One of the things that happened when I worked at the Boy Scout camp was that I became friends with the camp ranger. This meant that I spent a lot of time visiting the camp when it was the offseason. Granted, there were weekend campers, but they mainly stayed in and around their cabins so it wasn’t a big deal.
I was wandering through the camp one morning when I heard noise from a dumpster. I looked inside and saw a raccoon mother with a couple young ones. They were obviously stuck in the bin and couldn’t get out. I figured they must’ve dropped in from an overhanging branch. I looked around until I found a long enough piece of deadwood and took it back to the dumpster. I placed it inside and then took another piece of deadwood and placed it outside of the bin. Then I stood back a little ways and watched as the mother climbed out, followed by the two little ones. Then they climbed down and scampered into the woods. I felt pretty good about this.
I decided to remove the branches so another animal couldn’t get into the dumpster when I heard a noise. I looked inside and saw one more little raccoon baby. Nothing I could do would coax him out so I finally had to climb inside and pick him up. Surprisingly, he didn’t fight me and just let me hold him while we climbed out. Then I put him down on the ground and wondered what to do next. He didn’t seem to keen on leaving me, so we waited together for something…
After an hour, I realized the mother wasn’t coming back. I wasn’t about to leave the little one to fend for itself, so I began to walk away to see if he would follow me. He did and we went back to the cabin I was staying in. I guessed he wasn’t more than a couple months old so I tried to feed him cereal. He ate it all. Then he came and curled by my feet and fell asleep. It was also then that I realized I had just become a surrogate mother.
I had planned to stay at the camp for a couple months anyway, so I adopted the little raccoon and named him Rocky. He followed me everywhere. I tried to keep him outside as often as possible so he wouldn’t get too tame. After a few weeks, he began to wander off on his own until one day he didn’t come back.
I put aside my worry for him and hoped he had adapted to the woods on his own. I have to admit, the temptation to keep him as a pet was great, but I knew better than to ruin his life like that. He needed to be free.
Now, throughout my little story here, I referred to Rocky as a “he.” The truth is, I never really checked and just made an assumption. I spent the next year talking about Rocky Raccoon to my family and friends and the joy he had brought me, if even for that short while.
A year later, I was back at the camp. Once again, I was out for a morning walk when I saw a mother raccoon with three babies walking towards me on the path. I kept walking and so did they. I thought for sure the mother raccoon would veer off the trail to avoid me. That didn’t happen. We got closer to each other and a thought crossed my mind.
As if to answer my question, the mother raccoon sped up and rubbed on my leg. It was Rocky! All this time I assumed Rocky was a male but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I scratched Rocky behind the ears just like she used to like and she made a comforting sound. Then came the introductions.
She brought each reluctant baby to me one at a time and I pet each one. This was by far one of the coolest things that had ever happened to me. After about five minutes, I was on the ground laughing as all four of the raccoons crawled all over me, tickling me with their little hands and feet as well as their snuffling noses. I don’t think I could’ve gotten closer to nature if I tried.
After about a half-hour, the noise of a tractor scared them back into the woods.
I never saw Rocky again, but that memory is one that I’ll always cherish. I will never stop being amazed at God’s creations.