March 30, 2007

Pillow fight

In what sounds like a terrific blogger meet-up, two of my blogging friends recently went hiking in the National Park with Fantastic Waterfalls and at Least One Mouse, and they've been writing blog posts about their experiences. One of the funny stories that they both told reminded me of something that happened on a camping trip years ago.

I was camping with my husband at the Campsite in the Midwest With Big Sand Dunes. My daughter was four, and Boy in Black, who was in those days Boy in Diaper, was two, and I was pregnant with Shaggy Hair Boy. We'd chosen a site off by itself, a sandy area that backed up to the sand dunes, and at night after the fire burned down, we would sit by the red coals and watch raccoons come down the hills, their eyes glowing, to scamper through the campgrounds in search of food.

We slept on the floor of our small domed tent, sharing a couple of old quilts and using pillowcases stuffed with dirty clothes as pillows. As we settled down for the night, we could hear the raccoons outside the tent, walking on the picnic table, knocking over the dishes I had left to dry, clattering through all of our stuff.

"Those raccoons seem awfully brave," my husband said. "What if they get into the tent?" The tone of his voice indicated that he was not thrilled about the idea of sharing the tent with these furry creatures.

I laughed at him. "Don't be ridiculous."

My husband had never gone camping – ever – before he met me, so whenever we went camping, which was pretty often, I felt smug and superior. Not that I showed it, of course. I was never the least big condescending.

"I know what I'm doing," I said to him. "I locked all the food in the car. I'm not stupid enough to bring food into the tent."

"They sound awfully close."

"The tent is zipped up." That statement, I felt, settled the issue.

I couldn't believe he was bringing up such a silly idea. Maybe he hadn't camped as a kid, but we'd done lots of camping during the first six years of our marriage. And he was still afraid of wild creatures getting into the tent? Sigh.

I couldn't remember raccoons, actually, from any of the places I'd always camped in the northeast, but I could remember the black bears that sometimes came through the campgrounds in the mountains when I was a kid. They never hurt anyone; they just came through and dumped over trash cans and rummaged for scraps. I don't remember them ever going inside a tent, although come to think of it, one did go inside the women's restroom once, emerging from a stall to give the woman who was washing her hands the scare of her life. I told some of these stories to my husband as we snuggled the two kids to get them to go to sleep. Somehow I thought the bear stories would reassure him that I was the experienced camper who knew what the hell I was doing.

Once two-year-old Boy in Diaper was asleep, I stole the pillow from under his head. I needed it for myself because I had already used my own pillow to help shift my pregnant body into a more comfortable position on the tent floor. Little kids get clothes dirty quickly because they are always spilling food on themselves, and the pillow case was already stuffed with shirts that smelled like melted ice cream and juice and french fries, and all the unhealthy crap we used to let the kids eat on long car drives just to keep them quiet. I figured by the next night, we'd have another pillowcase full of dirty clothes and Boy in Diaper could have a pillow. As I drifted to sleep, I was conscious of the raccoons climbing about the picnic table just on the other side of the mesh window, my soundly sleeping son next to me, and my husband still lying awake, staring into the dark nervously.

I'm a sound sleeper, and it was getting light out when I woke up. I wasn't really awake, but in that drowsy, half-awake state. My two-year-old had shifted his position, and had pulled the pillow away from me.

I didn't want to wake up. I pulled the pillow back. My son pulled it again. I pulled it back. My eyes were still closed, and my sleepy brain was still following the kind of fuzzy logic that says a two-year-old doesn't need a pillow, especially if he always ends up sprawled on his mother instead. I was pregnant, and I deserved that comfy laundry bag pillow. I had given birth to this kid, breastfeed him for two years. The least he could do was let me have the pillow.

The tug-of-war continued. He gave the pillow a yank, stumbled against me, and I felt fur rub against my face. Fur? Since when did my two-year-old have fur?

I sat up, suddenly. The raccoon I 'd been fighting with, a big raccoon about the size of my two-year-old, turned and raced over the sleeping bodies of my family and out through the open tent door.

20 comments:

jo(e) said...

I should add that after that incident, we always locked the dirty laundry that smelled like food in the car and we always raccoon-proofed the zippers, using shoelaces to tie them shut from the inside.

And my husband, to his credit, never said, "I told you so."

BerryBird said...

Jo(e), your husband is a saint never to bring that up in gentle teasing, even. I'm not sure I could manage such temptation. And I love the idea of you fighting with a two-year-old for a lumpy smelly, pillow. What a great story!

Anonymous said...

