A Raccoon Tale (or) It Takes Two

By Marcy Barthelette

Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip (or a persistent raccoon) a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26:20

As you can see, I had difficulty deciding on a title for this little tale. Read on and you’ll soon see why.

I can’t help but chuckle when I recall a tug-of-war I fought with a thieving little raccoon many years ago. Our family was camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and were just settling in when we noticed a racket in the back of the car. The hatch was open so we could retrieve all our equipment and a hungry little raccoon had found its way in. Perhaps I should refer to it as brazen because five people were milling around the campsite setting up our tents and cooking area. You’d think that would deter even a raccoon. Not so. This little rascal’s nose had caught the scent of the box of doughnuts we’d picked up to go with our freshly cooked breakfast the next morning. He sat perched on our gear debating which way to run and get out of the mess he found himself in now that I had interrupted his escape. In haste, I decided not to give him a choice and reached for the package. The battle was fierce and immediate. Neither of us was willing to let go of those doughnuts as my family howled with laughter. When my sensibility finally returned and I asked myself what I was going to do with those doughnuts when I won the war, which was doubtful, I gave up. The doughnut thief scampered quickly into the trees with its treasure and my family has had a hilarious tale to recall at every reunion. I’m always happy to provide them with comedic material.

Ken and I have had many raccoon experiences during our years together. We got the ball rolling quickly on our honeymoon at a remote beachfront campground in Florida. The critters appeared in abundance any time food was available. They circled round us and between our feet hoping for a morsel. I must say I feared they would jump on the table and make off with everything we had. All in all, they were pretty well-behaved, though a major nuisance.

Living in state parks for years added many raccoon encounters to our history but I remember once in particular when Ken was out patrolling and came upon a pair of them raiding a trash can. Normally he would have frightened them away, at least temporarily. When they get wind of something tasty, they don’t give up easily. And quite often you’ll see them quarreling over something wonderful they have discovered. But this time, an amazing scene was unfolding. Trash cans in the park sported a spring-loaded, supposedly animal-proof lid, but this pair worked it like pros. Then, while one held the lid open, the other searched for edibles and tossed them out. When they’d accumulated a stash of critter delicacies, the searcher climbed out, his partner in crime politely closed the lid and they proceeded to share their loot.

Ken was amazed at the efficiency with which these animals worked together, especially when they would typically snap at each other and chatter in anger just like children arguing over a toy. How often do we adopt that same manner of warfare when we find ourselves in disagreement with another person or group? How often do we respond in anger to a negative statement from a co-worker? How often do we mistake constructive criticism for negative criticism and take exception to a spouse’s remarks? And have we allowed a critique from our supervisor to simmer and fester until we can no longer work with that person? If you’re like me, you can answer “YES” to all of those questions. Now the dilemma is, how do we change that attitude?   

The answer could be as simple as saying nothing in response to gossip, a negative comment, or a perceived assault on our pride. It takes two for an argument to develop unless we want to argue with ourselves. However, I’ve found that when I think I’m arguing with myself, it’s really God I’m questioning. And that is a battle I’m not going to win. By learning to think before we speak or post a comment on social media, we can develop much better relationships and enjoy a lot more peace. Aren’t we all looking for a little peace in a world that is filled with chaos?  

It was a foregone conclusion that I was not going to win a battle with a raccoon whose nostrils had already been kissed by the sweet scent of sugary doughnuts. Not going to happen. So why did I respond with a mighty tug-of-war? I didn’t think at first because I wanted the last word, even with a raccoon. Pretty silly, huh!

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. II Timothy 2:23-24

The moral of the story; it always takes two (humans or raccoons) to maintain a quarrel. Be the peacemaker if you can. Likewise, two can usually complete a task faster and with better results. Be a helper when you can.

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