A couple of evenings ago, in the middle of the night, my heart stood still as I awoke to unfamiliar sounds of intrusion on the porch at the side door. I froze in bed a moment, and then collected both the Glock and the 410, which are always loaded. I wasn't sure what it would take to bring down whatever it was trespassing on my porch in the night. When I peeked through the curtains, I observed a determined raccoon. I had left the cat food in one of those big containers like you buy at Wal-Mart, and it was sealed up tight, so when a sudden shower hit, I just left it there, choosing to instead gather all my tools up and put them up in the barn. I jerked open the door, he dove off the porch into my best flower bed, and headed out over hill and dale. I smiled and went back to bed, amused at my little masked intruder's antics. I hadn't even fallen back asleep when the same, now familiar sounds, came again from the porch. I was amazed that he was already back, and this time when I peeked around the curtain, he was trying to pry the lid off with his teeth. I chuckled, and watched a little more. He had acquired an audience of several barn cats which should have been really ticked off, and trying to defend their own food. They seemed rather unconcerned at this intrusion and assault; perhaps they were familiar already with this nocturnal visitor, where I wasn't. This enemy that had come trespassing was to me, clearly up to no good. At any rate, they were not taking care of the situation, so once again, I opened the door, and he dove off the porch.
By now I was more sensitive to just how serious his persistent intentions were, and had a strong suspicion that he was committed to his present mission. It was on now between him and me. Repeatedly he hid in the dark, and then returned the minute I thought of going back to my peaceful slumber. He finally, as I watched and photographed, got the lid off, tumbling down the porch and kind of surfing on the container lid all the way down the 13 steps. Quickly and nimbly, without so much as a check for personal injuries, he scampered back up the steps, crawled over into the container, and our large, white, tom cat that faithfully fights snakes, jumped in with him.
I thought, “Now you are going to get it raccoon, those cats aren't going to stand for this.” To my surprise, the cat joined him, and began eating too. Perhaps he was thinking to himself that I was stingy with that cat food, and not that good a friend anyway, since he is never allowed in the house. He must have decided, "Well, her pockets are deep; I am going to take what I want too." Eagerly his buddy cats began joining him in the container until it would hold no more occupants. That did it. I had been taking pictures up to that point, trying not to scare him off by opening the door. I jerked the door open, pulled back the trigger on the 410 and watched the mayhem as they exploded out of the container when the shell contents launched into the sky and the report thundered through the night. I confidently resealed the container and went to bed.
To my surprise in the morning the container was at the bottom of the stairs, overturned, and empty. I couldn't grasp for a second that he had fearlessly waited and returned to carry out his mission. There wasn't a cat in sight, and they usually greet me at the door when I go out to feed the animals demanding to be fed immediately... obviously, they were already full.
I thought about an old friend who has gone on to her reward as I laughed about the raccoon entertainment, and resolved never again to leave my cat food unprotected on the porch. (My husband is still in service in the Middle East, and I have to amuse myself any way I can.)
The memory of this delightful friend, who later died of breast cancer, was triggered by a new friend's daughter going camping with the Girl Scouts, as well as the raccoon burglary. Linda helped with my Girl Scout troop when our girls, Beth, Merrie, and Alanna, were Brownie Scouts and we took our troop camping to Camp Booth Oaks. Our little troop had arrived at the Girl Scout Camp in Nolan County, Texas, made our cots out in the wooden platform "tents," unloaded our groceries, arranged our crafting supplies, and explored. We had made hand decorated walking sticks and painted them with Indian symbols, made a "sit upon" out of newspapers and duct tape, and we were confidently and without a care, roasting marshmallows on our own campfire we had successfully built. There were signs everywhere "do not feed the raccoons," and " please secure the clasp lock on the garbage containers when you dispose of all trash, especially food items." I had a large bag of still unopened marshmallows on a small wooden table when he first waddled through the camp, and I began to grasp the meaning of those signs.
I don't know if you know how loud fifteen little second grade girls can scream at the sight of what had to be a 40 pound raccoon, calmly walking right though a camp fire circle and straight for the marshmallows on the table, but it is the highest pitched tone that can be heard before the decibels disappear into those that only a dog can hear.
He was so large that when he stood on his hind legs, he could easily reach the bag of marshmallows on the table, and he began pulling them toward its edge. I was right there trying to calm the girls, who were trying to wake the dead, and I just took my new walking stick and poked him gently two or three times.
He ignored me, so I poked a little more urgently... he didn't ignore me then. He dropped the marshmallows, took both hands... paws... hand paws.... and jerked the stick out of my surprised hand. With my mouth hanging open, my friend Linda Messer, and all the little girls laughing hysterically, he picked up his bag of marshmallows, dropped to the ground, picked them up with his teeth and waddled back into the woods where all his raccoon friends were rolling around on the ground and also laughing hysterically. Well, that's the way the girls still tell it anyway. I didn't see any other raccoons at all.
Sometimes foes surprise us because of our lack of consideration of their determination. They appear outgunned, outsmarted, and random in their attempts to "seize the day." I would have never believed a relatively slow, and fat, raccoon could confront two grown women with new walking sticks, and fifteen screaming second graders, and take what it wanted. We were bigger, smarter, better equipped, and certainly louder, but he did. We had failed to evaluate the dedication with which he would conduct his assault. We had not anticipated the lack of fear he would exhibit in a confrontation with a clearly superior enemy. I just stood there, failing to understand exactly what was happening, and in my confusion and lack of a predetermined plan of action against marauding fat and fearless raccoons, stood doing nothing. I was not really anywhere near as determined as he was, so I just cut my losses, gave up the fight, and the raccoon prevailed.
Luckily for our Brownie Troop, Number 243, we didn't highly prize that bag of marshmallows. We all had a great laugh, acquired a story that has been retold many times, especially to the grand-children, and so it was no great loss.
Sometimes in life, the stakes are higher, and sometimes, they are imperative. It is a fight to the death with some enemies, with much more than marshmallows at stake. We are primarily a nation of peaceful, generous, and industrious people, who abhor war, and whose hearts are torn at the sacrifices that have been required of our beloved military and their families thus far. In the light that even one more Soldier should be required a sacrifice too great, from our inferior enemy who is possessed of lethal determination and commitment, our hearts grow faint, and our hand lifts from the plow... We should remain mindful of raccoons and marshmallows, and decide just how important our marshmallows are to us, because the raccoons are in the camp, and they are determined.