Compassionate dominion

Originally Appeared in : 9808-4/12/18

There was a thief on the loose in our neighborhood.


The morning chore circuit had revealed something was prying open the 5-gallon bucket containing the cat’s Kitten Kaboodle crunchies, but no suspect had been identified until the night following a Ruthie Mae false alarm.


Less than two hours after returning from the hospital, I had stepped outside onto our deck for a bit of fresh air only to find two raccoons treed above our munchkins’ raised fort.
An hour of shelling from a pair of Daisy BB guns did little to draw the beasts down, but the night’s events got everyone’s attention or so we thought.


The five-finger discounts of cat food had begun to include the pilfering of our fresh egg supply the following Tuesday, when Ruthie Mae decided to have herself a birthday at 1:53 p.m. during an unexpected C-section.


Wednesday morning I headed home to check on Magan’s mom and the kids, only to find Noah distraught and upset instead of excited over a new baby sister.


“They got Lazzie,” Noah said, referring to our silver-laced Wyandotte hen who had died at one day old and was placed in a Burger King cup, only to be revived later that day by Magan. (Hence the name, Lazarus)


The only evidence that Lazarus had existed in the coop at any point were black and white feathers on the left side of the structure that fell out into and across the woods behind our house.


Emboldened and angry, Noah gathered up supplies, including his Papa’s game camera, and began constructing a Rube Goldberg trap involving rope tied to a rock and a leftover Shake and Bake chicken leg a la one Wile E. Coyote.


Thankfully, the Acme Company intervened in the form of Grandma Mary Louise dropping off a traditional animal trap from the local farm store, and so began the stakeouts.


Following the first night, Noah loaded his memory card into the computer to discover that not one but both of the raccoons visited in the night.


The wildlife simply mocked us, removing food from the trap but never tripping the trapping mechanism, and splashing their mugs all over the game camera like photo-bombing children at a ball game.


Two raccoons were joined by a possum, then by not one but two cats.


It was getting ridiculous.


Noah decided the only way to guarantee success was for he and Simon to set up camp, literally, near the coop and stake out the joint until they could lay waste to the critters with their BB guns.


Plenty of Mountain Dew and Chocolate Chip cookies later, I found the boys passed out in the tent during Ruthie’s 1:30 a.m. feeding, and no critters to be found.


“Guys, why don’t you call it a night?” I said.


Days went by, still no catch.


We had even offered more enticement — this time in the form of a bowl of hamburger drippings from a freezer-meal-cooking jamboree — in hopes of snagging something...anything.


Finally, success!


Palm Sunday had arrived, and so had the possum in our trap.


“Wow, he looks mad,” Noah said.


All of our crowd was equally as mad and had turned into an angry mob, encouraging Noah and myself to poke the creature with a stick or club it over the head for its crimes against our fowl.


“While you think you’re justified,” I explained, “we shouldn’t make a habit of hurting or killing things even if they do bad stuff to us or something we love.”


So Noah and I loaded the possum—using poles stuck through the trap like Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant—into the back of the pickup and relocated him to a patch of woods far away from civilization, and even farther away from our cat food and chickens.


As I explained to our children, anger can cloud our judgment and make us think in “If-Then” scenarios that justify knee jerk reactions. “Yes these animals caused us stress,” I said, “but allowing them to evoke indignation and violence is really allowing somebody else —’You mean the devil,’ Jesse said — to control our actions.”


“Exactly,” I said.


God warns of doing the same.


“In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold,” Ephesians 4:26-27.


Lord willing we will continue to eradicate the neighborhood of this wild game crime syndicate one critter at a time. More importantly, Magan and I hope our crowd will learn to exhibit the compassion God is ready to give any of us should we find ourselves in a similar spot of stealing Kitten Kaboodle or chickens in the middle of the night.


Jason Halcombe has five sons and two daughters. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.

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