Friday, September 5, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Helen and Bandit

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.

Hattie, Hildred, Russell Kohne http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
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 Mathias and Bandit 1970s http://jollettetc.blogspot.com
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.



43 comments:

  1. That's quite a story and I totally agree with the last remark. I can see why raccoons are so appealing when young but they are wild creatures after all.

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    1. Even when Bandit was little, I wanted no dealings with that animal!

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  2. We don't have raccoons in the UK so I was quite surprised to read this story.

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    1. Oh really -- it never occurred to me that raccoons aren't universal.

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  3. Good to hear your family's conclusion about wild animals as pets...though so many baby animals catch our heart strings.

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    1. Yeah, baby animals always tend to be cute. But that comes to an end pretty quickly.

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  4. Aww - poor Bandit. He was just being a raccoon after all, doing raccoon things. It wasn't his fault people expected him to behave differently because he'd been raised differently. My heart went out to him coming home & being turned away. It was for the best, of course, but sad. Perhaps by then, however, he'd met a lady raccoon & was simply coming to say goodbye on his way to a new adult raccoon life? I'd like to think so. Too melodramatic? Ah well . . . :))

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    1. Bandit definitely acted on his raccoonness.

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    1. Thank-you -- just in case you were getting any ideas . . . .

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  6. Yes, they did the right thing, but it was sad. My daughter had a stuffed raccoon she called Papoonie. Actually at 39, she still has it. But she doesn't sleep with anymore! It's sitting in her closet (at my house, not hers) and not acting up at all. The best kind of raccoon to have.
    Nancy

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    1. Sometime you must share the origin of little Papoonie's name. How paprecious is that!

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  7. Thank goodness they'd invented cotton balls....

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    1. LOL -- yes, compared to the cotton ball, the telephone is way overrated.

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  8. Bandit sure was cute when he was little. It's good that someone knew what the mother racoons do.

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    1. You can't really appreciate the fact that this information came from his sister Linda who always viewed herself as the princess of the family.

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  9. hahahaha! I forgot Helen loved raccoons, AND I didn't know her daddy was called Kohnie! I'm sure you mentioned that, but I forgot.

    GREAT story!

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    1. Given your college friend's nickname was the same, just spelled differently, I'm sure I did mention it.

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  10. I agree that raccoons are very cute, but having seen the mess they make I'm not a fan. We used to have a pond with fish and they were all taken by raccoons.

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    1. My friend has a pond with coy fish, and it's a constant struggle to protect them from those creatures of the night.

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  11. Wendy, your moral of the story made me laugh out loud! You always crack me up. I really enjoyed this post. My MIL lived at the coast and they fed the racoons. They would drive into Eugene and stock up on day old bread from Williams Bakery, loading up the back of the station wagon to help and supplement the raccoons diet. I'm sure that it was very good for their little bodies. She collected raccoon memorabilia also. This was also in the 80's so maybe they were "in" back then? I remember making her a needlepoint raccoon pillow for Christmas, but she made over the dictionary from her favorite son, Charlie and ignored my offering. On my very first Christmas away from home, no less. That wasn't the first time that she made me cry.

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    1. Dictionary!?!? I hope she looked up "ungrateful."

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  12. The racoons that visit my daughter's grounds in Michigan are chased off by the dogs as soon as they see them. They like any bits that fall off the bird feeder and will share a meal with the deer (when the dogs are inside.)

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    1. Dogs come in handy if you're bothered by raccoons and opossums. ICK

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  13. Raccoons are dear little creatures (little being the most important word in that sentence). It's just too bad they don't stay little and cute. I think it's impressive that your MIL was successful in helping him grow to adulthood.

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    1. They are so susceptible to rabies that I have a hard time remembering that they do have a cute appearance.

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  14. No raccoons in Aus either, but I remember seeing them raiding the rubbish bins when we were visiting Yosemite and that they were a bit if a pest if bins weren't secured.

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    1. Yes, definitely a pest -- you're not missing anything by not having them in Australia.

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  15. I love the story and you are quite right that we should mess with the natural order of things.
    We think of it as kindness but then they are ill prepared to go back into the wild.
    I saw one in my neighborhood often enough that prowled around in a nearby park.
    It always gave me quite a jump to see this at 6 am...
    when it is still kinda dark!!
    :D

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    1. That's an excellent point -- we are doing wild animals no favor if they have forgotten how to use their instincts to get their own food.

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  16. Raccoons; that is unusual! They are cute but best kept to the ceramic or stuffed toys. ha!

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    1. Yes, a ceramic figurine or a cuddly stuffed raccoon is just fine!

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  17. Oh Wendy - what a great story. I'm trying to work out what Helen's sister and mother and father are standing behind. Is it some kind of exotic plant in the front there - like a begonia with a spotted leaf or something. And is this a new blogger header I spy or am I going completely mad?

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    1. Those are chickens!
      And yes, new blog header. New background color -- I hope you approve since you were brave enough to say the former color was drab. All a part of the remodel project you started.

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    2. Of course they are chickens. That's hilarious that I couldn't tell that. Love the new header. That's all it needed. Great "face-lift" :)

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  18. And I thought my mother having a pet squirrel was unusual.

    Several years ago I was sitting at my desk late at night when I heard movement on my deck. I flung my door open and turned the light on. Four baby raccoons came running up to see me. Paws up on my screen door begging for whatever they thought they might get. I told them they were cute, but no, I would not let them in. I did however take several photos then told them to go with their mama. Cute little creatures, but oh my can they be nasty.

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    1. That sounds almost like the commercial for glasses, I think, where the lady lets the raccoon in thinking it's the cat. Yikes!

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  19. I love this story! I've had experience with both chickens and raccoons - the two together don't mix :-(

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    1. At the same time?? No, probably not.

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  20. Great story with some amusing "visuals". I did feel sorry for poor Bandit coming home and finding he was no longer welcome :( Like the new header and look too :)

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. And thanks for reviewing my site and making suggestions during our recent blog-redo project. I know there's more I could do to reduce the clutter in the sidebar, but right now I'm too attached to those darn A to Z survivor badges! Silly, I know.

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