Readers have been responding to my comments about the wild animals who live in urban areas.
Interest is centered on raccoons because they frequently raid garbage cans. Some city dwellers like raccoons, some hate them. The haters are in the majority.
Three readers told me that mothballs are just as offensive to raccoons as the Varsol I mentioned. Four called or wrote to tell me they were greateful for hints on how to discourage raccoons because they are tired of having their garbage scattered.
One woman reported she didn't get rid of her raccoon until she had a garbage disposal unit installed. I didn't say anything to discourage her, but she may find that some things that attract raccoons aren't put into a disposal unit.
Dorothy B. Jones told of spending her vacation in a cabin in Cacapon State Park in West Virginia and finding that "some of the chief delights in these places are the nocturnal visits of the raccoons." The raccoons usually arrived at about midnight, and Dorothy used to enjoy waiting up to watch them raid the garbage cans.
"Raccoons are bold and skillful, as well as beautiful little beasts," she wrote. "They are able to stretch up and hang onto the side of an upright can, force the lid open with their noses, and push it off with one 'hand.' Then they'd hop up to the top of the opened can, hang on to the rim with their hind feet, hang head-down inside the can, grasp whatever appealed to them, and run off with their loot" -- leaving a litter of discarded items behind them.
Dorothy made some good flash pictures. Apparently the 'coons were hams who enjoyed having their pictures taken, and were not frightened away by sudden flashes of light.
As an afterthought, she says, "I'll admit that if it gets too local -- like right in your back yard in the city -- the scene loses some of its charm."
Alice Laskey phoned to tell me that she doesn't resent being visited by a hungry raccoon. She feeds it.
She buys a sack of dog food at the supermarket and puts out a portion for her raccoon each night. She also puts out water, which she says raccoons need but can't always find.
I asked her, "Does the dog food attract rats?" She said, "Not so far, thank goodness." I told her that in some of our better neighborhoods rats have become a problem because construction work has dislodged them from their nests. She said she'd keep an eye open.
Kenny Freeman of Silver Spring also supplies "his" raccoon with dog food. He wrote, "Anyone who is visited by a raccoon is lucky. They are clean, beautiful, lovely animals, fun to watch, basically friendly to all other animals, certainly much more agreeable creatures than human beings.
"If your readers have problems with raccoons, I suggest that they realize that raccoons are motivated by hunger. People can buy big bags of the cheapest dog food and each night put out a plate of it next to their garbage cans. It costs very little, it solves your problem, and it makes you a friend. Please remind your readers that Jesus would not have put Varsol in his garbage can."
All right, Kenny, but I keep worrying about those rats. I see too many of them on my way home late at night. POSTSCRIPT
One more note on animals:
In a recent news story about the mass murders and suicides at Jonestown, we referred to "the grizzly events" there. Julian Freret didn't care for our spelling of "grizzly" and commented:
"I can't bare to put up with misteaks like this won hear."
Duly noted, Julian. We meant grisly, which means "horrible" or "ghastly." Grizzled means "streaked with gray," as in "grizzly bear." The copy editor who passed "grizzly events" has been given 10 lashes with a wet noodle. X EQUALS INSOMNIA
A reader phoned yesterday and said, "Don't use my name because I feel like a dumbbell. The comic strip 'Shoe' contained an algebra problem on Saturday, and I've been losing sleep over it because I can't figure it out. What did x equal?"
I told him I tried to snooze while I waited for a doctor who had a waiting room full of patients on Saturday, but the musical background made sleep impossible so I worked on the problem instead. My version of the answer is that x equaled 4. INCONGRUOUS ASSEMBLED
Herm Albright tells me that one congressman has suggested an amendment to the Carter energy plan: a tax credit for thermal underwear. THESE MODERN TIMES
Bob Orben has set his thermostat lower than he set it last year, but his oil bills are higher. He says he has the feeling he's heating in Celsius and paying in Fahrenheit.