We were used to the idea of raccoons nesting in our chimney. Sure, the first few years we lived here, I couldn’t imagine what made the galloping noise across our rooftop in the middle of the night. Jerry thought I was imagining the noise itself since he is a sound sleeper, and therefore refused to believe that I heard anything. Then one snowy morning I got up early and looked out over our back deck. Dancing through the dust of snow were dozens of slender fairy-like foot prints. A raccoon had visited during the night. I was delighted.

A few years after that in late spring, I heard a noise coming from the fireplace as I was going to bed. Since it was nighttime, I skipped over the notion of birds nesting in our chimney, and thought with dismay, it must be bats. As time would tell, it was neither. Like the footprints in the snow, the noise in the fireplace came from a raccoon. I know it because several weeks later I watched the mother raccoon carrying her kit out the chimney, across the roof, and down the tree. As she took her offspring into the wild, I wondered if I would ever see her again.

She was back the next spring. And the year after. Every time I heard her, I decided that this would be the year that I would block off the chimney. But I never did. Once morning a school boy knocked on our door at 7:00 AM to tell us that a raccoon had just gone down our chimney. “I know,” I replied. “No, really. A raccoon just went down your chimney!” “Yes, I know. It raises its babies there every year.”

I don’t think he believed me. I think he thought that I thought he made up the story about the raccoon and was just pulling his leg.

I decided this would be the year that I sealed off the chimney, just as soon as I was sure the kit was out of there. I waited for a long time, a couple of months, then finally, I saw the kit on the ground beside the house. However, the mother was no where around. Why was the kit by itself?
A couple of days later, I was disgusted to see a dozen flies on the inside of my living room window. Because of the way our house is built, split level with the kitchen on the second floor, I rarely saw house flies. Once or twice during the summer I would vacuum one little fly-corpse off the window sill. Another victim of starvation of my ill-stocked pantry. But this time there were several flies, maybe even a dozen, and they were alive. I vacuumed them up anyway.

It was just a day or so later that I could smell something wrong. Could that foul odor be a gas leak? I called the gas company. They responded quickly. Within minutes, a man was inside our house waving a wand through the air. Seconds later he declared that there was no gas leak. He was pretty sure that the odor smelled more like a dead animal. I didn’t have to speculate on what or where that dead animal was.

Cleaning and sealing accomplished.


Nancy Sherer