Ted was sitting in the rain. A blue tarp covered his lower half, an umbrella hat deflected the water from his face. The look on his face was one of resigned discouragement.
“Good morning, Ted. Are you managing to keep dry?”
“Hi, Dennis. The water is running under my tarp. I’m soaked, but I’m keeping warm. I haven’t been around for the past few days. My brother and I were helping my mother to get rid of some raccoons — real nasty fuckers. They were tearing a hole under the eves trying to get into the attic. Two of them were snarling and hissing, the third one was easy going. He’d probably been fed regularly by some of the neighbors. We put him in the truck and released him. Did you know that the law states that you aren’t allowed to move them more than a kilometre from where they are caught. I think that they’re afraid that it may cause a spread of rabies. Also, they may have cubs nearby and you don’t want to separate families.
“I have my trapping licence so we baited the trap with cooked bacon and caught the two vicious ones. I must have skinned a hundred raccoons over the years. I made coonskin caps for my sons when they were young.”
I asked, “Have you ever eaten a raccoon?”
“No, they’re scavengers, like rats. They eat road kill. When you cut them open there’s a horrible smell. I have to cover my nose with something when I’m skinning them. It’s different with bears. Most people don’t realize it but bears are mostly vegetarian. Eighty-five per cent of what they eat are berries, roots, insects, larvae, grass and other plants. The West Coast bears are so much larger because they have access to the salmon spawning in the rivers.”
“So,” I asked, “have you been able to get a larger bed?”
“No, not yet. My mother, who is eighty, promised me a bed but then she said, ‘Maybe I should keep it in case that German girl comes back to visit.’ That German girl visited twenty-seven years ago and hasn’t kept in contact. I said, ‘Okay Mom, whatever you say.’
“I’ve been approved for O.D.S.P.(Ontario Disability Support Program). I’m also receiving Social Assistance so I won’t get the full amount. I don’t know how much I’ll get, my worker will let me know.
“Did I tell you I got my fishing licence? I had to pay thirty bucks and the season is half over. They discounted me two bucks. Don’t you think they should have charged half price?”
I said, “In winter you could also go ice fishing. Have you ever done that.”
“Yeah, I used to go out with my sons fishing derbies. They had an area fenced off and holes augered in the ice. It would be about two to three feet thick. We got three holes fairly close to the shore. If you looked into the hole you could see the bottom of the river. You weren’t allowed to bring coolers because they didn’t want any foreign bait introduced to the lake. Also, in a cooler you could hide an award winning fish. We caught the largest northern pike at twenty-nine pounds and the largest walleye at eleven pounds. We also could have won largest yellow perch but we told the judge to give it to somebody else.
“Do you want to hear something sad? Between my new place and the river is a baseball diamond. In the gravel bed behind home plate, a turtle decided to lay her eggs then left. When I walked past this morning, shit hawks were pecking away at the eggs. I yelled, waved my arms and chased them away. A lot of good that did. They came back as soon as I left. In some areas they create turtle nesting places along rivers and build underpasses out of drainage pipe so they don’t get run over on streets and highways.”
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