Just CAZ (Critter Autonomous Zone)

by Jonathan Reisman


Seattle might have its neo-anarchist/hipster/summer of love/ Capitol Hill Occupy Protest (CHOP), but it pales in police-free borderless entertainment value to the Critter Autonomous Zone in Cooper and Cathance Township.

The Raven Raucous Caucus

My favorite neighbors by far are the raucous black pirates nesting in the tall white pines on the ridges surrounding Cathance Lake. Ravens are smart and cackling wisenheimers to boot. They overfly our house and let out a cackling cry to let us know how funny we look. They especially like to announce their presence soon after first light, because silly humans should not be wasting the 4 a.m. beauty with something as boring as sleep.

Last week my wife and I arose after raven reveille and ventured out for a (very) early morning walk. As we approached Vining Road, at least a half dozen ravens announced their presence with an impressive cacophony, and then converged and descended in a rough circle on Vining Road. There they conducted a lengthy raucous caucus of screams and screeches, outraged hip-hop and general mayhem. Then they skedaddled upwards for an acrobatic melee, all the while continuing the operatic “wall of sound” that brought to mind Freddie Mercury and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  It was better entertainment with more real content than anything I have seen in the State House or Cross Building in Augusta (although the Cross Building’s Gray Early Politburo architecture and design is truly appropriate). The Raven Raucous Caucus puts the street theatre in Seattle to shame.

Turtle Bay

The United Nations sits in the Manhattan neighborhood of Turtle Bay in New York City. My parents took me to visit and worship at the United World Federalist shrine there in the early 1960s. I remember collecting “Pennies for UNICEF” at Halloween. As I grew older, the hypocrisy, anti-Semitism and corruption of the United Nations moved me away from my parents’ love of Eleanor Roosevelt’s gift to America. Still, there is probably no truth that there is a secret base under Turtle Bay housing black submarines and helicopters.

Every June I am reminded of Turtle Bay as the snappers emerge from the lake and crawl towards sandy berms to lay eggs. They warm themselves in the sun by the side of the road with their necks arching upwards. Prudent drivers slow down this time of year to avoid running over the rather slow travelers.

Pepe LePew and Rocky Raccoon

Two of my less favorite neighbors are Pepe and Rocket.

Pepe is black with a white stripe that privileges him/her/them to go wherever he/she/they wish without much interference. Pepe is generally inoffensive and only occasionally seen, but something about him/her/they causes humans to get our noses out of joint.

Rocky Raccoon (from the Beatles) or Rocket (from Guardians of the Galaxy) is a very smart long-time entrepreneurial resident of the critter autonomous zone. My closest human neighbor took a very dim view of Rocket and dealt with his frequent nocturnal forays with 2nd Amendment ferocity. I try to remember not to bait Rocket and bring the bird feeders in every night, but I do not always remember. Last week I forgot one night. Rocket knocked one down and spread seeds all about. The next morning I went out to clean up the mess and was startled to find Pepe enjoying a non-quarantined breakfast. I retreated inside with no damage done.

Ten or 15 years ago Rocket was getting quite bold and brash, bounding up to the house in broad daylight and causing havoc with the potted plants, especially if no food tribute was left out. I secured a live trap and baited it with tuna fish. Rocket was too smart, and the trap went unsprung for more than a week. Then one morning I saw it was closed and I bounded out with plans to deport Rocket to Cathance Township. I received a rude surprise. Pepe, not Rocket, was in the trap. My wife still laughs at how I dealt with that, but that is not a tale for a family newspaper.

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own. Mr. Reisman welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].

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