Coon Capers
Chris Maser

     Young raccoons are cute and would seem to make delightful pets because they're intelligent and curious, but they are wild animals, as I found out when I was boy.
     I got a young raccoon one day from a lad at school whose parents wouldn't let him keep her, because she got into everything. His mother threatened to throw him out of the house if that "damn coon" got into her flour again and tracked it all over the kitchen. The raccoon, it turned out, was doubly damned because she killed a couple of the people's young chickens, even though she was inside her cage. She had apparently waited quietly until the poults came close enough to grab, and she then proceeded to pull them through the chicken-wire side of her cage a piece at a time and dine in a less than delicate manner. With that, the raccoon was out of their house for good.
     Although the young raccoon was incredibly cute, I quickly learned that she was nippy, especially when she found something she wanted to eat and I did not want her to have it. I quickly learned just how sharp her teeth really were. In addition, she was extremely curious and nothing was spared her close scrutiny.
     That a raccoon is not meant as a house pet is an understatement. But I am sure more youngsters than I, or the boy from whom I got her, have tried to make a house pet of one, and with the same dismal results.
     Be that as it may, I managed to get her into the house--but just twice, and both times without permission! How I do not remember. The first time, she was immediately into everything within her reach, such as an unattended bowl or carton of ice cream. And she was indeed fond of ice cream--any kind of ice cream--and lots of it. If anyone was eating ice cream and she discovered it, she was not to be denied, which often meant nipped fingers and ice cream-coated raccoon tracks all over. But it was her second and last episode that I remember most, an episode of such magnificence proportions that it ensured her her rightful place in the wilds along Marys river south of our house.
     My mother was hosting a bridge party of several ladies in the living room. I found the whole notion of cards boring and therefore thought the ladies would enjoy an interlude to visit with my cute pet. So, I let the raccoon loose in their midst. And I was disappointed, to say the least, with their abrupt, nervous silence. Some even development a catatonic state, making it unequivocally clear that none of them cherish the notion of being within reach of an uncaged raccoon. For her part, however, the raccoon wasted no time, heading straight for the wax fruit on one of the ladies' hats, eliciting lengthy high-pitched screams, bulging eyes, heavy breathing, and general pandemonium.
     But the worst was yet to come. For that, some background is necessary: When hunting for food in a stream or along a river, a raccoon doesn't watch what it's doing but instead feels around under the water with its sensitive forefeet, appearing to gaze absent mindedly into space while doing so. Finding something of interest, the raccoon feels it briefly, picks it up, and further inspects the object with its nose and mouth. This same behavior takes place whenever a raccoon is searching in any dark place into which it cannot see, regardless of the presence of water, and that's the coup de grâce.
     One very heavy, buxom lady was wearing a low-cut black dress. After sampling the fruit-basket hat, the raccoon walked along the back of the couch until she came to the buxom woman who supported a tremendous cleavage--an invitation that was impossible for any raccoon to resist. So she immediately climbed onto the woman's shoulder and began exploring the depths of her cleavage as though searching for a frog or a crayfish amongst the rocks of a stream, all the while looking off into space. The woman, in turn, emitted small, strangling sounds, turned purple, and fainted.
     That was the final straw, even for my mother who, despite whatever failings she had as a mother, was exceedingly patient with me and my animals, including the rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders I keep in my room to ensure some privacy. The next day my raccoon was returned to the river from whence she had originally come, and I never see her again.

© chris maser 2003   (From "Mammals of the Pacific Northwest.")

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