More than two years have passed since that act of backyard vandalism, not that I've forgotten.
Some readers, particularly the similarly scarred, may recall the story of the pineapple plant. It started out as a lopped-off pineapple top, which I learned you could plant to grow a whole new one. So, as instructed and for more than a year, I lovingly tended and coaxed the plant along as it grew tall and wide and, at last, ready to bear fruit.
I watched that fruit ripen from green to golden. And then, the very night before the planned harvest, it happened. In the morning, I found my pineapple cruelly plucked and gnawed to the core, lying there like evidence at a crime scene.
He too had waited until it reached perfect ripeness and then struck.
Oh, I pretty much knew who did it. A band of raccoons lives in the alley behind my house, with one particularly big guy who appears to be in charge. Until that day, we had all been good neighbors, me more or less acquiescing the back yard to them late at night and not even minding when they got loud climbing around on the patio furniture.
Because there is something very cool about living in sight of downtown Tampa's skyscrapers and still regularly seeing possums and raccoons and ibis plumbing the grass, bright cardinals at the bird feeder and hawks overhead.
There is a black snake who regularly suns himself on a big rock in the yard, a rock I have come to think of as his own.
The pineapple? I'm still bitter. And now this.
Just this week I was checking on my collection of pineapple plants when I saw it: the tallest had born fruit, about the size of a lemon. It is tiny and vulnerable and ready to grow and ripen.
When I first wrote about the felonious raccoon who, okay, turned out to be smarter than me, readers sent their own tales. Raided utility rooms. Burglarized sheds. Tops popped off garbage cans that were then pillaged. Stolen cat food. And, memorably, one garage door that kept going up and down, terrifying the homeowners until they realized a raccoon had gotten in there.
And so on the coming Harvest Night, I will stand with my crop, like one of those strawberry farmers when frost threatens.
I don't want to say too much, but the night will include flashlights, beach chairs and maybe a couple of indulgent friends, some cold beer and a late-night snack.
Although I am suddenly reminded of an incident years ago when I was swimming off Sanibel Island.
I happened to look back ashore toward my beach blanket and there he was, a big raccoon, poking around my cooler. I was too far away to do anything but watch.
He circled and all but scratched his chin. Then he deftly undid not one but two latches, flipped the cooler lid, reached in and ate my chips. He loped off for the woods carrying my sandwich. The whole thing took seconds.
So okay, nix the Cheetos for Harvest Night. Wonder if he could manage to open a beer.
• • •
On a sunnier nature-related note, spring is springing. Around here, the proof is in the purple.
Look around at our jacaranda trees, with their great April burst of lavender flowers, one of the best things on our local landscape. And so spring it is.