Several times when taking the commercial trash container out to the road, I have opened the lid and found that something had ripped open a bag and looked through its contents, presumably for food.

Since the hinged lid is always down, I couldn’t figure out how this was happening until I looked out the glass doors one night and saw an old raccoon on the deck.

Then I remembered hearing banging several nights while I was watching TV and I put two and two together.

This old coon had figured out how to pull up the trash container lid and get inside, where he could scavenge through the trash. He would then push the lid up again to get out. The banging I heard was the lid falling back as he went in and out.

When you live in the country—and the suburbs—you often get visits from wild animals, and coons are especially adventuresome. These animals will look anywhere for food or lodging and they have little fear of humans.

When I was a boy, we lived about 100 yards from a river and every so often, a coon would sneak up onto the back porch. As with the trash container, those coons would learn how to pull open the screen door and get inside.

In the winter, my grandmother had a habit of covering leftovers with a tablecloth and leaving them on the back porch overnight. The coons couldn’t resist the smell and would occasionally find their way inside.

In the middle of the night, we would awake to the sound of dishes rattling and falling on the floor. My grandfather would grab his shotgun and hurry downstairs to find a big mess and a coon scurrying out the door and down through the yard.

Granddaddy, standing at the door in his long-handled underwear, might send a blast of birdshot out through the dark, but to my knowledge he never hit anything. Then he would return to bed and fuss at my grandmother for not hooking the latch on the screen door.

I recall one summer when a young coon got in the house and took up temporary residence. I’m not sure whether he just liked the living under the china cabinet or got in and couldn’t find his way out.

For a week, we would be awakened by the sound of metal banging in the kitchen, but when the adults checked, they could find nothing.

Finally one night there was a big bang and we all came down to find the biscuit pan lying in the middle of the floor and the half-grown coon cowering in a corner.

As in most country households, my grandmother would make a big batch of fresh biscuits every morning and what we didn’t eat for breakfast went in the bread pan, where they would stay warm on a shelf at the end of the wooden cook stove. There they could be retrieved for dinner and supper.

The little coon had learned how to lift the pan top, pull out a biscuit and then let the top drop back down. On this particular night, he miscalculated, tipped the pan over and sent biscuits flying across the floor.

My grandmother grabbed the broom and chased him out the back door. He never came back.

Some years later, while riding around with a girlfriend one afternoon, we stopped at an old bridge and walked around a bit. There by the side of the road, we found a half-grown coon that had been hit by a car. At first we thought he was dead, but upon closer inspection, we discovered the animal was still breathing.

After wetting his mouth with water, we wrapped this little guy in a towel that happened to be in the car and took him home to try to save him. After a few hours, the coon started to come around a bit, but he still couldn’t do much more than just move his head.

For two days, we tended the coon in my girlfriend’s unfinished basement and, although we didn’t hold out much hope, the animal seemed to be improving. Still, he just lay in his cardboard box bed and made no attempt to move around.

On the third day, my girlfriend’s father came in from work and, as usual, stepped into the shower that was in the basement. When he finished and pulled back the shower curtain, there was the revived coon standing there looking up at him.

There followed some yelling and a demand that the little coon, who we named Junior, be moved to my house for further convalescence.

I kept the little fellow for another week or so and then turned him loose in the woods behind my house.

A friend who lives in a Richmond suburb informed me last summer that an elderly neighbor had called him to report that she kept hearing a banging in her attic.

You guessed it. It was a family of coons who had taken up residence. This lady insisted that my buddy climb up into the 120-degree attic and chase those animals out. He tried once and then gave up.

Instead of chasing the coons around in the small attic, he waited until the animals left that night and then closed off the vent they were using as a door. Suddenly, the poor coons were homeless.

Coons will often take up residence in attics, especially in woody suburbs. They also love old farm silos and I’ve seen as many as a dozen in a single silo.

Like deer and squirrels, raccoons have no reluctance to coexist with humans. They can be tamed and become almost like pets.

But trying to make friends with a raccoon is not a good idea, because these guys are prime carriers of rabies.

Still, they are cute. And they are adventuresome.

But their curiosity often gets them into a heap of trouble.

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Donnie Johnston:

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