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Be Careful What You Wish For

Story ID:148
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Local History
Location:Butte Montana USA
Year:1990
Person:Kathe Campbell
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Be Careful What You Wish For

Be Careful What You Wish For
by Kathe Campbell

After homesteading high in the imposing mountains of Montana, there appeared an enormous raccoon on our place, a truly surprising event. The lowlander was a respectful fellow while sharing grain with the barnyard crew on his regular rounds. His gentle nature and long soft fingers enticed our grandkids to feed him milk bone biscuits often, the key word here being, feed.

We missed seeing Bandit for several weeks, until one day he wandered into the tack room to chatter and introduce his bride to my husband, Ken. Sneaky detective work revealed the pair had gathered straw and set up housekeeping in a corner of the old A-frame loft. I yearned for bountiful wildlife and couldn't have been more tickled over the prospects of newborns on this place.

Sure enough, in early summer, along came Ring-Ring with eight toddlers in tow. While introducing this cute brood to our deck for some show and tell, one child misstepped in his flight from the tree onto our roof. It's tiny body landed with such a solid thud, I donned heavy gloves and rushed to the little guy's aid. He seemed a gonner, but eventually came around to scurry off in a drunken-like stupor into his mama's arms.

As blatant suckers for all this cuteness, we constructed a platform in the big pine next to the deck and adjacent to the doggy door. (Now don't get ahead of me here.) The demanding bunch came daily for kibbles and anything else they could liberate while I happily hosed off the perch and deck morning and evening. Word spread like wildfire on our mountain with neighbors, kids and cameras descending like locusts. As the little fellas got bigger and pretty one-way about their cuisine, it became apparent we had dug ourselves an uncompromising hole.

One does not venture out of the house for long periods and expect to feed raccoons at any hour, as with our domestic crew. This family had been accustomed to morning and evening handouts and Ring-Ring was pretty fussy about her burgeoning family's ravenous appetites. Neither Ken or I thought twice about attending a neighbor's wedding all afternoon and evening. After all, our devoted Keeshond had always ferociously guarded her doggy door and the kibble drawers just inside.

The kitchen in our new log home might well have been a Disney movie as we stood agape listening to the faucet spewing a steady flow. Canisters and the contents thereof, adorned the nooks and crannies of each golden log. Finger painted drawers were opened and all edibles therein pilfered. Cupboards were ransacked of rice, cereal, soup mixes, gelatin, cocoa - well, you get the picture. Guess I wasn't too surprised to see that those clever fingers had managed to open the peanut butter jar and, of course, they obviously included drinks with their meal. The final blow was the laundry room. Surely the stinkers paid dearly with the collywobbles after attacking the kibble drawers. The only thing left was bits and pieces of plastic liner strewn amongst the chaos. How on God's green earth they missed the fridge and freezer, I'll never know.
As I crumpled onto a chair in utter disbelief, Ken gave me a forlorn look and announced, "Don't look at me sweetheart, this is woman's work!"

We were tired after a long day, but gathered up sponges and towels, and filled the sink with hot sudsy water to soak what wouldn't fit in the dishwasher. The flour-sugar-coffee-water combo had set up like a cuisine montage atop the counters, floor and stove. Gratefully, the gumbo began emerging as only a glutinous mass after a few passes with more suds and the spatula. The laundry room could wait until morning.

Our lives were being domineered by a family of wild intruders, and what's worse, caused by our inability to say, No. Shucks, we raised three pretty great kids using the word, No! Why couldn't we handle this precocious crew? So we locked the doggy door, which did not go over well with the dog and kitties. We dismantled the tree perch and began a practice of sweeping the adolescent gang off the porch. I prayed we hadn't compromised the mallards by offering up an la duckling menu out at the pond.

As winter approached, we heaved huge sighs while noting less and less of the holy terrors. Hopefully, they had gotten the message and were rustling up their own grub from the wild. But upon unloading groceries into the house just before Thanksgiving, two of the half-pints appeared on the deck begging a handout. I grabbed the broom and they grabbed me on the hand, just enough to open a bloody scuff on my index finger.

"Damn you little devils!" I screeched.

"Please please, Maura," I pleaded over the phone, "can I talk to Jake?"

I could hear his nurse relating that Kath sounded anxious. Our doctor is also our neighbor and I cringed anticipating his fun-loving slap on the wrist and lecture.

"Jake here, Kath, what have you gone and done now?"

Suddenly he was Dr. Grinch as I heard Maura scolding him in the background. But he was right. I was forever living on the edge.

"Get into town right now, kiddo. I'll contact the County Health Officer."

"Holy moly, Mom, can't we leave you and your wild critters alone five minutes?" came endless chides from a couple grown kids. But the eight weeks of hot pink rabies vaccine was a mere inconvenient and painless shot in the arm - better than the alternative. Everyone simply shook their heads and suggested I should be wearing a rabies tag. Guess what I got for Christmas?

We are now blessed with the presence of just two or three aesthetic value raccoons who are most likely several generations removed. They drink from our pond, are respectful of our waterfowl, and have absolutely no contact with the humans who dwell within. Our open invitation amongst certain wild critters was a dreadful mistake. Since that outlandish summer, we've practiced making friends with our neighboring wildlife from afar, just the way God intended.


- 2006
Kathe Campbell
bigskyadj@in-tch.com

Kathe lives on a 7000' western Montana mountain with her national champion mammoth donkeys, her precious Keeshond, and a few kitties. Three grown children, 11 grands and three greats round out the herd. She has contributed to newspapers and national magazines on Alzheimer's disease, and her Montana stories are found on many e-zines. Kathe is a contributing author to the Chicken Soup For The Soul series, People Who Make A Difference, various anthologies, magazines and medical journals