Echoing across the wooded valley, the excited howls of coon dogs announced the presence of a raccoon hiding in a tree. Flashlights pierced the darkness as our hunting party made its way to the scene. A city boy knows nothing about coon hunting, so my country friends decided to take advantage of my naivety.
“The new guy has to climb the tree and throw down the coon,” they said. “It’s just part of hunting tradition.”
So, up the tree I went, clutching a flashlight as I looked for the beady eyes of a frightened raccoon. But I found no raccoon in the towering tree.
“Sometimes a coon will jump trees, using overlapping branches,” someone shouted. Wanting to please, I scrambled down and scaled the neighboring tree. Still no raccoon.
“Coons will top a tree—go higher!” they yelled. I parted branches and tentatively made my way higher. Grasping the sturdiest branch with one hand, I pointed the flashlight to the very top of the tree . . . and there he was, less than two feet above me, baring his teeth in self-defense.
My merciful spirit and love for animals kicked in (to say nothing of the adrenalin surging through my veins). I backed off and hollered down, “No coon here!” Both he and I survived the night, and I confessed my “white lie” to the Lord.
I did learn a lesson about raccoons that night—their agility in the trees was impressive. And they had managed to get the dogs to bark up the wrong tree.