Blind Racoons at Devil’s Lake

halfnelson.jpgWe had a great camping trip this weekend to Devil’s Lake – one freezing night and two gorgeous autumn days. Our campsite bordered a little stream and not 15 minutes after we started to set up camp did we spot a raccoon drinking from it, about 20 feet from us. We watched him mosey on over, eventually making it about five feet from me (not counting the vertical distance to the top of the picnic table I jumped up on). Raccoons at a campsite are not unusual, but raccoons in the broad daylight who fearlessly approach humans are slightly unnerving.

I declared him to be a “half-nelson” raccoon – a recently created euphemism for mentally retarded – but Diene thought this was too quick a judgment. To be scientific about the whole thing, we employed a series of three diagnostic tests – 1) stomping loudly in the leaves and ground cover near him, 2) throwing rocks in his general direction, and 3) posing menacingly with a large stick. Based on the results, half-nelson’s future looks grim.

In response to diagnostic test #1, half-nelson lifted his nose in the air, sniffing hard enough that his little raccoon whiskers shook. After each round of test #2, he approach the rock, sniffed and nibbled at it. Test #3 elicited no response whatsoever from half-nelson, but was repeated serially because it gave the test administrator (me) a sense of superiority over the animal kingdom at large.

The “half” of nelson’s name may have been a bit generous – I think 10% Nelson may have been more accurate. Either way, all of my mockery of the genetically flawed came back to haunt me. I woke up at least 10 times during the night, in between nightmares of raccoons nibbling on my toes and fingers. (Where was that big stick from Test #3 when I really needed it?)

Today, I am grateful for opportunities to become familiar with and get close to creatures that usually freak me out.

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