Trickster


The Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend entry about Raccoons reads as follows: “Animal trickster about whom many stories are told in Eastern Woodlands Indian mythologies. Raccoon is never a creator or transformer as the major animal tricksters are (for instance see Coyote). He also differs as a trickster, being neither foolish nor a dupe; the tables are seldom, if ever, turned upon him, as they are on Coyote and other tricksters.”

Wanting to be on the good side of all tricksters, we take great care in our relations with them. Most notably this includes allowing them to be recyclers of table scraps and left over popcorn. You can see the process in action above. That repurposed bird feeder is on the deck outside our kitchen window making it easy for us all to keep eyes on one another.

There is little they will not eat, though given a choice they go after high fat/high calorie stuff first. Their capacity for consumption is prodigious. They stay in their dens when it is very cold, but after a thaw so many sometimes converge that all that can be seen is fur. They are mostly nocturnal, but in late spring the youngest brave daylight because they know the elders would not allow them a seat at the table.

Last summer, right at sunrise, I had my dog in the car with me on the way out to a local golf course for a walk and swim. The highway was a busy one. Just ahead on the left I noticed a raccoon about to launch a scurry across the road. Oh no! To my horror, an oncoming sedan did not brake or swerve and rolled right over the poor creature. The nature of my thoughts about the driver were medieval.

We arrived at our destination soon thereafter and my friend Nellie hopped right out of the car and headed for the creek. I’m no golfer, but am here to tell you that this course is of spectacular beauty. There is topography, timber, and much sound of water. Nellie, of course, had no mind of the accident and the image in mine had faded as we topped a small rise near a bridge just before the eighteenth tee.

With eyes further above ground than Nellie’s I saw first the small pair of newborn raccoons on the abutment of a bridge across a stream. I quickly snapped on her leash. Once she laid eyes a sense of horror returned to me for I was not certain I’d be able to hold her off. I fell to the ground, but held on and listened to her raspy breathing constricted by the choke collar.

Finally she relented and I was able to drag her in another direction leaving the raccoon kits sitting in wait of their mom. As we made back to the truck (me hoping Mom gave them a good talking to) it dawned on my that I had no way of really knowing the mind of the driver that had killed the raccoon an hour before. Perhaps he/she could not avert and was beset with remorse. In a parallel universe maybe the first coon felt but a passing draft.
Nellie slipped my grip and extinguished those flickers of elan vital.

Trickster.

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