It had been a fairly uneventful summer for us since our early vacation in the San Juan islands.
You may remember an earlier story about our neighbor Lydia, who put in a backyard pond and stocked it with koi. Naturally, the local raccoons thought this a magnificent all-you-can-eat orange fish joint. As a result, Lydia kept putting up additional (and failed) defenses for the increasingly diminishing fish. By the end, she had an electric wire fence circling the pond, which was covered by a used window screen, and a set of motion-activated lights set up on tripods and aimed at the water. Her backyard garden feature had become a little Gulag.
Earlier this year, Mary asked her how the fish were doing. Lydia had to admit that the last one had been eaten, “so now Bryan (her husband) doesn’t have to pee around the pond anymore.” Mary’s look must have explained it all, because Lydia went on to explain that, just as deer are supposedly repelled by fox urine, she had heard that raccoons don’t like human urine. So she enlisted her husband and his work crew (he owns some rental properties) to relieve themselves on the banks of her pond, so as to repel the ‘coons.
This reminds me, for no good reason, of another neighbor, a couple of blocks away. She decided several years ago to let her yard go “natural” which is a way of saying she stopped doing ANY maintenance. No watering, no mowing, nada. Amber did put up a sign saying with the heading “What’s going on here?” in which she attempted to justify the weed-lot as some sort of wildlife refuge. (As much as any 20 by 50 foot front yard could be a wildlife refuge.)
Anyway, Amber read that wildfires were a natural part of the original Willamette Valley grasslands, earlier in the summer she put a torch to her front yard. She was intelligent enough to have the garden hose ready and wetted down her front porch, which avoided going up in flames, but the rest of the yard, including a couple of saplings, was turned a pure and sooty black. It was about then that Lydia had the final infestation of raccoons in her backyard, so maybe there was some wildlife there after all.
At any rate, the plants did grow back, helped by some unusual summer rains. One last tale of that slightly odd summer- during one of the hottest days of the year, I was walking our dog Kirby at about 10:30 in the evening. There was a group of about 20 bicyclists at the corner, enjoying the night air, when I heard that word that made my ears spring up like Kirby’s: “Naked.”
Before I knew it, the women were all topless, the men as God made them, and they were back on their bikes and riding up the street, silent except for the whir of their wheels. The phrase “Keep Portland Weird” was safe for another year.