Semper letteris mandate
I know, I know. “Don’t feed raccoons.” It’s not just a law of the country – it’s a law of the city, too. When you feed raccoons they come back for more, and they bring a lot of their family with them, and then they start getting into other things. Before you know it, they’re sitting in the living room watching Pawn Shop Wars and eating your Orville Redenbacher.
So: “Don’t. Feed. Raccoons.”
In fact that’s exactly what Barbara told me when she found me rooting in the kitchen the other night.
“What are you looking for?” she asked.
“Something to feed a raccoon,” I told her.
“You can’t feed raccoons!” she said.
“But it’s a baby raccoon!” I pleaded.
I’d been out on the porch of the farmhouse where we’re staying for the winter, looking at all the stars and wondering why there were so many more of them here than back East. As I turned to go in, I spotted something dark in the corner. Knowing skunks sometimes wandered through the vicinity, I moved very slowly to get a better look.
It was a baby raccoon. It was facing me, but hunched as far as it could get into the corner. Although the night was dark, I could still see the terror in his eyes.
My head told me: “But you can’t feed raccoons!” My heart, on the other hand, told me:“Thu-dump, Thu-dump, Thu-dump,” which really wasn’t any help at all.
So maybe it was my weakened paternal instincts that kicked in, refusing to let some child starve to death in the cold night.
I backed away and went into the house – where my wife found me rooting through the kitchen and told me not to feed raccoons.
“But it’s a baby raccoon!” I wailed. “And it won’t live through the night if I don’t feed it. And I don’t want a baby raccoon dying in the night on our porch.”
If you’re going to make a blatantly-emotional appeal, make it big.
So we dug through the kitchen and came up with food we thought a raccoon would eat: a bowl of Rice Krispies.
When I got back to the darkened porch with the bowl in my hand, I found the little fellow still in the corner: his head lowered, but looking straight at me, his haunches slightly raised. I had a sudden new pang of sympathy for the little creature. Cold and weak as he might be, he was still ready to put up a fight if he had to.
Very, very slowly I reached out the bowl, then careful lowered myself so I could place it right in front of his face. He eyed me warily, but made no other move.
Just as I was about to put it on the ground, however, my balance wobbled and I hit his nose with the bowl. It was barely a brush, but it was enough to create a solid “Thunk.”
Now I’ve been a child of the city for many a decade and may not know much about animals, but aside from birds and armadillos, there aren’t many with noses that go “Thunk” when hit by a glass bowl.
Unless, of course, that animal was ceramic.
And as I thought about it, it seemed to me that there were, in fact, several such figures here and there around the property. There was, in fact, a cheerful rabbit on the floor by the railing just off to my right. And I remembered noticing the figures of a mother and baby owl underneath one of the pine trees. In fact, I seemed to recall having seen one of a raccoon, too.
With bowl in hand I returned to the kitchen.
“So, will it live through the night?” asked Barbara.
“No,” I grumbled. “It’s a baby raccoon statue.”
“It’s a what?”
“It’s a little statue. A statue of a baby raccoon. A statue of a cold, starving baby raccoon.”
“Well,” she said, “at least you won’t have a raccoon dying on the porch.”
“True,” I admitted.
“One that ‘won’t live through the night if I don’t feed it.’”
“Yep,” I said.
Oh yeah. I’m not living this one down for a while.