Posted by: deadmousediaries | November 4, 2015

News from the Path Valley Hotel: Episode #85 – Bandit at the Back Door

Here at the Path Valley Hotel, we have a lot of rituals. Howling at the moon is a favorite as is our summer blue moontanning. We also have a practice we like to call Banging on the Storm Door.

You might think this is how you let someone on the inside know that you are outside and have forgotten your key. That would make sense. But that’s not how it works here. Banging on the storm door is a general declaration to whatever might be outside that you are about to leave the confines of the PVH and step into the Great Outdoors.

We love our quiet seclusion at the PVH; in fact, it’s one of our top selling points. But it also means the courtesies extended between guests and nearby residents can get a little fuzzy. For instance, this time of year, banging on the storm door is important early in the morning and again at dusk to make sure our visiting doe skedaddles out of site before we take the dogs out.

Summer storm door banging is a great way to give the resident blacksnake or Spiderzilla time to make the decision to retreat into the wood pile or head up the bank before you step out, either of which clears the walkway. Storm door banging is also great for dealing with a coyote. I’m not sure it chases him away but it shuts him up long enough for me think he’s moving on.

With all the recent bear sightings, we added storm door banging to every springtime exit simply because you never know. There’s always that chance for a random encounter with a mama and her cub and nobody wants to get in the middle of that. After all, everyone knows there is nothing scarier than an angry mom.

I’ve already admitted in this column that I once used a security lock to make sure something in the closet didn’t get loose inside the Hotel but other than that, I don’t give much thought to someone uninvited getting in. But there was an odd night without guests last week when the dogs flew into high alert and jerked me out of my best sleep. They threw themselves at the door and pawed the door knob. Their barks were sharp and the growls low and guttural. At first I was paralyzed, afraid to move. My second thought was why wasn’t the person on the other side of the door as alarmed by the dogs as I was.

A dozen other things went through my mind. Who would I call? How long would it take them to get there? Was I ready to use my training to do what needed to be done if it came to that? When my brain shifted my body out of neutral, I grabbed my phone and flashlight and made my way into the bathroom. From there I could lift the curtain slightly and see the back door illuminated by the porch light. I saw no one, but the dogs stepped up their frenzy.

Like all stupid people in scary movies everywhere, I couldn’t simply stay in the bathroom. I had to go alone into the next dark room and be eaten by a velociraptor or a graboid, or turn the corner and come face to face with an alien using his scaly digits to probe the cracks around the storm door. More likely I would find a soulless human fueled by drugs coming for money and jewelry I didn’t have, or at least that’s what TV news was always saying.

I slunk through the house and moved slowly. I kept a low profile and was mindful of what movement might create a changing shadow. When I got to the door, I hunkered down between the dogs, took a deep breath and lifted the curtain. Two eyes peered at me through a black mask before focusing again on the treasure on my porch table. The brand new bag of cat food I had forgotten to bring inside was now dispensing crunchies like a jackpot gumball machine, thanks to the hole he had chewed through it.

He was big guy by raccoon standards, arrogant, too. I pushed the dogs aside and opened the inside door to have a chat. He stopped his crunching for a second and glared at me. I told him to go. Git! SHOO!! A thin layer of screen in the storm door was all that stood between us but the look of defiance on his face was like a spoiled kid declaring:You’re not the boss of me! I tried the ritual, banging on the storm door, but that just annoyed him. I had to open the storm door before he climbed off the table and headed out through the hole in the porch screen and in no particular hurry, I should add. He was back an hour later and the dogs let me know.

I must admit I admire his perseverance. He’s made three more visits. I finally took his photo and sent it off to my son in Texas. He made some remark about a coonskin hat but of course, that will never happen. The raccoon and I have had too many late night conversations. In the annals of our Hotel history, Bandit has a name and a story. And that makes him family.


  1. So glad to see an update from the pvh. I was just thinking of you the other day. Sending hugs! And thanks for once again making me smile by reading your story.

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