Rowdy Raccoons Make Camping Trip Unforgettable


As an end-of-summer treat for my grandkids, their father decided to take them camping.

Three-year-old Tess is a fashionista, so it wasn’t really her thing. However, because she’s three, she doesn’t know that yet.

Five-year-old Skippy unabashedly loves everything about it. He liked pitching the tent, being paddled around the lake in a canoe, learning to fish and hanging out around a campfire eating s’mores. It’s all new, and it’s all fun.

On the first morning of this big family foray into the wilderness, they left to patrol the lake and, hopefully, pluck one or two of the more gullible fish out of the water. Unfortunately, their father forgot to put away the bread before they left. Instead of clamping the loaf safely inside the cooler, he had carelessly left it out on the picnic table. The minute they were out of sight, a silent alarm went out among nearby wildlife and, when he and the kids returned, an enterprising young raccoon was busy stuffing his face.

This incident — a “wild animal” naughtily helping himself to their provisions — propelled the children into an absolute delirium of joy. A raccoon! Eating their bread! It was too amazing for words.

It was so far out of their reality, a reality that heretofore had consisted of eating pale beige Cheerios out of a pristine white bowl while staring at reruns of cartoons in the safety of their air-conditioned living room, that they could barely take it in.

Better still, while they trucked back to the lake to help dad get the tackle box and life vests out of the canoe, the raccoon ran home to inform his friends of his find. When Tess and Skippy returned, a whole conference of raccoons had descended upon their camp, and the bread was flying. The children were beside themselves. It was just too much!

The sun set, the campfire was extinguished and the children were zipped up inside the tent. But Skippy could still hear the raccoons out there, foraging around, looking for scraps and making all the scuttling noises that resourceful raccoons make at night. He spent the evening peering out of the tent’s screened entrance toward the picnic table, fascinated.

When Greg woke up in the morning, Tess was nestled cozily inside her Frozen sleeping bag, and Skippy was asleep in his Spider-Man sleeping bag — but with his face mashed into the mesh of the tent flap. He’d fallen asleep watching the raccoons.

When he finally did wake up, he had a mesh imprint on his face that took some time to disappear. His memories of the cavorting ’coons never will.

To my mind, this is what childhood learning should be. I know in my heart that Skippy will never again see a picture of a raccoon in a book or on TV and have the same response he had before this wonderful experience.

Do you remember the first time you saw a live raccoon? Do you remember what it was doing?

I bet you do.