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Close Encounters of the Animal Kind

Posted Monday, August 16, 2010, at 6:39 AM

Now that the long, slow slide into winter has begun, early-morning light is in short supply before actual sunrise at 6:12. It isn't really dark for an hour before that, of course, but it isn't really fully light yet.

But even when it's pitch-black at that hour, even in the rain or snow, and especially when it's Sunday, nothing gets between my husband and me and the morning paper.

We are very early risers, usually out of bed and looking for coffee and the newspaper no later than 5:00, even on a weekend. That's actually how we gauge each other's health -- whoever isn't up by 6:00 at the very latest needs a doctor.

The worst news for the second person arriving in the kitchen is "The paper's not here yet."

The rhythm of the entire day is now at risk.

Our morning waltz usually goes something like this: Get newspaper and split it into sections -- sports to husband, the rest to me. Both of us drink coffee while reading the paper, occasionally muttering in outrage at the news, always reading the horoscope and laughing at who has the fewest or the most stars for the day. Sections of the newspaper are swapped. Husband goes to shower, I check e-mail and make the bed. Husband leaves, then it's my turn to shower and get ready for the rest of the day.

If the paper does not appear on time, everything is immediately out of synch.

There's coffee, but no muttering and laughing. One of us reads a book, maybe the other turns on the television. Every three or four minutes, one of us goes to the living room window to check for the newspaper. Sometimes, one of us will stare out the window, willing the paper to just appear, for heaven's sake.

We speculate on reasons the paper is late -- or why it shouldn't be.

"Oh, for crying out loud -- what's six inches of snow?"

"I used to walk to school in temperatures a lot colder than this!"

And so forth. Did I mention we really, really want that paper every day?

This morning the paper was in its accustomed place at the end of our driveway. I was the first one awake, so I walked out onto the porch and headed down the walkway to get it.

I was very surprised to see four cats come walking around the back end of my husband's truck. Cats don't usually hang around in groups, and these guys stopped dead in their tracks when they spotted me. They were pretty surprised to see me, too, I thought.

I clapped my hands and sort of hissed at them. Three of them immediately ran across the street to take refuge under a large pine tree. The fourth one, however, just stood there. I took this as a sign that something I wouldn't enjoy was about to happen.

Which was immediately confirmed when I took one more step and a much closer look, and realized I was looking not at a cat, but a raccoon.

And then three MORE of them walked around the end of the truck.

First thought: "Huh, guess it isn't the rabbits eating my vegetables and flowers after all."

Second thought: "Raccoons are so cute ... even with claws and teeth ... and, oh yeah, rabies."

Third thought: "Who needs a morning paper?"

We all stared at each other for a few seconds.

Deciding a measured retreat was the best policy, I slowly walked back towards the house. As I reached the porch, I turned around and saw they'd decided the same thing. I watched as they ambled across the street to take up positions with the rest of the SWAT team under the pine tree. They clearly thought they were the winners in the confrontation - there was a definite swagger in the set of their shoulders.

I really wanted that paper, though.

Mentally measuring the distance between the pine tree and the paper and the house, I sort of skipped down the driveway, grabbed the paper and tried to walk back to the house with at least a little dignity.

I don't think I was very successful.

I could hear the seven of them discussing my pedigree and laughing as I firmly closed the front door and hit the start button on the coffeepot.

Go ahead and laugh, you little bandits. You've got the tree, but I have the paper.

Contact Kathy Fairchild at kfairchild@marshallnews.com

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-- Posted by Slater on Mon, Aug 2, 2010, at 10:52 AM

LOLOL...thank you! John said he wished he'd had a video of it. :)

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Sun, Aug 1, 2010, at 1:11 PM


Great column! I almost see you darting out for the paper.


-- Posted by Amy Crump on Sun, Aug 1, 2010, at 11:44 AM

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Kathy Fairchild received a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration in 1986 from Marycrest College, Davenport, Iowa. She is also a 2003 graduate of the paralegal program at New York University. She moved to Marshall in 2006, following a career of more than 30 years with the world's largest farm equipment manufacturer. She is an Air Force brat and grandmother of four.
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