Thursday, January 12, 2012

Raccoon Tag

Okay, I know, I know.  Racoons are dangerous wild animals.  But...

We have this funky old hot tub out back.  It's underneath a big olive tree and most years, starting around November, we have an enormous crop of olives that no one ever harvests.

Except for the racoons.  They love 'em.  For the last few years we've had a whole family of racoons living around our place.  I remember the first time I saw them, a big mama and four little babies, trundling around the side of our house.  So freaking cute.

That was three years ago and we are now on our third generation.  For some reason there always seems to be a little guy who is more curious and fearless.  Though to be honest, none of them are all that cautious of us.

Sometimes when we sit out in the hot tub, the whole family will come out and climb up in the olive tree.  This one branch in particular hangs out nearly over the tub.  They'll lay on the branch, with an arm or two dangling down, and watch us bathing.  I think the water fascinates them.

I'll tell you, the first few times this happened it scared the hell out of us. Or for the first few months.  But we got kind of used to it, and actually began to enjoy the company.  Sometimes the young ones will play and scamper and wrestle with one another, chittering and squeaking and growling.  They have an amazing vocabulary.

So one night, about a month ago, I was out there by myself and the little one came right up to the tub and was sniffing around, right below me.  He knew I was there, but was being especially brave.

Then two of his siblings began wrestling in earnest, rolling around on the ground about ten feet away.  The little one's attention was completely diverted by this spectacle and he turned to watch them, forgetting all about me.  I don't know what got into me, but I decided to reach down and touch the little raccoon on his back!  I moved my hand very slowly and hesitated, then ever so gently touched him.

Man!  He must have jumped two feet in the air and landed facing me,  backing away with his hair bristling and his bandit eyes wide.  I felt bad for scaring the hell out of the poor little critter, but a few days later it seemed to have forgotten and was back on the tree branch hanging out.

I guess I kind of forgot too.  But last night I was once again out there all by myself. The moon hadn't risen and it was very dark.  No sign of the racoons.   I was just laying there in the hot water, lost in thought, when I felt that little hand patting the back of my head. 

It was my turn to leap two feet out of the water and I let out quite a holler!  By the time I turned around it was watching me from the shadows (probably laughing).  I guess now I'm "it".