If food is sealed up and left on the picnic table it should be safe, right? Well, this is the story of a devious racoon and how he proved us wrong. One of our first camping trips as a family was to Linville Falls, North Carolina. We had the car loaded down and three little blond-headed passengers who were anxious to see the waterfalls, Grandfather Mountain, and Linville Caverns. Our departure was delayed when the luggage rack we purchased for the roof of our SUV was missing the clamp that held the black plastic shell closed. Rather than take it back once we had almost finished attaching it to the car, we decided to drill a hole and add a bolt. That bit of problem solving helped save a little day light, but it was still near dark when we finally made it to the campsite in the mountains of NC.
My wife and I decided to stop at KFC on the way since we knew we were too travel weary to cook over the camp fire that night. We ate most of the chicken in the car, but the chocolate cake was deemed too messy to serve in the backseat. Our oldest daughter was only about 10; the youngest had just turned 5. Believe me, there were already enough crumbs in the car without adding chocolate pound cake. The food was unloaded with all the other gear, and we started setting up camp in the semi-darkness. The tent wasn’t too hard to put together, but we had trouble with the two queen air mattresses. Our foot pump was not very effective at pushing air into the make-shift beds. Darkness overtook us and we were using the headlights to try to see. An hour later, the beds were all in the tent, and we were ready to crash. All three girls were hurried into sleeping bags on the one air mattress, and Denita and I tidied camp for the night.
I guess in the dark, we didn’t realize the dark brown chocolate cake was still in its plastic container on the picnic table. We intentionally left half a watermelon sitting out. It was wrapped in plastic wrap, and we didn’t think it would fit in the cooler, anyway. Denita and I were exhausted, but we weren’t able to fall into a dreamless sleep. I kept hearing stirring in the woods, and felt alert. Denita needed to slip out to go to the toilet bucket set up in the pop-up dressing room. This required enough presence of mind to put on shoes and take a flashlight. She didn’t settle in quickly even when she was back in the tent.
I had finally drifted off pretty late that night when out of the blue I heard a crash just outside the tent! I grabbed my flashlight before bolting out the tent door to face the enemy. A quick survey of the camp showed me our watermelon in pieces on the ground and a furry bandit making off with the chocolate cake. The racoon dropped the cake about 10 feet into the woods and kept running for a ways. I yelled at him, but he was an insolent little sneak thief. That rascal turned around, ran back to the cake, and picked it back up in his grubby little paws and mouth before tearing off thru the trees. I could just imagine him giving his fellow racoons a high five before bragging about the narrow escape he had just had with the two-legged man: “Yeah. I thought they had me for a second when the light flashed on me, but I figured, ‘What the heck. I might as well go back for the cake if it kills me.’ It was super intense! But – Look—I brought back the prize.”
Denita had her head sticking out of the tent door with huge eyes. “What happened?” she asked. I turned to look at her with an exasperated look. “A stupid racoon just knocked off the watermelon, and guess what? He stole our chocolate cake! Sorry little #$@&%*!”
Denita just looked at me for a second, then she started laughing. I couldn’t help it. I laughed, too. We both settled in for a few hours of sleep after that. The girls woke up in the morning with excitement in their eyes. They were soon distressed by the state of our watermelon and the story of the missing cake. “You mean he stole our cake! It looked so good, and I wanted some,” said our middle daughter. The other two were sympathetic. “Me, too!”