Mother Nature was just about to start the next learning session when a slight noise came from up the path drawing all eyes in that direction. There, shuffling down the Lone Little Path, was an interesting looking fellow. No one needed more than one glance at that sharp, black and white face to recognize him.
“Bobby Coon!” shouted Peter Rabbit. “Are you coming to join our sessions?”
Bobby shuffled along a little nearer, then sat up and blinked at them sleepily. No one needed to be told that Bobby had been out all night. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. “Hello, everybody,” he said. “I wish I felt as bright and lively as all of you look. I’d like to join you too, however I’m afraid if I did I would go to sleep right in the middle of the session. I ought to have been home an hour ago. So I guess I’ll have to be excused.”
Mother Nature nodded her head, “If you think you can’t keep awake, just go over and sit down there by Prickly Porky; he’ll
keep you awake.
“I–I think I can keep awake,” stammered Bobby and opened his eyes very wide as if he were trying to stretch his eyelids so as to make them stay open.
“I’ll help you by asking you a few questions,” replied Mother Nature. “Who is it that people sometimes call you the little cousin of?”
Bobby grinned. “Buster Bear,” he said.
“That’s right,” replied Mother Nature.
“Of course, being a Raccoon, you are not a Bear, however you are related to the Bear family. I want you all to notice Bobby’s footprints over yonder. You will see that the print of his hind foot shows the whole foot, heels and toes, and is a lot like Buster Bear’s footprint on a small scale. Bobby shuffles along in much the same way that Buster walks. No one ever mistakes Bobby Coon for any one else. There is no danger that any one ever will as long as he carries that big, bushy tail with its broad black and gray rings. And there is no other face like Bobby’s with its black cheeks. You will notice that Bobby is rather small around the shoulders, and he is big and heavy around the hips. Despite the fact that his legs are not very long Bobby is a very good runner. However, he doesn’t do any running unless he has to. Bobby, where were you overnight?”
“I was over at the Laughing Brook,” he said. “I caught three of the sweetest tasting little fish in a little pool in the Laughing Brook, and I got some of the tenderest Clams I’ve ever eaten,” replied Bobby, smacking his lips. “I raked them out of the mud and opened them. Down at the Smiling Pool I had a lot of fun catching young Frogs. I certainly do like Frogs. It is great sport to catch them, and they are fine eating.”
“I suppose you have had an eye on the beech trees and the wild grape-vines too,” said Mother Nature.
Bobby’s face brightened. “Indeed I have,” he said. “There will be an abundance of beechnuts and grapes this fall. My, they sure will taste good!”
Mother Nature laughed. “There is small danger that you will go hungry,” she said. “When you can’t find enough to eat times must be very hard indeed. For the benefit of the others you might add that in addition to the things mentioned you also eat other fruits, including berries, insects of various kinds, birds when you can catch them, Mice, Turtles, in fact almost anything that can be eaten. You are not at all fussy about the kinds of food you eat. You also have one habit in regard to your food which is unique. Do you know what it is?”
Bobby shook his head. “No,” he said, “not unless you mean the habit I have of washing my food. If there is any water near, I always like to take what I am going to eat over to it and wash it; somehow it tastes better.”
“Just so,” replied Mother Nature. “More than once I’ve seen you in the moonlight beside the Laughing Brook washing your food, and it has always made me smile. Now, did you raise a family this year, Bobby?”
“Mrs. Coon did. We had four of the finest youngsters you have ever seen over in a certain big hollow tree. They are getting big and lively now, and go out with their mother every night. I hope they grow big and strong then I’ll enjoy my winter sleep better, and I know Mrs. Coon will too.”
At this Johnny Chuck pricked up his ears. “Do you sleep all winter, Bobby?” he asked eagerly.
“Not all winter, although a good part of it,” replied Bobby. “I don’t turn in until the weather gets pretty cold, and it is hard to find anything to eat. After the first snow I’m usually ready to sleep. Then I curl up in a warm bed of leaves in a certain big hollow tree, and don’t care how cold or stormy the weather is. Sometimes I wake up once or twice, when the weather is mild, and take a little walk around for exercise. I don’t go far and soon return to sleep.”
“What do you do when Bowser the Hound gets after you?” asked Peter Rabbit.
“Run till I get out of breath,” replied Bobby. “And if by that time I haven’t been able to fool him so that he loses my trail, I take to a tree. Thank goodness, he can’t climb a tree. Sometimes I climb from the top of one tree into the top of another, and sometimes into a third and then a fourth, when they are near enough together.”
“Thank you, Bobby, now you can trot along home for a good sleep. Tomorrow we will see what we can find out about Buster Bear.”
- Raccoons have amazing markings on their tail and face. What other animals have distinct markings that set them apart and make them easy to recognize?
- Visit this LINK for a photo and more information on raccoons from Mass Audubon Society.
- *Why do raccoons like to live near the water? Of what use is their large bushy tail? How do raccoons arrange themselves in a tree for a nap? At what time of year are raccoons the fattest? Do they move slow or fast?
Prompts with a * are inspired by or found in the Handbook of Nature Study written by Anna Botsford Comstock, a professor at Cornell University, focusing on flora & fauna in the Northeast in 1911.