So two bears visited the neighborhood. Photographs of them going by one night were taken. They were about 40 yards from our house, going through neighbors' yards.
Bears pass through Ashland as irregular, recurring guests, like an Uncle who lived somewhere else, maybe because they were in the military or prison, and just living in another country, who shows up once in a while, dropping by because he 'was in the area, and stopped by to say hello.' I was that Uncle in my extended family for a few decades but my nephew has taken over the role in the past few years.
These bears were unassuming. Other bears made front page news back in 2007. They broke into a house and raided a refrigerator, and a couple of others went nuts on some trash cans.
Animals are regular discussions in town. Deers are the most common topic. There are arguments about whether the deer population has been increasing. Deers can be dangerous and aggressive. A friend, also a writer, Beckie, has been victimized a few times with a deer attacking her dogs in the back yard while she tried to chase the deer away with a broom. Deers think dogs might be wolves and believe the best defense, et cetera, so they attack. I don't think they know what a broom is. Cats are afraid of brooms as a natural enemy, but not deers.
Beckie wasn't alone in deer incidents. An elderly couple walking their dog downtown were attacked when they tried to defend their dog from the deer, and another acquiantance told a story about a German Shepherd racing down the street, being chased by a deer. Deer are always strolling the streets, grazing in yards, and looking in your window, watching you use the bathroom. Humans seem to fascinate them.
A deer count was organized this year. The town was plotted into zones and at a specified time, volunteers surveyed their zones and reported on how many deer were there, so now we have an official census.
The deers don't bother me. I like seeing them wander by or coming across them on my urban hikes. There are have been cool, interesting moments, like when I saw a small cat and a large buck sizing one another up. Neither ran but leaned forward, sorting of sniffing, but they didn't get too close. Both turned and looked at me, with their eyes asking, "What are you looking at, human?"
Raccoons and skunks have been more of my issues. A crawlspace vent grill wasn't properly attached when we first moved in. I noticed it but didn't take immediate action. Then the cats started using it, going in and out. One, Scheckter, the big ginger bear, required rescue service, or maybe he just wanted us to show him that we cared. He started meowing under the house, forcing us to open the access way. That's a trap door in the master bedroom closet. We called him and he came, and hopped out with little chirps that I interpreted as, "Hey, cool."
A momma raccoon took up residence in the crawlspace, giving birth to three little sweeties. We waited until they were grown enough -- the Internet provided useful guidance -- and then drove them away. They were located under the master bedroom bath. That seems to be a nice place under the house. Once they were mature enough, which we knew was so because momma would bring them out and treat them to tours of the back yard, we set up bright lines and played music through the access door, just like the ATF or FBI would do in a hostage situation or a stand-off, or the police might handle OWS protestors. Momma vacated, taking the family with her, and I applied a new vent cover.
Raccoons still return. They've come in a few times but usually leave as soon as a they see me. I'm pretty hairy so maybe they mistook me for a bear. There have been other times when I've heard Scheckter give warning growls and discovered raccoons in the back yard or at the pet door. I turn on the outside lights, bring the cats in, and close the pet door, and the racoons leave.
Skunks are another neighborly issue. Their odors lingered in the morning for a few months this summer. I never saw any, and the cats managed to stay clear. My wife figures compost goodies attracted the skunks.
We have great human neighbors. On our right are Carol and Paddy. They live in a small cottage. Carol works at Blackstone, which produces and sells books on tapes and CDs, and Paddy is a contractor for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, building scenery.They have two adult sons. One is a little strange but the other is less strange. They're animal people. They currently have a dog but used to have a large black and white cat who was a regular visitor to our house. He and our cats got along well and he liked to sleep on my desk while I worked. Cancer took him.
On the other side is Wade, a divorced guy from Big Sur. He's a martial arts instructor, former spa owner, and owner of six motorcylces, an Airstream camper, Chevy pick-up truck, and Porsche 911. He's always running off to somewhere but is very friendly and respectful, a Democrat from a Republican family. His father is a "birther", which irritates Wade to no end.
Across the street are Walt and Barb. 'Retired' now, Walt is a master gardener. He used to oversee four different gardens: 'his' garden, two community gardens, and a restaurant's garden. His daughter and son-in-law own the restaurant and grow their own produce. Now that his knee is bothering him, he only manages his garden and the restaurant garden, although he still does starts for all four gardens, and gives us starts as well. His list of former occupations is long: high school football coach, high school principal, tennis club owner, farmer, sales man, and restaurant and resort area. Barb is also a retired school teacher, business owner, and was a secretary, in addition to raising a pair of girls. They've adopted us as part of their extended family. They're progressives, readers, and gardeners, and so are we, and they lived down in the bay area, in parts where we used to live as well. Walt also enjoys football, so he and I often talk about the season and teams.
There are others around us. Each are friendly but a little distant. I accept that since it's my normal operating mode, friendly but distant. All in all, a good neighborhood, part of a great little town.
Although the deer might not think so.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com