One of Groucho Marx’s more famous lines was “I once killed an elephant in my pajamas; what he was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know!
Each year when I sell the fur I’ve trapped, I recall an encounter I had with a pet raccoon when I was young. For the purpose of this story, I’ll call him “Lucky” because he could just as easily have been the cuffs and collar on someone’s jacket.
My brother and I trapped a lot, and we soon found that fur became more valuable after trapping season was over, because the prices were higher then. We skinned the furbearers we caught, and learned how to properly stretch and care for the pelts, so they could be kept and sold when the fur prices were the best.
There were a few places locally that bought and sold fur, some more reputable than others. One guy had set up shop in an old round grain bin and actually showed me the shotgun he rigged each night to shoot any “unsuspecting” thief who might open the door, but that’s another story in itself. One of the better known in our area was Mr. Squires near the little town of Chesterville. This particular winter day I had arrived at Squires place bearing my hard earned collection of pelts to sell. The day must have been chilly, because I wore the standard winter attire of all farm kids… insulated coveralls. I’ve always been warm-blooded, and I often wore my coveralls zipped open in front. Today as I watched him grade the fur, I stood with my hands in my unzipped coverall pockets, and leaned against the front of a long, tall work table, which caught me about waist high. Suddenly, from somewhere behind the counter but seemingly out of nowhere, came an immense living ball of fur, and dove headfirst into my open coveralls! I starred down in disbelief at the furry tail and wiggling derriere, and somehow identified it as that of a raccoon. Now raccoons are not all that large, but picture one coming at you form waist high and diving headfirst into your drawers! Believe you me, this one was immense!
Anyway, somehow I composed myself enough to pluck the wriggling beast from my bloomers, and after I had “freshened up” in the men’s room, and ole’ Squires had stopped rolling on the floor, I got the story on the coon.’As I recall, Squires said that some kids had stopped in one evening after checking their traps, and told him they had a raccoon to sell. He told them to bring it in, and they replied that it was “still kinda’ warm.” Squires said he was not concerned because most kids just had a few traps to earn a little extra cash, so it was common for him to get carcasses that had been freshly killed and removed from a trap. However, the “carcass” they brought in was very warm, and very alive! They had stumbled onto a young raccoon, I believe while cutting fire wood, and didn’t want to kill it, so they decided they would just sell it to Squires and let him decide it’s fate. Its fate, whether good or bad, was to become a pet (or pest as the case may be) and to terrorize all who came to sell fur!
Though embarrassing to me (in more ways than one,) and hilarious to him, Squires said that my reaction to Lucky’s sudden appearance over the counter was one of the milder he’d seen. If you can get past the fact that raccoons are into everything, and that there are very few doors or lids made that they cannot learn to open, they make good pets, and Lucky seemed to be no exception. Squires said the rougher you played with ole’ Lucky, the better he liked it. Raccoons take sort of abbreviated hibernations, more like long siestas, off-and-on each winter. Evidently, Mother Nature still urges even pets to do this, and when he suddenly disappeared Squires figured he had somehow gotten out the door or had crawled off and died, so he kind of gave up on ever seeing the varmint again, even admitting that he missed the little beggar. Squires also had a metal roofing business, and one day, while in the end of his shop where all the big rolls of roofing were stored, he happened to glance down into one of the tall rolls, and lo and behold, there was ole’ Lucky, sound asleep, taking his wild raccoon nap!
Now, fifty years later, ole’ Lucky has certainly left this world, and I’d say it’s a good bet Squires has too. I don’t claim to know how the “animals in heaven” thing is going to work, but I do know that when I first walk through the pearly gates, I’ll darn sure have my coveralls zipped up just in case!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]