By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Several days ago when I went out on the back porch to bring the rain gauge inside so I could measure the melted precipitation for the day I was in for a surprise. My wife hates going out to bring in “the bucket,” as she calls it, so that has totally evolved into being my job every morning. It reminds me of going out to milk the cows in the pre-dawn hours each morning. Cathy and Sycamore — both Holsteins — were the only cows I had to milk at our house, but when I stayed at my Uncle Don and Aunt Winnie’s, they always had several Jersey cows to milk.
Our weather station is one of 1,000 cooperative weather observer sites in the region that is coordinated by the Blacksburg, Va., National Weather Service office. The data we provide every day is important for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to make accurate forecasts and send out alerts when necessary. The data gathered at our location in the mountains is particularly important for the people living downstream from us. Once the snow melts, it runs downhill and a lot of people live downhill from us.
Anyway, one dark and stormy morning as I opened the door to step out on the back porch, I shined my flashlight on a large raccoon that raised up on his honchers and put both front paws in the air in surprise. I exclaimed something to indicate my surprise as well, and my furry friend from the woodlands dropped back down to all-fours, turned, wobbled down the stairs, and disappeared into the backyard. My first thought was that I probably woke my wife up with my exclamation of surprise, but that wasn’t so. My second thought was if there were any more of the bandit-looking rascals on the porch. Some years ago, I bumped into a trio of adult raccoons on the front porch one morning. Perhaps ironically, that was the last day that we left any cat food on the front porch.
My wife said that I didn’t wake her up, and added that I probably scared the raccoon more than it scared me. I chose not to argue the point, but I felt pretty certain at the time that the raccoon got the best of me on the scare-o-meter. He had the look of someone that was just about ready to knock on the door, and I had the look of someone who didn’t want to let him in.
As a kid growing up, I had to walk into the woods to see critters, but anymore, I see them all around me. A week or so ago, I took a picture of a four-point buck and a doe from my front porch that we ran in the newspaper. I had to go back in the house to get the camera, turn it on and focus before I took the picture. That’s a long time for a person to hold a pose, but this young buck was a trooper and remained perfectly still, although I think he tapped his front hoof a few times before I got the camera ready.
I know what you’re thinking now, and you would be right. What does all this have to do with NASCAR racing? Tom Bone came to work last Sunday and complained of an aggressive driver who cut him off in traffic. He speculated that the aggressive driving was probably due to the driver watching the Daytona 500 Race that day. I agreed, and added that during my trucking days when the Indianapolis 500 was taking place, motorists using the I-465 Beltway around Indianapolis seemed to be more lead-footed than usual.
Tom said that our conversation sounded like a good idea for a column, and I responded that I was thinking about that same thing. He graciously said he would let me try my hand on it, and that’s why this column has a NASCAR reference.
It always took my breath away when I drove across I-80 in northern Pennsylvania and saw scores of deer lined up beside the interstate mesmerized by the lights, but appearing ready to cross at any moment. In my five years of trucking, I never hit a deer, although I ran over one that had been hit and was in the middle of the passing lane on I-80. The freight box truck in front of me had slowed down, and as I moved into the left lane to pass, I saw the deer suffering in the road. I rationalized that my truck ended the deer’s suffering, but I took no joy in that.
When I travel to cover a breaking news story, I push as hard as I can, but I try to remain in control of my vehicle and steer clear of other motorists who might make an unexpected move at any moment. As a result, I don’t think I would ever win a NASCAR race, but I sincerely hope I will be ready to respond to any future breaking news story. I remember the injured deer, and keep watch for it and others like it every time I drive.
Bill Archer is senior editor at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at email@example.com.