One Rachette Racoon Stopping by the Bird Feeder

by Kathleen Saville

It’s early morning and the sun is just emerging from below the horizon, the pines and cedars are rimmed in a glow of yellow white sunlight. I’m upstairs, laptop open, looking for writing inspiration. Out the south window that my laptop faces is a pleasing landscape suffused with the richness of early summer green. Old apple trees bent over from years of harsh winter winds, pine trees grown tall, sugar maples whose broad leaves flutter in the morning breeze and a newly mowed lawn carpets the yard. My faux Adirondack green plastic lawn chairs sit silently under the apple trees in the dappled morning light.

With a sigh, I settle down, and bend my head to the laptop when I recall just a millisecond before; there had been something grayish in the midst of all that comforting Vermont green. I straighten up, my eyes refocus and there, below the window, lounging by the lawn furniture, is a large black-grey raccoon. Male or female, it’s eating my Any Bird Fancy Mix that it has knocked out of the feeder onto the lawn. The ‘coon is a big creature, dog-like in its eating habits. She slouches on the grass, hind legs spread to either side, intently chewing the mix of dried corn bits and assorted seeds, her white tipped ears twitching. They remind me of a furry radar antenna: constantly scanning the air for intruders.

She lays there, tiny front paws stretched out in front of her. Her ringed tail is impressively bulky in its fluff. I can’t help but think of Davy Crockett and half wonder if I should have this creature trapped because it might someday try to break into my house. One summer, years ago, I awoke to the sounds of claws climbing up the side of the porch and when I looked out, our eyes met in mutual surprise. The black beady eyes of a large raccoon and brown nearsighted eyes of a female human. Without breaking stride, she back tracked down the wall and took off into the tall grass, disappearing before I could decide what to do.

Racette stops her eating and rolls over as though on command, showing me four dark nipples on her front. Undoubtedly, she has had a multitude of babies over the years of her short life. The seeds call her back and she completes the roll to continue pawing the ground for millet and sunflower seeds that have filtered down to the dirt.

She stands up and I see the delicacy of her legs that taper in a way that doglegs don’t. Her paws appear more delicate than a dog’s because they are black with long fingers. She has the agility in those eight little flanges to open doors and windows of a house if she chooses to break-in in search of food.

Racette pivots on her hindquarters and trains her eye on something by the barn. A woodchuck, chocolate brown and longish in body, cautiously runs in stops and starts along the tree line in the driveway. I imagine Racette narrowing her eyes at the woodchuck, considering whether to pursue it or not.

She doesn’t and for the first time since living in Vermont, I consider that it is not just humans these creatures worry about; it might be each other.