So I was out driving today and saw several reminders of Illinois drivers radical indifference towards the plight of small furry animals needing to cross the street. And I realized that I am saddened when I see a dead squirrel or a dead opossum, and deeply saddened by the occasional cat or dog... but really emotionally untouched by the carcasses of raccoons. And so I wondered why that is, and I remembered this story that I thought I would share with my community of readers. Now, of course, this story is much better if I tell it in person, I can't as easily relay the emotions that I was feeling through the written word. But if you bear with the inadequacy of the medium, I think you might be at least moderately entertained.
It was the summer after my first year of seminary, and the church at which I had been teaching senior high Sunday School asked me to be a male chaperone on their summer senior high camping trip. There was a group of about 10 senior high kids and we went to Devil's Lake which is in Wisconsin. There was a plethora of snack foods, and several coolers full of hot dogs, and hamburger and buns and drinks. We were ready to do some good eating. We set up tents, but it was such good weather that most of the kids decided they wanted to sleep outside. That sounded good to me, so I decided to do the same. We were in a big long row of sleeping bags, and I was somewhere in the midst of all the kids, and a couple of the boys beside me thought they needed snack foods while we were all getting ready for bed. So they brought a couple bags of chips over to the sleeping bag area, and when they were done they must have just tossed them by our feet. Well, in the middle of the night I was awakened by something touching my feet (through the sleeping bag) and when I moved I felt it run away. I think that I was groggy enough that I wouldn't have thought much of it and gone back to bed, but then I heard a loud bang come from near our coolers. So I sit bolt upright and grab my flashlight and shine it over at the coolers. One of the coolers had been knocked over, and some of the food strewn on the ground, and surrounding it were about 5 or 6 raccoons. Now, in the pictures that I have seen of raccoons they are made to look cute and innocent and cuddly. These raccoons were big and mangy and nasty and mean looking. When I shone the flashlight at them, they looked at me like I was interrupting them, and growled at me. I see that they are invading our food, and they clearly out number me, so I begin to freak out. I try to wake up some of the kids, but they are proving entirely to difficult to wake up. So I start chucking rocks at the raccoons. They make some indignant noises and keep munching on a bag of buns they had torn open. I think I was still feeling the affects of deep slumber, otherwise it would have occurred to me that chances are if I got up and moved towards the raccoons they would get scared and run away. But no. I sat there for a good five minutes (or it seemed like it) throwing handfuls of rocks at these raccoons and listening to them complain. So finally I think they got tired of being pelted with rocks, and figured the hamburger buns were no longer worth the trouble, so they amble back off into the woods. So being the smart guy that I am I got up and figured out that the coolers were just the right size, so I could slide them under the picnic table benches and then the raccoons wouldn't be able to open them. I toss the opened, half eaten bag of buns into the woods and then I go back to my sleeping bag, clutching my flashlight to my chest. I stayed there sleepless for quite some time, jumping at every noise and expecting those damn raccoons to come back and raid our campsite again. Well, I dozed off to sleep, but was awakened again by another loud bang. I sit up and shine my flashlight, this time to see several pissed off raccoons beating the coolers because they can't get them opened. When I shine the flashlight on them they give me such angry snarls that if there wasn't a good fifteen feet in between us, I may have wet myself. So once again I started the process of chucking rocks at the offending raccoons (who somehow managed to seem even mangier and dirtier and uglier and meaner than the first group) and they were quicker to give up this time, I think because they had not yet received any fruits for their labors. So after they retreated this time I laid back down and dozed off to sleep clutching my flashlight to my chest.
So that is why I am moved by the plight of the squirrels or skunks or opossums who do not quite make it across the road, but am really unaffected by the dead raccoons. I guess I figure that is one less mangy, dirty, smelly, mean animal that will try to get my food the next time I go camping.
Now, really, this is a good story. And told in person I receive lots of laughs because I demonstrate the faces and noises the raccoons were making. And with the spoken word it is much easier to convey excitement and panic and all of those fun emotions in the appropriate spots. But yeah, I just thought I'd share this story with you anyway, and hope that you received at least a little enjoyment from it.
God bless, good night, and VOTE FOR KERRY!