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  • Autumn
  • Kathy Fagan (bio)


I’m writing this quickly—I have to rush out to buy coyote urine. I bought three sixteen-ounce canisters of powdered coyote urine Saturday—after wiring my mother money to cover her bouncing checks—and I will buy at least three more today. At $14.99 a canister, it is insanely expensive pee. With it, I am trying to deter the raccoons that have been systematically tearing up my lawn since July.

Saturday night, the urine worked. Sunday night, the destruction resumed. Monday morning, heading out the door for her one-hundred-mile commute, my partner broke into tears and begged me to take care of it. “By any means,” she said.

For $49 an animal, a wildlife exterminator will trap the offending creature and relocate it. What that means in the state of Ohio, where neither raccoons nor gay marriage are protected under the law, is that any trapped raccoon—a potential carrier of rabies—must be destroyed: the ultimate relocation. But I think I can outwit a few adorable thirty-pound mammals. I have access to the Internet. I’m a registered Democrat and a vegetarian. I have a lot of junk stored in my shed.

So late yesterday afternoon I shook down the last of the initial urine supply onto the disturbed sod. I laid twenty-odd feet of chicken wire over [End Page 109] that. I planted pinwheels in strategic locations; erected garden statuary we’ve received as gifts, won’t return, and can’t throw away; I twisted aluminum foil onto tomato stakes, and scattered metal buckets and empty urine canisters out near their water supply (also known as our irrigation system). If predators’ piss didn’t sufficiently gross out the raccoons, I figured the yard décor might.

All this took about an hour. I was dirty after and smelled a little like dog pee. I showered and started dinner. Then the guy who mows our lawn appeared. His schedule is entirely unpredictable; by day he’s a teacher at a local junior high. After patiently listening to my overexplanation of the public art installation that was the backyard, he replied simply, “Pan of antifreeze’ll kill ‘em,” and mowed around it.

The raccoons returned to the backyard last night and, from the looks of it, had a kegger. They tossed pee canisters around, turned the buckets over, and toppled my foil stakes—but they left the lawn alone.

The rain began before dawn. I don’t know what effect rain has on coyote urine, but I know from my research that the only way to frighten raccoons off for good is to vary the nightly routine. On my shopping list, therefore, is fresh coyote urine, but also ammonia and Mylar balloons. If the rain lets up, I’ll leave a transistor radio out all night and an unfamiliar lawn chair to make it look as if there are humans out there. A graveyard shift of custodial staff, perhaps, at a sad little party.

My mother’s checks bounced Saturday because she’s completely irresponsible with money. She’s also poor. She’s also got an incurable blood cancer. At seventy, she continues to work, part-time and for an hourly wage, as a clerk in a bookstore. She’s the Grande Dame of the Fresno Barnes and Noble. I don’t go to bookstores anymore because I can’t afford to buy books. Or, I could, but then I couldn’t pay $14.99 for coyote urine and $22 for advice from the guy who mows my lawn. I also wouldn’t be able to send money to my parents.

I don’t feel heroic for doing it, just different. I’m privileged enough, these days, to live in a social class in which people my age, that is, middle-aged people, have either buried their parents and inherited money—nothing ostentatious, just enough for the kid’s college fund and a new SUV—or can expect [End Page 110] small gifts from their decidedly solvent, if aging, parents on a regular basis: a birthday laptop, say, a fat check at Christmas. If my parents had money...


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pp. 109-120
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