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Ring-tailed and jack booted


Lance K. Pugh

I recently spent some time at a cabin overlooking a portion of the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, a brief respite from the many demands that float through my work-week. It was part vacation and part work, for I had been asked to float an Internet cloud over all the structures on the property to allow thirsty guests some quick gulps of Internet access before and after days filled with hiking, splashing, dog-walking, reading and general conversation (www.doubletree-ranch.com).

I am quite sure that most of you share my vision of the future, wherein the Internet is put to good use and not frittered away stalking cyber combatants through the alleys and byways of some artificial world.

Now what could be more useful than monitoring many aspects of your house when online from some distant location? Managing the heating/cooling, lighting, music, kitchen appliances, and outdoor sprinklers is surely a place to begin, but for total control one must be able to keep an eye on the home front. To this end I have placed an array of wireless cameras about the house and yard.

If you think that you can trick me into saying one of my teddy bears has a miniature camera for an eye, you cannot, for even if true, how could you possibly know which of the two bears has an Internet capable eye? It would only be a lucky guess on your part and when it comes to bears in Ashland, nobody is lucky and trouble is bruin.

When I finished installing and testing the wireless network I was clam happy and ready to email in a story about the bucolic and restful ranch that I had secretly opened up to the digital world with hardly a footprint of my handy-work. One guest immediately checked out his stock portfolio while his wife locked herself in the bathroom.

Hey! Take it easy…I'm only kidding. They both locked themselves in the bathroom.

My cameras in Ashland are motion activated and the ones that I have placed outdoors use infrared light to pierce the darkness. When movement is detected I am notified through the Internet by a little policeman, who won't stop rapping his nightstick on my monitor until I pull up the camera for a little look-see, which is exactly what happened to me later that night at the ranch.

I forgot about the little siren sound file I had added and the squad car light bar effects until I was cowering in the closet, the victim of my own cleverness. As soon as I recovered I moused my way back to my house in Ashland and took a quick peek through the camera in question.

What I saw next reminded me of the Hindenburg glancing off a burning Rheistag, for before me were about a dozen goose-stepping raccoons formed in a circle like a rugby scrum slowly moving counter-clockwise while humming and chanting like the castle guards marching across the drawbridge in The Wizard of Oz. Standing atop the circling ring-tails was none other than the Grand High Raccoon, sporting a formal uniform and a chest-full of metals that, upon greater magnification, appeared to be gold and silver fish, nuts, water melon rinds, crackers and pizza crusts.

This raccoon commander slapped a truncheon in his palm as he seemed to prod his squad into a whirling dervish froth. In a blink he flew to the ground and led his minions through the dog door and into the house.

Another camera came to life in the kitchen as the masked felonious flunkies opened the pantry and refrigerator to retrieve the ingredients of…a pizza. Shells were formed, cheese was grated, a marinara sauce prepared and a few cans of sardines were opened for business.

I quickly came up with a plan and put it into action. I remotely turned on the wall-mounted kitchen TV monitor and began playing a rare collection of Sponge Bob Square Pants episodes, which captivated every masked eye. They did not move, but only chuckled as the digital video recorder rolled out the entertainment.

The next morning we drove home full of fear and trepidation, anxious about what we might find. To my amazement the kitchen was spotless and the TV turned off. All seemed well until I went to the recycle bin and saw many empty cans of Caldera IPA in repose. It was then that I heard some snoring coming from under the hot tub. I looked, then took a picture of a sleeping riot of raccoons too pooped to party.

I then went back into the house and announced to my wife, Annette: "Things are getting better around here. At least they didn't use the credit card to order the pizza this time."

(Lance was last seen splitting a pizza with four raccoons as they were playing poker in the side yard. Lance@journalist.com would never make these things up.)

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