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Choosing the best tool

September 30, 2011

I spent this afternoon in a steady drizzle, clearing a patch of lawn for re-seeding. Perhaps seven feet by twelve feet, this area had fallen victim to summer crabgrass. There is a tool for almost any task, and my shed holds most of them. They don’t get much use, mind you, as I’m not exactly what you’d call a ‘handy man.’ You don’t get so many blisters punching on a keyboard.

Well, for certain I didn’t have the right tool for that crabgrass. A regular rake just wouldn’t do. The fancy step-on-the-lever dandelion remover could do the job, but these tentacles had taken over the entire space while we were away on vacation and I’d since procrastinated just a little long to consider that option. With images something of the explosive variety from Wile E. Coyote’s toolbox in mind, I trooped off to Home Depot yesterday and returned with a ‘dethatching rake,’ very sharp, with about twenty curved tiller blades on either side, and a wing nut controlled adjustable angle.

Adding this weapon together with my multi-pronged three-tiered stabbing roller tiller (!!!), I was armed to the teeth for the task ahead. Feeling a bit like Eddie Albert on Green Acres in Hooterville (no, not Hootersville, Hooterville – Google it), I set the stage on the driveway with my tool collection and six bags of black loam for good measure. For seeds, I had double coverage. With a newfangled bag of seed/fertilizer/soil, all wrapped up in thinly sliced disks, and a backup bag of old-fashioned seeds, I was ready for action.

Not a green thumb by any stretch, when I do my homework, I can make things grow. I like to see things grow. Destruction is not a pleasing sight for me. The dismantling of useful, productive things into which much has been invested is a travesty. Makes me angry, in fact.

To the lawn. Bella and I made our way to the scene of the crime, she with a 25’ cable wrapped around the Norway Maple and I wrapped in my rain suit. As you may recall from an earlier piece, Bella is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The name is longer than the dog. Click here for a reasonable facsimile.

The dethatching rake worked well, though it wasn’t like a walk in the park, as promised. Heavy gloves on, I still managed to catch a blister between my thumb and forefinger. Stick to deskwork, I say. Area cleared and weeds bagged, I was preparing to spread the seed combination when Bella started barking and hopping like the world was on fire. Bella doesn’t bark much, as dogs go, so I knew something was afoot. Turning around, I saw a large raccoon waddling slowly across the street, aimed straight for Bella.

Raccoons are not an uncommon sight hereabouts, as there is a full-on woods just across the street. We enjoy deer walking down the street after a midnight snowfall. Fox, squirrels, rabbit, and of course, raccoons are regular guests of the neighbourhood. I’m told there are coyote roaming the streets, too, but haven’t seen one myself, and I’ve been here twenty years. I think the raccoons were imported by producers of those plastic clasp-sealing garbage cans. In my experience, they’ve dug into the garbage, they’ve dug into the recycling bins, they’ve dug into the yard, they’ve dug into the composter, and they’ve dug into the garden. You name it, they’ve dug into it. So, when I see one of these bandits, I call him Doug.

Let’s talk about rules now. Some rules I like. Others not so much. Much of my life has been spent defying rules, but as I ripen, my appreciation for rules grows stronger. I have some rules built into my email system, for example. Anything with the “F” word doesn’t make it to my Inbox. Anything with promises to ‘extend’ any part of my anatomy doesn’t make it to my Inbox. Anything with Paris Hilton’s name doesn’t cut it either. Jennifer Anniston is tempting, but unless it’s attached to the GQ tie photo series (for sure, Google that one!), it’s not coming through. I really liked the line from Jordan, the girl attached to Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) in Under Siege. She declared: “I have a little rule about killing people. Actually, I have two rules. See, One, I don’t date musicians, and Two, I do NOT kill people!”

I tell you this because I also have a rule about raccoons. Don’t mess with Doug. You see, while he’s not very smart, Doug is persistent. Masked in black, he’ll rob you blind if you let him. Don’t let him. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being robbed by a stupid bandit. He’s got sharp teeth, and claws that would compete with any of my tools. That’s it. Maybe Doug is a ‘tool’. If he could only be domesticated and trained, there could yet be a useful purpose to his existence. Afraid not. It just can’t be done. Wrong kind of ‘tool’ I guess. Hence, my raccoon rule. Don’t mess with Doug. Waste of time. Sort of like wrestling with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig loves it.

Well, as Doug ambled across the street toward my darling Bella, I jumped in between, hoping to protect against the interloper. Armed with my handy-dandy new razor-sharp dethatching rake, I stepped boldly forward. Gurgling some laughable noise intended to strike fear into the heart of the beast, I thrust as if to shout, “Stop or Master Po will… rake you?” Hmmm… Doug paused for a moment, looked over his shoulder with a shrug of, “Can you believe this Shaolin fool?” and plodded on forward toward Bella and me. By this time, we’d gathered an audience of the folks across the street, waiting for their kids to be dropped by the three o’clock bus. The lady with the double pram looked genuinely concerned, while the fellow was settling in for a sporting match in my yard. Doug kept coming. Throwing down the rake, I reached for the rolling, spinner, stabber tiller thingy, and jabbed at him again, shouting incoherently. Doug kept coming.

Enough of this crap, I said to Bella, scooping her up off the ground and headed into the house through the garage. No doubt, I could have fended him off. Probably could have off’d him altogether, but where would that have left me? Having to explain a raccoon with 300 rolling puncture marks to Animal Control… no thanks. Doug’s not worth my trouble. The more rope I give to him, the more he gets what he wants, the stage, a little attention, and maybe a nibble on my much-prized Bella.

So, with Bella safely in the house, a few minutes later, I ventured out on my own. Without any reasonable targets to pursue, silly Doug eventually had given up and left the scene, having done no damage, and causing me no undue stress. Having resisted the temptation for silly behaviour, I smiled, went about my business, and finished the seeding of my yard. Focus on planting, nurturing, and growth, not on destruction. Sometimes silly behaviour is good for chuckles. Other times, it’s good for nothing.

Sometimes, the best tool is to just walk away. So I walked.

Best regards,

Kevin Graham

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