Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ricky the Raccoon

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."  Psalm 32:8

Ricky and Me:  Summer of 1981-
This is the only picture I have of me and Ricky together--I treasure it!
Yes, I had a pet raccoon.  Didn't everyone?  At least that's what I thought as a first grader who had a pet raccoon.  My husband tells me that having a pet raccoon definitely makes me “non-urban.”  I know, I am truly a country girl at heart---at least Mattoon, IL country girl.  If you have never been to Mattoon, it is more southern than you think it is.  So much that when I first went to college, everyone thought my roommate and I were from Kentucky because of our strong southern accents.  Oh, yes, back to having a pet raccoon.  His name was Ricky.  And even though it's been 31 years, I still remember the coarseness of his fur and the unexpected softness of the pads of his hands and feet.  And I still remember the love that I felt for this smart, quirky, loving creature.  And I still remember the pain I felt when he died.
When I was in 4th grade, I was given my first opportunity to write a book for the Young Author's Contest at our school.  Ricky had been gone for 2 years, but as soon as we were given the assignment, I knew exactly what I would write my book about...his short, precious little life.  In order to preserve a little history, here is Ricky's story in the exact words that I wrote them when I was 10 years old.  (Let me tell you how hard it was for me not to change grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, etc.--ugh...darn perfectionism).

"Crash! Thump! Eeeeee!  Eeeeee!  I never thought those three sounds would change my life.  It was a spring afternoon in early May.  My dad and I were visiting a friend in the country.  We were near the woods where we heard the sounds.  "What's that?" asked Dad.  "Sounds like something fell from a tree" our friend said.  Let's see what it is!" I exclaimed.  So off we went into the woods still hearing eeeeee!  Then I saw two little furry raccoons.  I just had to pick them up.  We talked about letting me have one and that would happened to them if we left them.  Dad decided to let me have one because they die laying there in the leaves.  Our friend took the other.  We said thank you and good-bye to our friend and got in the car.  The fur ball was climbing all over me.  I felt strange because he was trying to find his mother.  Soon we were home.  Mom was in the house getting ready for company.  My brother Brian came to see the little raccoon.  At first he didn’t know what it was.  Then he saw his face.  “Oh boy a baby raccoon!” exclaimed Brian.  Now, we had to see if Mom liked the baby raccoon.  “Aw, he’s cute”, Mom said.  “We found him at David’s house in the country”, I said.  Mom got a little box and blanket for him to sleep in.  “Put him in the box to see if he likes it”, Mom said.  He just layed in the box until somebody picked him up.
I took him out of the box and took him downstairs.  Dad found a bottle to feed him.  Mom heated the milk and bottle.  We gave it to him but he kept spitting it out.  Then we gave him a taco chip he ate that right down.  What a surprise!
We didn’t know what to name him.  Brian thought of names like Chips, Taco and Fred but none of those names sounded right.  Dad thought it would be nice to name him Ricky Raccoon.  We all talked about it and thought Ricky was a good name.
I wanted to take him outside.  Shelby, my next door neighbor, liked Ricky.  She thought he was cute.  I walked around the block and Ricky fell asleep in my arms.  Shelby just learned how to hop on one foot.  She was loud and woke Ricky up.  I started crying.  Then, I went into the house.  It was getting kind of dark so I put Ricky to bed.  Our company came and Mom made me go to bed.
The next five months were filled with many fond memories of Ricky.  Here are some of things I remember most.  One time we got a snowcone, but we didn’t like it so we gave Ricky some of it.  At my Birthday I gave him some ice cream.  He sat like human set.  He thought our dog Bitsy was his mother.  Marcy, the girl who lived across the street, didn’t like Ricky.  One day she came over to play.  “Is Ricky out?” she asked.  “No, he’s in the house”, I answered.  “Ok, I’m coming over”, she yelled.  Mom didn’t know Marcy was at our house, so she let Ricky out.  “A-A-Ah!” Marcy screamed and jumped on the Gym Set.  “We’ll put Ricky in his cage”, Brian and his friend Randy said. “No, as soon as I get down you’ll let him out” Marcy cried.  “OK, we’ll go over to Randy’s house with him”, they said. “Ok, I guess”, she said as she got down.
When our cousins came over we swam in our pool and Ricky got in.  Mom told us to get out and get some good clothes on because we were going shopping, so we did.  Ricky was still in the pool.  He was fiddling with the hose and squirted us.  Boy did we get in trouble. 
In October, we moved to the country.  A big truck cam and we put all of our belongings and Ricky’s cage in the back end.  I was riding car with my mother.  Brian was riding in the truck with Dad and Ricky.
It was a nice country home with 20 acres, lots of places for Ricky to roam.  The only thing Ricky didn’t like was Clarence the rooster that was at the house.  We decided, since Clarence pecked us sometimes, that we would sell him at an auction
At night, my brother and I collected nuts to put them in Ricky’s cage.  When we let him out in the morning, he would go in a hole in a certain tree over the cliff by the creek.  We decided it was time for Big Guy to be free.  We put nuts in one of the holes and put a red collar on him so we could recognize him.
The next day when we got home from school we called Ricky.  “Come here Ricky!  Come here Big Guy” we said.  There he came running up over the cliff to greet us.  We went inside to change into play clothes.  We went outside to play football with Ricky.  We played for an hour Mom called us in to do our homework.  Ricky came too.  After we got our homework done we let Ricky out and ran out to his tree.
The next day was Saturday so we didn’t have to go to school.  Brian had has friend over because it was almost his birthday.  Brian and Randy were playing out in the woods by the creek.  They noticed something in the creek.  It looked like a raccoon. 
It was a raccoon, and it had a red collar.  They came running to the house to tell dad what they saw.  I started to cry, grabbed my shoes and ran with them.  There Ricky was laying in the creek, face down, and frozen!  He had been shot to death.  We couldn’t believe it!  Who would do such a thing and why?  Dad put on his gloves, picked him up and took him to the house.  We decided on the spot to bury him and dug a hole.  Dad put him in the hole.  We all got tears in our eyes as Brian played taps.  Dad started covering him up saying “Good bye Big Guy.”
This story gets me every time.  I will never forget it.  Even though his life had a sudden and tragic ending and it's really something that I still don't understand, I’m very grateful for the experience of raising a pet raccoon.  I’m very grateful for the time I did have with him.  I love how our Heavenly Father uses even difficult or challenging circumstances to teach us.  He uses even things we don't understand and pulls the beauty out of it.  I love how God used Ricky to teach me about my true love for animals and awaken an amazing connection I have with all of God’s creatures, and because I had never lost a pet before, He also used Ricky’s death to teach me about loss and how to bond with my mom, dad and brother to cope with it.  Do you have a memory from your childhood that made an impact in your life? 
This week, I pray that God will reveal to you a significant moment in your early years that you may not think taught you anything, but it did.  I pray that He will show you exactly how you grew from it and what you learned.  I pray that He will reveal to you things that you never even realized, and allow you to see how that event made you who you are today.  I pray that you will find a new way that, even through that experience, God taught you, loved you and always had his eye on you!

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