Raccoon-Proofing Your Life

raccoons2

A parent is a parent for a lifetime. We’re always there for our kids, just as they are there for us. So I am always a parent in some form. But when they are grown (as mine are now) then we find ourselves done with parentING. We have completed, poorly or devotedly, the task.

But still, even at 22 (Ashley) and 19 (Maty), I hope that I am allowed the occasional parentING word. I believe that’s in my contract. I have my agent checking on it now. That is what this article is about. And it will be told through this true story from my own youth, when the city boy’s family went camping.

As a child, my seeing the world through Disney colored glasses (trees talk, crows sing, mice wear little coats), pretty much came to a screeching halt one bright summer morning.

I was walking with a couple of boys through the campground at which we were staying. It was rather early. A few dad’s were starting campfires, while counterpart mom’s began coffee and eggs. Then, there appeared a small group of kids huddled around a large metal garbage can, one of them 55 gallon jobs. They were all looking in. We went over to investigate.

What could have captivated so much ADHD attention? Dirty diapers and tin cans carry only so much fascination. They are not known for drawing crowds.

We arrived and joined our gaze. It was a raccoon that had fallen in. The can was near empty, with no bag, so he was all the way to the bottom.

He couldn’t get out for its straight metal sides. I leaned way over to have a good look. Inside the shaken animal crouched, all in a snarling hissy-fit. The thing was like … well, an animal. Up until then, my view of raccoons was that of furry, little bandit-faced critters who whistled happy tunes and thumped little basses in the pine cone jamboree. So they might steal the occasional S’more from the occasional nighttime picnic table, what of it. Other than that … our friends.

Many years after my childhood, Disney made the film Pocahontas and in it was little Meeko: a cute, furry raccoon. Darling. Filled with mischief, but what rascally little woodland nymph isn’t. So then, what was this hideous creature before me. This raccoon revealed sizable teeth under curled black lips. It appeared wanton to attack us boys. Only a lousy vertical leap prevented this from happening. It growled. It hissed. Frightfully much.

“What?! Meeko?” I thought.

It was like finding out that Fred Flintstone was a vampire or the Jetson’s Astro was a werewolf. That is how I correlated things in those days, a pure Hanna-Barbara context. One kid had already run to get the park ranger (Yogi and Boo-boo’s friend. Alright, I’ll stop). That took awhile, but, at last, he showed and immediately assessed the situation.

“He doesn’t look rabid. Just frightened. You boys best stand back.”

Wow! We were going to see an actual animal rescue, by a trained wildlife expert, no less. A professional catch and release. It was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom right there before our eyes. The man sl-o-w-ly closed in on the creature, giving it enough space for a false sense of security. Then, barehanded, he . . . kicked the can over.

What??? I could have kicked the can over. My little sister could have kicked the can over. Any rickety old grandmother could have kicked the can over. Alright, maybe after several attempts. (For a few moments, let’s all imagine that, shall we.) You don’t need six years in the best raccoon colleges of the country to kick over a can.

After that colossal let down, came a brief pause in the action. Then the raccoon busted out, as bats are supposed to from hell. He ran out half-crazed and (I kid you not) directly into the flaps of the closest tent to him. As fate would have it, it was partway unzipped and the maniacal Tasmanian devil entered the tent in a full run.

“Oh please, oh, please,” we prayed.

Yes!!” There was a woman inside and she, as if on cue, let loose a blood curdling, county waking scream. Then the raccoon, having now jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, ran out from the tent and into open spaces once more, followed by the same pajamaed lady.

The raccoon turned and ran in an eastward direction, while the lady headed points west. I believe, in her present frame of mind and gate, that she did so till she came to oceanfront property. This left us kids laughing till our stomachs cramped. Even the park ranger, with the threat looming of being sued down to his brown socks, couldn’t help but laugh with us. Wiping back tears, I walked back to our campsite with, through my laughter, the sobering thought revived: Raccoons are nasty.

This was reinforced 30 years later when I moved out to Michigan. Time and time again we’ve had bad run-ins with raccoons until at one point I sat down and typed out a public notice and nailed copies to every tree in our immediate vicinity:

“Dear Raccoons, You are, hereby, forbidden from passing over my property line, unless crossing for home or game (normal business). If you seek to make camp here . . .,” how should I put this? “I will personally aid in your immediate deportation to Cotton Candy mountain, where you’ll spend your days eating licorice acorns up in Oompa-loompa trees. Forever.   p.s. All squirrels may disregard this notice.”

Over the years, a few have tested me on this and relocation was promptly arranged. The oddest of these was when we noticed our dog, Ginger, not wanting to go into her dog house. She would slowly peek in, and then jump back out. She’d pace a few times, then try again. Several times she repeated this cycle.

“Hm, that‘s odd.”

I walked over and carefully, from a safe distance, looked inside for myself. There he was, Devil-Meeko, huddled in a dark corner. You could see him just waiting for some idiot (let’s say, maybe of the ordained variety) to stick his fool, reverend head inside, so that he could play tic-tac-toe across his (my) face. I did not oblige.

Minutes later, the dog was taken safely inside our house, while deportation preparations were made.

Some things in life are mistakenly (and naively) thought on as Meekos, while, in reality, they are extremely, dangerous Bad-os. Most parental boundaries on their children are born here. A considerable amount of those are from their own past run-ins. If it is a true threat, we build the wall of China. If it is a fine liberty, but with warnings, we stress those warnings, teach those warnings, warn those warnings, then send them into the liberty with our faithful prayers. But children need to understand (a little trust here) that, we’ve looked into those garbage barrels ourselves. This isn’t what it appears to be.

In the end, we hopefully help them avoid many of life’s painful experiences. Yet also, in the end, we need to know that some garbage barrels will be investigated personally. They are children after all.

Our prayer, kids, is two-fold: “Lord, first, deliver myself from the evil one.” And with that, “Lord, if ever one of our children do venture outside our caution cones, and peer into a 55 gallon barrel or two for themselves, show them early the true nature of this horrid thing, before it goes from the barrel of their curiosity into the tent of their hearts.”

 

LOG

April’s birthday was yesterday. We took her to Bill’s Steakhouse over in Bronson. Her gift was a golden-doodle puppy. She’s wanted a dog for some time now. And on Saturday, Beth fixed her hair. April said that this was one of her best birthday’s ever (which made me proud), and it fell on a Sunday. I guess porter house, puppies, and preening all around the Sabbath is the ticket. The puppy is unbelievably cute. We call her “Jazz.”

 

VOICE FROM THE PAST

“A test of a Christian’s character is what he does after he comes to the blockade in the road and what his attitude is after everything has left him except Jesus. You will never know down here that Christ is all you need until Christ is all you have left.”

Lester Roloff (1914-1982)

 

About William Cole

I am an all-the-time pastor, a part-time hospice chaplain, and a sometimes author. The church is eight miles out in the country from Marshall, MI. The hospice work is with Oaklawn Hospice, where I am Spiritual Care Coordinator. It's right in the town of Marshall. The writing I do to relax. I am elatedly married to my wife, April, and am a proud father to two fine young ladies, Ashley and Maty, not to mention my delightful exchange student daughter, Jessica.
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