THE CITY is full of kind-hearted women Virginia Bader among them, and she cannot endure the thought of killing the raccoons that wish to move in and take over her garden and dwelling off Massachusetts Avenue.
So like many thousand others, she traps the coons and liberates them in northern Virginia where they can do no harm and where they speedily find a new and better life among the nuts and berries.
The chief value of a wilderness today is not what can be trapped therein, but what can be let loose. And needless to say, Arlington and McLean are no longer a virgin wilderness, but the best we've got and one makes do.
Well. To the astonishment of everybody, the people of Fairfax have been muttering they don't need any more of these lovable furry animals especially since the people of Washington have been wet-backing their surplus for some years.
"How odd," said a Bader guest who lives in Virginia west of a traffic snarl. "We trap coons, too."
Only they bring theirs across the Potomac and free them in Rock Creek Park.
One would like to know how many crossings some of these animals have made.
It is like the old days when people of a certain sort knew they would see their friends on shipboard.
Sometimes the Mauretania, or later the Normandie, or the Idle de France, it made no great difference (except the Lusitania) because the same crowd was pretty wanderlusty in their hearts, and on one crossing or another they were sure to see everybody.
Same with raccoons. Back and forth, back and forth.
It is said, though I do not believe it, that for $8.25 you can ship your raccoon to an island off Maine, or to one off Georgia with confidence it will not be marching down Massachusetts Avenue again until Easter at the earliest.
I met another woman, who lives out near Woodlawn, who was quite full of squirrels, even though she trapped them and took them out in the country. She was not sure whether new squirrels, even though she trapped them and took them out in the country. She was not sure whether new squirrels moved in (abhorring and there filling the vacuum) or whether the deported ones were finding their way back.
So she painted (she said) the nails of their little paws with nail polish. She said nail polish comes in a variety of incredible colors.
Trap, paint, release. That was her policy.
For some time she was happy to see that while there were about as many squirrels as always, at least they were different ones since none had painted paws.
Then one day she saw one with nails like Carmen Miranda and finally was able to trap it. Its nails were painted, yes. But with a color she had never used.
When last seen, two years ago, the woman was resigned to an influx of orange-nailed squirrels instead of the deported vermillions, limes and sea-purples.
And then, coming to current devices, some people on McKinley Street have a corn crop that, if all goes well, will produce 18 ears.
"You laugh. It's not many, of course," said Maria, the corn mother, "but it's better than nothing."
Recently, needless to say, the coons have been visiting the garden at night and while they do not bother the four eggplants they are death and taxes to the the corn.
So a radio has been installed near the corn and it's turned on at night. Thus far it has kept the animals away and (probably) the neigbors awake.
What we need, of course, is more predators to keep Nature straight. There used to be a mountain lion on every hill, an alliagtor in every good-sized pond.
If we were to restore (or establish) alligators in the Tidal Basin and painter cats on the Hill, many of the city's sorrows would turn to joy.
Sharks are good, too. Like bats, they have been maligned. Not only do they keep things in balance, they also provide eerie and delirous excitement.
Shark-infested waters. No waters like them.
Phillip Shea was saying just this week at a posh dinner at the Sheraton Carlton Hotel (he is a vice president of The Sheraton Corp., and lives improbably enough in an old shingle house on the bay at Marblehead, Mass.) that he goes quite to pieces thinking of sharks.
When he was a mere tad, growing up on an island off Nova Scotia, there was a warm summer when the sharks came. They did not eat anybody in particular, though he remembers them as man-eating, but they did attack a dead whale on the beach. When the tide came in, the sharks followed, up to the beached whale. Gory and irresistble.
Sailors in small boats used to spear the sharks, he said, and the blood attracted other sharks who tore the wounded one to pieces. He still gets goose bumps to think of it.
What every Sheraton needs, when you're tired at the end of a long day of business out of town, is a shark in every pool to liven the weariness of life, and make the world safe from flunders.