Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - July 27, 2005)
When the roses smell like mothballs
Shes famous for her roses and camellias. As
cars pass in front of the homestead, drivers can barely resist slowing down to gawk
at the flamboyant pinks, reds, orange and white blossoms festooned along dark
green, leafy branches.
|Photo by Rick Tremmel
|Momma Raccoon forages
breakfast for her young ones.
The sidewalk leading up to the two-story, pastel yellow house is lushly lined with
fuchsia and violet verbenas spreading without inhibitions onto the lawn on either
At each corner of the three-quarter acre property Buddleia cascades in blues,
pinks and purples anchoring the corners of this oasis my mother has gingerly tended
for more than 20 years to bring it to this extravagance.
Theres bird houses in the apple and pear trees. Theres a large,
hand-built bird feeder in the dogwood right outside the kitchen window.
Theres pegs for corncobs for the squirrels. And if this is not enough Momma
hand-dug and built her own fish pond several years back as the focal point for her
personal version of Oz and stocked it with a school of goldfish that are now the
size of the palm of your hand.
Momma does things big. Theres figs so large theyre bending the
branches. Theres a quarter of an acre of vegetable garden that gets so out of
hand that she opens the gate in mid summer for the neighbors to come pick their
So why is Momma surprised that the occasional raccoon might saunter in for just a
If I catch him hes gonna be my new coonskin cap, she grumbled
and giggled at the same time, as she snipped the half eaten tomatoes and corn to
discard in her basket. Momma sharply hushed up my suggestion, How bout we set
up a raccoon feeding station at the back end.
All I was thinking was this might satisfy the little varmints and discourage them
from other damage.
What? Thatd be like sending them an invitation, girl. Where
theres one raccoon theres bound to be dozens of others.
That night Momma must have contemplated her own words, imagining those pesky
critters munching on the peas, delighting on the pineapples, or worse heaven
forbid salivating over the roses.
Next morning as I greeted the rising sun from my bedrooms French windows I
saw Momma out in the garden, wheelbarrow loaded with boxes. She was shaking
something around the perimeter of the garden beds. Thinking shes probably
fertilizing again, and she has her own way about that, I picked up my towel and
headed for the shower.
Now, Momma has her traditions, homemade breakfast being one of them. But the aroma
of hot coffee, bacon frying or biscuits in the oven was missing from this morning
and so was Momma. I went out to the garden to investigate. As was customary, as I
passed the roses I leaned to take in the perfume, but to my surprise my nostrils
cringed and my eyes began to water.
The roses smelled like mothballs. The camellias smelled like mothballs. Along the
path the bouquet of mothballs met my senses. There, bent over the wheelbarrow next
to the grapevines I found Momma shaking out mothball flakes.
Momma, what on earth have you done? I exclaimed. As she stood up sweat
ran from her brow and down her reddened cheeks. Her gloved hands were covered in
white powder and she smelled like a 100-year-old mink coat that had just been
released from storage. She had that determined look upon her face that no man or
I took a step back and asked gently, Need any help?
Her eyes flared. Those varmints got into my fish pond last night and nearly
ate every one of my fishes. Ill teach them to mess with my garden.
She grumbled then turned back to her duties. I walked to the pond and sure enough
there were goldfish parts laying about upon stones and fresh raccoon tracks in the
soft soil. I cleaned up what I could and brushed the tracks so that the visual
reminders of the previous nights larceny and massacre would seem less painful
to Momma. I worried a little over whether or not these odiferous methods of
mommas would squelch the pilfering habits of our four legged neighbors but
also knew well enough to keep my silence and go make breakfast.
The next morning brought to light another kill. Momma was nearly beside herself in
Then out of the corner of my eye I detected a small movement. I touched
Mommas arm gently. We sat motionless and then watched a mother and four
babies scurry to the other side of the fence and quickly disappear. We laid a net
above the water and anchored it with stones to preserve the surviving fish. Then
Momma surprised me saying, Karen, go and get the hammer, saw and some nails
and Ill bring some wood. If you cant beat them join em, she
said, but without defeat. At the far back of the property we fashioned a feeding
station out of wood and an aluminum tray.
From that day on, Momma placed any bruised or unsatisfactory vegetables, fruit,
nuts, handfuls of bird seed and berries upon the tray. She strung a light above the
table so she could observe the curious and amusing raccoon antics. The lines seemed
to be drawn and both sides understood their limits.
Eventually the rains came returning rose perfume and camellia bouquet, while the
raccoons honored their place in Mommas garden, in peace and alliance, back to
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.