Sunday, May 30, 2004

Pruning in Seattle

When we first moved to Seattle 25 years ago this month, we learned quickly that the most important garden tool you can own is a good set of pruning shears. Jungles grow quickly here and yesterday we attacked the rhodies, azaleas and Japanese maple with a vengeance--so much so that my husband had to make a trip to the dump because we exceeded our green yard waste recycling bin.

Anyway, pruning the rhodies reminded me of our old house six blocks away. Nobody has air-conditioning here because we have a huge 50 degree body of water just right there. When it is hot, everyone has little tricks--like opening the windows on the side of the house closest to the water. At our old house, we'd leave our garage door open until late at night because that would cool off our bedroom. Sometimes we'd go to bed and forget to close the garage but it is safe here so we never worried.

One morning my husband went out to his old Porsche to leave for work; we'd left open the garage; he'd left open the sun roof on his car and he'd left the keys in there. NO KEYS WERE THERE!! Uh oh, obviously some teen agers probably took the keys so they could come back and take the car for a joy ride or worse yet--break into our house by unlocking the front door.

We called the police and they suggested we change all of our locks. They took all the relevant information from us including any special identifying characteristics of the key chain. Oh yes, I explained the key chain was a rattlesnake head. "Excuse me, what did you say?", the police officer responded.

"A rattlesnake head--fangs and all--a real preserved rattlesnake! Fits right into the palm of your hand."

"Ok, Um...that should be easy to spot."

We were heartbroken. Our son, typical boy that he was at age 10, wanted to buy the rattlesnake key chain for his Dad's birthday when we were in Montana. Montana has things like that. We especially liked valet parking in downtown Seattle with that key chain. Most valet parking kids didn't like to touch it. And now some jerky kids had stolen it; well, it was our fault. We proceeded with the annoying and inconvenient task of buying new locks for all of our doors and we remembered to close the garage at night.

Several weeks later I was pruning our jungle-like rhodies in the front of the house and I spotted something in the bark down behind the bushes. Keys! And not just any keys--THE keys. But, the key ring was decapitated. The rattlesnake head had been gnawed off by an animal and I knew enough about raccoons to recognize the teeth marks. "Oh my!!", I thought to myself, "the raccoon entered our garage and was probably attracted by the shiny, jingly keys with the added yummy bonus of a snake head!" I could just picture him reaching down from the open sun roof of the small car to grab his prize and then take off behind the bushes a short distance away to chew off the best part.

I figured I should call the police and get any teen age suspects off the hook. "Yes, officer, I think a raccoon stole our keys...yes, right, the rattlesnake head...yes, the real actual rattlesnake, fangs and all... and he ate it...yes, you can rip up the report, officer, thank you."

Yesterday, as we were cleaning up all of our branches, our neighbor walked by with her dog. "Thought I should let you know," she commented, "a raccoon has been visiting several houses on our street so don't leave out pet food or anything."


We must remember to close our garage door!