Strangest Woods Animals
By Barkley (with help from Peggy Sigler Dey)
You might say it is time for me to move out. I have lived with my folks for over a year from the time they took me in at a few days old, but the fact of the matter is it is just too interesting around here. I might not be the most experienced raccoon this side of the lake, but I can’t imagine that is just as entertaining in other parts of the woods. I talk over some of the circumstances with a few of my more “wild relations” that move through our property from time to time and they usually give me an incredulous look or shake their heads figuring I am either crazy or a great storyteller. I find myself to be a fellow who likes to see both options without a commitment either way. I will tell you a true tale as I saw it that happened a couple weeks ago and leave you to your own sway.
My “Dad” comes firing in the front door after walking the dogs and calls to “Mom” and my boy to “come outside and take a walk,” leaving us all in the pitch as to what he needs them to come see. Mom grabs her 6-foot staff she keeps next to the front door as a greeter to people who might be “unwanted.” Dad spotting this evidence of instinct, (she knows him too well as to what he is likely leading her into), thinks for a second and grabs his, too. This was too much to bear. Now usually during the daytime and early evening I am stretched out on a branch maintaining my reign or eyeing the territory from under the garage door, (too bright while the sun is up for civilized folks after all), but this time I was socializing in the house with my multiple dog and cat cousins when the alarm went out. I can’t resist such a temptation, the potential for excitement and uncontrolled chaos, and ambled on behind for what I hoped would be worth leaving my proximity to the refrigerator. I was not to be disappointed.
Dad was still playing mum and 20 questions wasn’t impressing his nerves at all as we made our way up the winding dirt driveway. It hadn’t rained for a good bit and the dust was heavy in areas where there used to be some wonderful puddles to romp through. Round about the third turn he seemed perplexed, but my boy had run up and called back with a solution to Dad’s mystery. Sure enough we rounded the corner and there were two small, round animals grunting with enthusiasm in the residual of the largest mud puddle. Tiny eyes, little bitty hairs, split feet, and tails that couldn’t decide which direction was best so they figured to try them all at once. Mom said “piglets?!” and I shot her a look to convey that I was SURE that wasn’t in my “Big Guide to Getting to Know Your Woodland Neighbors” but she wasn’t looking at me at the time. There was some concerted murmuring between my folks with my boy laughing and talking to these curious looking creatures. They weren’t any bigger than myself but sure had a huge fascination with turning over the pine needles and leaves beside the driveway and chewing up bits of mud. As a creature who honors the value of clean hands and food and prefers to wash every morsel (and even things not remotely considered edible or washable for that matter), I was appalled by this behavior. My folks shook their heads a lot and developed a theory pretty quick. The numbers and odds seemed to point without much dispute to the neighbors behind us that are trying to “go country” and likely as not they had found yet another new animal hobby. I took up a high position of best vantage to keep a sleepy eye on the rodeo that I knew after the repeat cow incidents just had to follow. These guys were a lot faster and energetic about the sport than the cows and made for a merry game of chase. My Mom has long legs and these came in extra handy for bounding through the woods beside the piglets while Dad and my boy brought up the rear trying to give them a homeward bound orientation through the woods. By the time the family emerged on the neighbor’s open property there were a few extra scratches, some fussing over likely ticks, and even some expletives over a torn pair of pants. I tell them, “fur and a friend to groom you would take care of all of that,” but they won’t listen.
Mom was a bit annoyed when she tapped on the neighbor’s door with her 6-foot persuader stick and the neighbor seemed suitably impressed. He was more hindrance then help when it came to navigating the rounded, squealing creatures who had grasped the nature of the game at this point and were hurtling over the open expanse of the manicured and landscaped yard and gardens. I stretched out a bit further, laid my head on my paws and marveled at the scene spread before me of three people who knew enough not to run and to stay calm, and one other whose concept of help seemed to involve being strategically in the way each time the animals were fixed on the correct compass bearing. I had begun to suspect that perhaps this fellow wasn’t as familiar with the ideal storage conditions for these fair animals when we all spotted the enclosure he had designed for them. Four lines of what looked like string neatly wound on one-foot-high sticks in a triangular area of dirt and grass. He warned that the string was “electrified” and pointed to a small panel designed to use the sun’s energy to power the string. The tiny beasts were clearly unimpressed and flipped the “dangerous” strings up with their snouts and quickly passed underneath to collapse (I think I heard giggling) together in a tired pile in the corner of the make-shift pen. They seemed highly amused at the whole adventure and were already grunting code to one another to sort out the details of the next foray.
I laid there contentedly almost as amused myself, as my folks tried to explain the obvious to the oblivious, and knew as they shook their heads walking away, it wasn’t going to be long before we saw those merry little fellows again. I am looking forward to it.