Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Story for Another Day

Remember when I said I knew what coyote pee smelled like??  Here's the story of how I know...

For many years my parents lived on an island in the middle of the Columbia River--between Oregon and Washington--on a houseboat.  It was a great place, with a huge deck, and the family had lots of gatherings and good times at their house.  There was a very long ramp from the main walkway, over the water, connecting to the land and the parking area.  On bad winter days, almost always when I had come down from Seattle for Christmas, the ramp would freeze solid and everyone would be stuck.  I thought it was very adventurous of my folks to live like this, and it was ever so much fun to visit them.

But, one defect to living on the water, is of course, what keeps your house afloat.  Mom and Dad's houseboat was older; part of their flotation were these enormous logs--picture small redwoods--with huge styrofoam blocks wedged between the log rafters.  Very sturdy, very water-worthy, totally safe and secure.

Until the beavers showed up.

One day my Mom is leaving for work and notices all these bits of styrofoam bobbing in the water around their house.  She yells for Dad.  He comes out, takes a good long look, shakes his head, lights a cigarette and tells Mom he will take care of things, go to work.  At first he thinks one of the blocks has just broken up due to weather, the rise and fall of the river tides, something easy to deal with.  Poor Dad.

He gets the local scuba guy in, he dives under their house/deck, and tells Dad there's a lot of beaver damage on one of the old, gigantic logs.  I can just see my Dad:  Blinking, rubbing the back of his neck, patting his pocket for a smoke, as he ponders this new scenario.  Somewhere in his mind is also--no doubt at all--the horrible task of what the hell he's going to tell my mother.  She of the short fuse and zero tolerance for things going awry in her world.

Mom isn't happy.  There's lots of "oh my gods," and "what if the house sinks," and "Tom, do something."  Dad tries chicken wire around the whole house like a shark barrier in Jaws.  That seems to work for awhile, then bits of flotsam and jetsam begin swirling around the house again.  Plus, Mom thinks she can hear the beavers at night chewing their way through the logs and into her bedroom.   Again, I have to say, poor Dad. 

Eventually, Dad's methods aren't working, so he breaks down and does the guy networking thing.  He asks around the houseboat community, then canvasses his fishing and hunting buddies.  This is usually where guys end up on America's Funniest Home Videos, or win the Darwin Awards.  Thankfully, my father was smart, clever, and very handy.  He discounted several ideas, but unfortunately, latches wholeheartedly onto one allegedly foolproof plan.  Uh huh.  You know where I'm going with this, don't you.

Months have gone by as my parents have tried to deal with the Beaver Situation.  It's time for my early summer visit.  I drive down from Seattle, get all settled in my room, and plan on sitting outside on the deck, in the sunshine, and mellow out with a nice drink in the peace and quiet of life on the river. 

I come downstairs.  My Dad has this look on his face.  A look that says he's up to something.  Something that will probably involve me and that I won't like one little bit.  I give him the eye, edge around him, grab a beer from the fridge and go outside.  He follows.  Damn.  Making conversation while I try to figure out what gives, I ask him what's happening with the beavers.  Oh oh.  Now there's the smile that goes with the look.

"Funny you should ask," he murmurs.  I raise a brow but don't say anything.  "I found something that will take care of them," he says cheerfully.  I start to protest, but he assures me he doesn't mean murder or death, just something that will drive them away.  Permanently.

"Dad, I don't think trapping beavers is something you should be doing.  Can't you call the wildlife people?"

"I'm not going to trap them."  He scowls.  "And the wildlife people won't do a thing, I've already talked to those morons."

"Well then?" I say, taking a sip of my beer, wondering where in the world this is going.

He whips out a small vial from his shirt pocket.  I look at the vial.  I look at my father, note the expression on his face as he waves it in my direction.  "Um, Dad, what is that?" I ask carefully.

"It's something that will drive off the beavers.  I just have to sprinkle  a little dab of this liquid here and there on the logs under the deck and the house, and there you go.  No more beavers."

Skeptically, I say, "What in the world kind of liquid could do that?"

He hands me the vial and says, "Take a whiff."

I take the vial, give it a little shake, wonder what the heck it is.  It's watery thin, pale yellow, and doesn't look like much of anything really.  I do NOT pop out the cork, however.  "Okay, Dad.  What is it?"

"I want you to help me sprinkle it on the logs, but first take a whiff."  (If you lay on your stomach and hang off the walkway, and the deck, you could actually reach the logs, so this isn't a bogus request and he says only a little dab is needed, so I should be able to do this quickly and get back to my relaxing weekend.)

I ignore the 'take a whiff' comment, set down my beer and ask him where he wants to start.  He smiles and says, "We can start here at the deck, but be careful, we only need a little and the stuff is potent."

He knows how to lure me in.  Now I'm so curious I forget my reservations.  Just what is this stuff??  I pop the cork, stick my nose into the vial, and three things happen simultaneously:  my Dad starts laughing, my Mom yells, "NO!" and my senses completely explode.  My nose hairs melt, my tear ducts expand, my throat closes and I begin to choke while also attempting to cough this most vile of all odors out of my body.

I end up sticking my head under the kitchen faucet, trying to flush out my nose, mouth and eyes.  My mother is berating my father, but I can sort of hear a note of laughter in her voice.  I consider suing them for trying to off me.  When I can see again, and breathe without choking, I go back outside and glare at my Dad.  I take a good swig of my beer but it seems I've lost all sense of taste.  To say nothing of having possibly destroyed my sense of smell.  All I am tasting and breathing is...whatever that is.

"Okay, Dad.  Killing off your oldest daughter is just not funny.  Do I need to go to the ER?  Have I been damaged by some horrid chemical concoction?  Really, what is that stuff??

"Coyote pee," he says, then laughs so hard, he nearly falls off the deck into the water.


 -- It took nearly two weeks to get my taste and smell back.

 -- The beavers fled, though came back the next year and had a family of little beavers.  I refused to help Dad deal with them.

 -- Dad apparently was able to buy the coyote pee at some freaking bizarre local sporting goods store.  I should have sued them.

 -- Every time I brought up the coyote incident, my Dad would just howl with laughter.  Glad I could brighten his day.

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