I had one open the zipper of my pack and steal a package of sausages we were hoping to have for breakfast. We caught him just as he emerged and ran off. I would have said "I told you so," because those rascals are more than clever. Some day ask me to tell you about the Porcupine Mountains in upstate Michigan.

JM said...

That's hilarious! I had a raccoon on my porch the other night. Strangely enough, had THAT been in the cabin with us, I would have been ok...

Linda said...

Oh, that's too funny! I would have had the same absolute certainty that they couldn't get in the tent. But, those raccoons are clever.

I'm certain Julie would have said, "I told you so," to me, though. ;-)

JM said...

Not if it were the first time we were off in the wilderness. The second time, sure, but not the first. I have to at least pretend to be nice!

Lilian said...

Oh, my!! Were you scared or just amused? What would a raccoon do with dirty clothes once he found out they were not food [supposing he did win the fight and got the pillowcase from you]? Lick them? Tear them up trying to eat them?

Fascinating story, as usual :)

Oh, one last question. Did everyone wake up at that point and saw the raccoon or did you just tell what happened to your husband? -- He's wonderful for not teasing you, BTW, but I guess you deserved it, huh? ;)

Teri said...

We've had raccoons take bites out of bars of soap that (apparently) smelled like food.

my15minutes said...

Funny story...your writing, as always, pulls me in and holds me in, and delivers.

Kathryn said...

Vintage Jo(e) - a great story, splendidly told. Makes me aware just how short of interesting wildlife we are in the UK...not sure I've ever seen anything beyond rabbits on any camping expedition. Also reminds me of half waking early in married life, and rolling over to kiss sleeping husband - who had somehow acquired tabby fur and a loud purr...My brain digested this v.e.r.y.slowly - I was wide awake before I remembered he was away so I'd allowed cats into the bedroom.

The Simpleton said...

We used to camp in the dry west without a tent. Once, we were sleeping at the Dam That Has No Water, and I awoke with a start, feeling that creepy feeling you get when someone is watching you. Eight raccoons encircled us, intently staring, so close I could have touched more than one. I sat up and shoo'd them away and, with difficulty, went back to sleep. Just before dawn I woke up again, and they were back in position. I imagined they were hoping to divide up our gear, or maybe our body parts.

jo(e) said...

Lilian: My husband woke up when the raccoon raced out of the tent, but the kids didn't.

I imagine that if the raccoon had gotten the pillowcase, he would have dumped it out and rummaged through looking for food.

The only thing that gave me a split second of fear was the thought that I was pregnant -- and raccoons can carry rabies. But the whole incident ended so quickly, that it ended up being just funny.

I love hearing everyone else's stories.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Gah! Well, at least it wasn't a bear!

Jodie said...

Too Funny!

In Brazil I ran in to a creature that looks like a cross between a raccoon and a cat. They are called coati. Pronounced coh-ah-tee with the accent on the tee. I was standing on a trail enjoying the view when I felt one trying to pick my rear pocket. In broad daylight!

It seems in Brazil somebody is always trying to pick your pocket...

Jodie

Kyla said...

Too funny!! I am incredibly proud of your husband for not saying "I told you so." I don't think I could have fought the urge to point that out. *lol*

niobe said...

Great story. I've never liked raccoons ever since the morning I went downstairs into the kitchen (not wearing my contacts) and wondered why the cat seemed so big and how it had knocked over the garbage can and when it had suddenly developed a striped tail.....

At which point, leaving the back door open so it could get out, I shut all the other doors to the kitchen and ran upstairs.

Another thing I hold against raccoons is that when someone challenged me to translate "raccoon" into French, I was forced to admit I had no idea. (it's raton laveur, by the way. You can look it up)

Patti said...

Last summer I had to put our kitten on the (enclosed) back porch, because she was bothering my friend's baby. When I let her back in, she was as big as a blow fish. There were 2 very cute baby raccoons locked up with her!

Bridget said...

that's hilarious. and good tip about racoon proofing zippers.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I was at that park a couple of years ago -- since we always keep the food in the car and don't use toddler-clothes for pillows, we didn't have a racoon problem.

I've actually had racoons break into the house, via the screen door, to get into the trash. It seems that with my mom and sister at the cabin for the summer, I wasn't delivering their trash on a regular enough basis -- so they came inside to get it!

andrea from the fishbowl said...

Racoons are the smartest little guys. When we were camping a few summers ago we found their muddy pawprints on our car .... on the DOOR HANDLE. I still can't believe that they knew that the handle was the magic way to get inside.

Thank goodness they didn't figure it out.