Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.
This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt is an engaging photo of a hurdy gurdy man with his trained monkey. The suggestion of “unusual pets” makes this challenge an easy one to meet.
My mother-in-law Helen was a fan of raccoons. Loved ‘em. She had pictures of raccoons hanging on the wall. She had raccoon nick-nacks. She even had a stuffed toy raccoon. People sent her greeting cards with raccoons featured, such was her reputation as a lover of this masked creature.
|Helen's mother Hattie; sister Hildred, |
father Russ "Kohnie" Kohne
probably mid-late 1930s
Helen must have felt a kinship with raccoons because of her maiden name: Kohne. I say it like “cone,” but she said it like “coon.” Apparently all her people in West Virginia pronounced it that way too. In fact, her dad was known to everyone as “Kohnie” (pronounced “coonie”).
It’s no wonder then that Helen adopted the raccoon as sort of a family mascot.
It was sometime in the 1980s when Barry’s brother Jeff was helping some friends trim trees near Endless Caverns around New Market, Virginia. They found a nest of four baby raccoons, but no mother. Each of the guys took one. When Jeff brought that baby raccoon home, Helen was thrilled to become its surrogate mother. She named him Bandit.
Helen fed Bandit with a little bottle. After a few days, she noticed that Bandit had a swollen belly and that it had not – um, how to put this? – “answered the call of nature,” if you know what I mean. My sister-in-law Linda reminded Helen that mother animals lick their young’s hind parts to spur nature along.
Oh, the howling and joking that went on after that as all the brothers and sisters egged Helen on to do what mothers do! But Helen was a resourceful woman. She used a warm cotton ball and accomplished what she needed, or more precisely, what Bandit needed.
|Helen and Bandit|
For quite a while, Bandit was a cute little pet. He would climb up the back of Helen’s favorite chair and sit on her shoulder.
When Bandit got bigger, he became a bother. Jeff built him a little house out by the tree in the front yard. Bandit would go outside and roam around. In the morning the yard would be a mess. He got into my father-in-law’s garden and ate the corn. Ervin lost all respect for Bandit after that, especially after that Sunday when people passing by on their way to the church next door stared at all the corn husks strewn around the yard.
Eventually as those raccoon hormones began to rage, Bandit just wandered off and stayed away for a long time. Then one day when a storm was brewing, Helen and Ervin heard scratching at the screen door. It was Bandit coming home. But he was no longer welcome.
And that, Boys and Girls, is why you should never try to make a pet out of a wild animal.
For more stories of unusual pets and maybe even hurdy gurdy men, visit Sepia Saturday.
©2014, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.