I love animals. Not in the save all the kittens and puppies kind of way (but all the power to those of you who do). More in a scientific study of the species kind of way. They interest me. I like watching their interactions and place in the world. I find it amusing to catch mirror images of humans in them. To remind me that we aren't so far removed from our old animal selves. We aren't necessarily at the top of the food chain, or the intellectual chain as we so like to think.
Driving down the highway, have you ever seen tire tracks that for no apparent reason take a 90 degree turn into the ditch? Straight stretch of road, then bam, in the ditch. I've always wondering what would possess someone driving at 110 km/hr to suddenly crank the wheel to the right and head for the weeds. On my way to a friends house the other night, I came up with a theory. Raccoons.
Raccoons are interesting things. I love their dexterity, ability to learn, resourcefulness and cunning, but that is where it ends. I have no affection for these guys beyond an interest in watching their paws work like hands and watching them make easy work of opening a latch to a garbage can. There is a second between 'huh, cool, he figured it out' and chasing it away, sticks, rocks and curse words flying. Raccoons and I have a bit of a history.
While camping in Kejimkujik national park, we packed up for the night, stowed our food and things away and tucked into the tent. I've just found that sweet spot in the bed that is perfectly comfy and warm, and sleep is taking over, when a few campsites away I hear rustling. Rattle of pots and pans, the scrunching sound of plastic bags, boxes being upset. The sound progresses campsite to campsite, heading our way. Then I hear them on our picnic table. Just outside the tent. I wait. No big deal, we've put everything away. So they'll lick a spoon, who cares? I didn't care until I heard the unmistakable sound of our cooler opening. I have never jumped from bed and scurried out of a tent so quickly in all my life. I jump/fall from the zippered opening, flash light in hand. "AHhhrrrrr! Get the fuck out of my food!" Two steps out of the tent I stop and see 5 raccoons staring at me in my underwear. Stunned looks on their faces. One on the picnic table, one with his paw in the cooler, 2 more around the edge of the campsite and another not more than 3 feet from me. All frozen. They didn't move. I took a step forward, stomped my foot. So did the raccoon. What the hell?! I'm in a stand off with a raccoon. A big raccoon. Apparently they get quite fat off people food. Go figure. In a flurry of throwing rocks and more cursing I win the stand off and they retreat to the woods. I place 20 lbs of fire wood on the cooler and tell them to fuck off and go back to bed. They woke me up twice more that night, but never got past my clever barricade on the cooler. So hooray for me, I'm smarter than a coon. All they got was a loaf of bread.
So it's with mixed feelings the way I developed my theory on those tire tracks. On a straight stretch of highway Mr Raccoon scuttles out onto the road, changes his mind, changes his mind again, and line dances back and forth in front of me until he finds his way under my tire. I saw him. I saw him do his little dance of indecisiveness. I could have tried to avoid him, but then I'd be doing a zig zag myself. In a car. Going fast. And I'd end up in the weeds with headache and a 90 degree skid mark in my wake. Maybe that's what people do. Try to save the cute little animal. Instead I held tight to the wheel and hoped Mr Raccoon would get his ass off the road, or at least decide under the truck would be better than under the wheel, but no. With a considerable thud he's hit. Sorry about that Mr Raccoon, I didn't wish you dead, but better your hide than mine. You should have stayed off the highway, and out of my cooler.