The case of the deer families and the five masked bandits

<I>KEVIN?HEIMBIGNER/Chinook Observer</I><BR>This young racoon was intent on being fed as a car slowed on Stackpole Road to let it, a sibling, and mom safely cross. Instead the racoons approached the car and barked for food.

PENINSULA - For the best show in town, my husband, Don, and I have season tickets! No curtain-time forces us to set an alarm, nor is there any day we have to attend. The season tickets' value are as undependable as the actors. That's not quite true - their value, or rating, is five-star! Among the vaudevillian actors recently were two deer families, two teenage bucks with their perky paramour, and five masked bandits - the "racoonettes."

One morning as we took our seats for breakfast before two 4x8-foot windows that overlook our backyard, a mother and her two bouncy fawns paraded out of the alders, salal and blackberry bushes from stage right. Proud Momma held her head at a snooty height, knowing we'd be watching. The kids followed her across the grass until just before they were to vanish from our sight behind an old shed. At that point one errant little darling walked toward our windows as if to take a bow, and froze, staring up at us.

"D'you think she'll ever grow into those ears?" Don wondered.

I shook my head slowly as the little animal and I locked eyes - less than 10 feet apart, separated by the window glass. From this intense pose our little friend turned and loped away.

Don and I got back to eating.

In less than five minutes she returned with her parents and identical twin. Another family followed this time, and another parade. We began comparing them like judges, though the similarity made it difficult. Suddenly two little fellows, boys no doubt, cut away from the bunch and began galloping around in huge circles. Their little bodies leaped high in the air as they ran, then jerked to a stop. They stood facing each other like silent warriors, then lowered their heads and began butting.

"Ole!" Don cried, "a bullfight!"

As they sparred, the little rascals jumped and circled, bodies down, then up. We wished for the camera nearby, but wouldn't leave to get it. Abruptly, they flew apart. The scene completed, the entire troupe exited to the right wings near their woodsy home.

A few days later we watched two three-point "teen" bucks meander through with a nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude. They strutted about our stage, and I hurried to the sliding door, ready to open it and scream if munching on our yellow rose bush might be the reason for their visit. But that wasn't it. From out of nowhere another teenager appeared, svelte and long-legged, her head held at a lovely angle. They kicked up their speed and soon followed less than eight feet behind her.

Don watched intently, remembering cute coeds. "Show her your muscles," he instructed.

As if she'd heard him, she turned and looked at the two fellows. The first one ambled forward as her eyes followed him; then came the second. We held our breath for what seemed to be minutes. Presently the hauty little snip raised her head slightly and turned to stroll off, leaving the handsome bucks at center stage - alone.

We burst into laughter; Juliet had given these two Romeos the boot! What would they do? Their egos were crushed - such embarrassment! But no, with nonchalance they, too, walked off-stage. We guessed they were trying to pretend they'd just been passing through. End of that show...

In August the cast changed completely.

"Come quick," Don called, "quick!"

I dropped my pancake turner and ran toward the window. I'd missed the curtain going up, but not the first and second acts.

I looked to the redwood tree 100 yards away where Don pointed to little dark bodies climbing up the trunk.

"One big fella walked off to the left," he said, "but there are three little guys and a big one up there."

Sure enough, I saw their dark bodies moving about. I ran to get the camera. It captured the three little raccoons right side up, upside down and sideways as they cavorted throughout the upper limbs. Their tails hung down, paws reaching out to swing at a sibling on another branch, bodies twisting. One jumped to a lower limb that bobbed up and down with his weight as he held tight. It became an aerial show of shows! After a dozen pictures the little fat black spots began working their way down the redwood, tired and hungry no doubt.

When the first one reached the ground he shuffled along, sniffing for Pop's scent as he exited stage left. The other two followed, and finally Mom jumped down the last few feet, bringing up the rear.

The show was over once more. Time for applause. No encores.

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