Raccoon Fever

67

The start of summer always brings back memories of going up to Grandma and Pap’s. They lived on a medium-sized dairy farm, and since kindergarten, I started every summer going up for a week-long visit.

Besides growing field corn for the cows, my pap and uncles also grew sweet corn for us to eat. There’s nothing better than fresh-picked sweet corn in the summer, slathered in fresh butter. The only problem? Raccoons have a sweet tooth for it too! My uncles taught me how to set a double-flat spring foothold trap for capturing these masked marauders.

We’d wrap aluminum foil around the pan, the triggering mechanism, to pique the raiders’ curiosity. Then we’d carefully load it with sardines and set the trap. The foil shines in the moonlight, should the sardines get eaten without setting the trap off, so you still had a chance of catching them. ’Coons are curious critters and will slap at the shiny foil.

First Set

After setting my first coon set myself, I have a hard time sleeping that night! This carries on to opening day of deer season to this day. Isn’t anticipation great? It grabs ahold of you and won’t let go. After a restless night’s sleep, the first rays of sun creak through my bedroom window. I nervously get dressed, grab my trusty H&R .22 Plainsman, and head out to check the cornfield set.

Peering Eyes

There he was! The coon wasn’t real happy having his front paw caught by surprise after his midnight sardine snack. He hisses when he sees me! Prepared for my first full death charge, I lower my .22 rifle, snick the safety off, and give him a shot between the eyes with a Winchester Super X hollow point.

The corn-fed critter never knows what hit him! Visions of wearing a coonskin cap the rest of the summer die by a botched skinning job. I figure I’ll make do with a coon tail for my bicycle back home and lope off his bushy tail. Little do I know; he’ll have the last laugh …

Red Handed Horrors

With blooded hands and fingernails, I decide I need a manicure. Peacock proud, I use the same knife I skinned the coon with, a Trojan Corn knife my Pap gave me, and clean all the dried blood and gunk from under my fingernails. I finish the job by promptly biting my nails down to proper length. Satisfied with my field manicure, I head back to Grandma’s for supper.

Fever Believer

That night, I spike a fever of 104 degrees. Grandma gives me a cool, rubbing-alcohol bath, aspirin and popsicles to get the fever down. She tells me if it gets any higher, we are going to the hospital. Luckily, my fever breaks that night. I eat three waffles with bacon for breakfast; I was so famished from the fever. I learn several lessons from that episode. Always clean your knife after skinning something and don’t bite your nails! I’ve never bitten my nails since then.

Summer Ritual

I continue my weeklong vacations to the farm until high school. Getting older, I start going up on my own because I want to. I still go up every opening day of deer season to hunt, catch up with my uncle and cousins, and relax and reminisce.

Mom’s gone now, as is Pap, Grandma, Uncle Jerry, and a few others, but memories still burn bright, and it puts a smile upon my face whenever I think of times past, and those memories of family and the farm will never die.

Later, I realize mom sending me up to the farm every summer was one of the greatest gifts she ever gave me, without either one of us realizing it at the time. Life’s funny like that.

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