The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Ellen startled. “What was that noise? That thump?”
“I heard it, too.” I muted the TV.
“Go check? It’s coming from the carport.”
I grabbed the flashlight out of the small table in our entryway. Another thump. Louder.
More thumps. Ellen opened the screen door. I thumbed my iPhone flashlight on. We stepped onto our front porch, prepared to do battle with Lord knew what—a chupacabra? An abominable sandman? I shined my light to where we keep our rolling trash barrels. Tiny dark eyes reflected the light. “I see something! There’s more than one!”
“Maybe it’s a herd of tiny buffalo.”
“Buffalo don’t grunt like warthogs. Couldn’t be Bigfoot. Maybe it’s Tinyfoot.”
We heard hooves as the raiding party disappeared into the darkness of the desert behind our home. The next morning I found both garbage cans knocked over, our trash scattered everywhere. “Scavengers!” I said.
My neighbor, Halle Peño, the Matriarch of the Barrio, had a theory. “You been hit by javelinas. Looters with hooves.”
“I figured. My friend Jay Taylor has a joke about them critters. A couple of tourists from New York City were staying at Ventana. They opened their door one morning to find a herd of javelina on their porch. They screamed.”
“Why did they scream?”
“The poor javelinas had never seen New Yorkers before.”
The following week I was watching Animal Planet and enjoying a big fat cold Gala apple, the basketball-sized kind that stay fresh for a year because they’re irradiated in nuclear reactors, when Ellen tapped me on the shoulder. “I hear ’em again.”
A baton-sized flashlight, a hammer, a baseball bat and a flag of surrender in hand, we opened our front door and peered into the darkness. We cautiously walked onto our porch, step by step, prepared to die together. We heard their hooves on the driveway gravel. We rounded the corner and illuminated seven javelina feasting on our trash.
Ellen squealed, “Two babies!” The eldest beast grunted at me. I squealed, “The big one’s got tusks! Git!” I threw my half-eaten apple at him. Ellen shouted, “Don’t feed them!”
“I did it to spook the herd.”
“Nice way to panic, Crocodile Dundee. You’re not supposed to feed them!”
The apple vanished in a single chomp.
“Now you’ve got friends for life, genius.”
“Git! Git. Shoo.”
Once again the raiding party disappeared into the darkness of the desert behind our home. Ellen said, “They’ll be back. They’re probably on Open Table right now reserving our garbage cans for next Tuesday night. Smooth move.”
The next morning I was cleaning up the mess they left behind when Halle Peño ventured over to offer a theory. “Looks like the set of ‘Hangover 3’ over here. You host a frat party here in the weeds last night?”
Ellen joined us, with her phone. “They posted a food review on Yelp. ‘Three stars. Better than prickly pear pads! A treat for the whole herd.’ You’d better hire a valet service.”
I smiled as I picked up trash. Halle Peño suggested we hire a maître d’ as well. “And another thing. They aren’t pigs, mijo. They’re pecc-a-ries.”
“I know. I learned about them when I was in the third grade thanks to the Desert Museum’s Desert Ark. Hal Gras came to Myers Elementary and brought two javelina with him: Gregory Peccary and Olivia DeJavelina.”
“Who? Good luck picking up those pork rinds with your pitchfork, mijo. Your trash is attracting them.”
Thanks for the tip, Miss Marple.
The following Friday night the aromatic remains of our rotisserie chicken, ideal javelina bait, posed a disposal challenge. We sealed it in tinfoil. We triple-wrapped it in plastic bags. We duct-taped into an impenetrable wad of yuck. And I buried deep in the belly of our full garbage can. The garbage can my wife had nicknamed the “Dave Fitzsimmons Illegal Wildlife Feeding Station and All-You-Can-Forage-Buffet.” I forgot to laugh.
Halle saw me place a small boulder on the lid of our trash can. “You might want to try javelina repellent.”
“I got no clue. You could sit on your trash can and throw gravel at them.”
I wheeled the garbage can against the wall and wedged it in place. Try knocking that over, you musky marauders.
The next morning I found a “Thank you!” text message signed with seven hoof print emoticons. I should never have thrown that apple. Now I just set a nightly table for seven. Yesterday they posted on Facebook how much they appreciate “the ambience, the candles, and the coffee grounds.”
I just wish they’d get their own water and ice from my fridge like any other houseguests. Glasses are above the stove. The least they could do is stay out of my popcorn when I’m binge-watching Animal Planet.