A pair of paws came out of the tree and gripped the opening on both sides of Sammy. The raccoon stuck his masked face out of the hole and was nose to beak with the crow.

Who’s to say who screeched the loudest, Sammy or the baby raccoon? Sammy took to showing off with an aerobatical display that would do Orville and Wilbur proud. He performed aeronautical feats of escapism and dodgery unduplicated in the history of flight.

The raccoon went into dive mode and burrowed darn near to the roots of the hollow tree.

By the time Tim and Casey finished laughing themselves halfway to hiccups, they noticed that Sammy was long gone. Shrugging, Casey said, “We better get out of here before the kits mother comes back and catches us poking around. She might abandon them.”

“Not so fast, Casey. What’s a mamma raccoon doing away from her kits in the middle of the day? Ya know… being nocturnal and all.”
“Ya suppose they’re orphans?”

A closer look told the gruesome story. Dog tracks surrounded the base of the dead tree; there were fresh claw marks about chest high on the trunk.

“Coon-hounds, Tim.” Around the entrance to the raccoon nest were dozens of holes about the size of BBs. Following the distinct trail left by the dog pack, it wasn’t long before the trail showed signs of blood.

“I guess if the other adult raccoon was with them, a kit wouldn’t have been the first to investigate Sammy, huh, Tim?” On the way back to the tree they flipped a coin to see who was going to be the raccoon rescuer.

“You lose, Tim. Too bad Patty isn’t here, we’d make her do it.”

Tim shimmied up the tree, reached into the hole, and pulled out the tiniest raccoon they’d ever seen. There were five kits in all. Wrapping them in their shirts, the boys hurried to Casey’s house.

Casey’s dad was building a retaining wall out of railroad ties in the backyard. “What have you got there, boys?” Dad wiped his brow with the back of a stout hand.

“We found these masked orphans in a hollow tree… looks like their mom got shot by hunters.” Welcoming the break, Dad showed them how to build a cage for the raccoons.

“The intent is to keep other critters out more than to keep the five bandits in. You boys know how it is with wild animals, right? You can tame them at this age and they’ll become your friends, but they’ll never become your property. In a year, or less, they’ll return to the wild. One day they’ll just leave and may never come back.”

“You have a big responsibility with these kits. You must teach them to hunt and feed themselves when they’re weaned. When they’re able to take care of themselves you must allow them to move on.”

The boys knew that he was right, but for now, they were looking forward to whatever new adventures the kits might bring.

Shelly busied herself by warming some milk and digging out Mom’s turkey baster as suggested by Grammy. The whole family got excited about adopting the orphans, except perhaps, Calvin.

Casey was cutting a hole in the side of a small wooden nail keg, to simulate a hollow tree, when they heard a hungry young crow in the nearby woods. Sammy was cawing his impatience hoping his mother would find him.

“Mother Tim, would you do the honors?”

“My pleasure.” Curtsying, he took off for the woods to retrieve Sammy.

They were both pleased that Sammy had come home.

With startled eyes, Calvin watched the spectacle from the safety of his domain. Isn’t it bad enough that I have to tolerate that yappin excuse for a dog, Mr. Chips? Now Casey and Tim bring home these vile little fur balls. They look like egg suckers to me!