew just the person to help me.
Mary Ann, always the brains of the operation, brought over a “Have a heart” trap, the type that catches the criminal alive so you have the opportunity to accuse them in person. I think psychologically this is supposed to make you feel better to confront the thief or so I’ve been told by some Maury Povich type show. Don’t judge. We set the trap with said peaches and for some reason cat food. I had some questions. Why would people want cat food I asked? Wouldn’t candy or chocolate be a better choice? That is what would entice me. How is a person going to fit into that 1 by 3 foot cage? Mr. Owens does not look like a cat food person. Mary Ann just rolled her eyes. I suggested a snare or perhaps one of those net traps as seen on Scooby Doo but those suggestions fell on deaf ears. We were now ready to find the culprit.
Let me explain. I love traps. I’m impatient with traps but for all the right reasons. When we were kids, my parents would take us crabbing and my brothers and I could not wait to pull up the traps as soon as they touched the bottom of the bay floor. Of course our irritated parents yelled at us and explained the “you have to wait for the crabs to go in the trap” concept but we were just too excited at the prospect of finding something and satisfying that immediate need. We were always Christmas morning trigger-happy. The same ritual happened, or is it happens? because we still do it, every year. We had a pact. Of the three brothers, it was the job of the first up to wake the rest of us so we can see what Jolly Saint Nic had delivered to us. Each year the wakeup time got earlier and earlier until our parents put the kibosh on the 4am wake up call it eventually devolved to. For years my parents plead for us to hit the sack early the night before or Santa would not bring toys. They went as far as convincing us that the blinking red light on the nearby RCA water tower was Rudolf’s nose. We never questioned why he was there on the other 364 nights of the year or why he never appeared to move. We just believed. So you see how this peach tree trap thing would go down.
Yes, of course I was out there night one with a flashlight, my camouflage, and a perfectly balanced pinot noir in hand with no success. The next morning I shot out of bed to find an empty trap, eaten bait and MORE peaches gone from the tree. A rusty trigger was diagnosed, WD-40 was applied and fresh bait added with the addition of a caramel candy that I was craving and I knew Mr. Owens could not resist. Two more days passed with similar results and just as I thought we would never find the culprit my farm dog Parker shot out of the house and made a beeline for the trap. There the culprit said chewing on the last peach in the trap safely locked in as if he was waiting for me, not Mr. Owens, although they did share similar facial features, but a raccoon! Mystery solved, said raccoon went away, and I could finally relax and let my guard down on this thief. Of course my luck is terrible and the next morning I returned to the familiar scene of eaten fruit. So again I set the trap. This raccoon must have Facebooked every friend he had. We ended up catching three more of his buddies and we think for now that is last. I still have the trap set and yes, still suspect Mr. Owens might still be a bit guilty of minor theft. Unfortunately, that yellow peach’s harvest is over but next year I’ll be on the lookout for these new peach loving critters and let Mr. Owens, in a not so subtle way, know that I will be watching.