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Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project


Although we think that we are living in a civilized, tamed, and domesticated part of the country, most of us who live in the "boonies" know that wild critters are all around us. Most of the time we don't see much beyond tracks left behind in the mud or the remains of a midnight feeding in the sweet corn patch. We get complacent and go on with our daily routine, most of the time.

Once I came home from work late on a winter's evening. Of course, it was dark but I knew the barn cats were waiting to be fed. Their story really is a tale from the front porch since that's where I feed them. This attracts them to the front porch so I can check them over during daylight hours for wounds, fleas, ticks, etc. I also pet them and make over them so they remain friendly and easy to handle if one of them needs special attention.

After putting out feed for them that one winter evening, I was talking to them, petting them. I started to pet another barn cat before realizing by the shape of his nose that he wasn't a cat. I halted and squinted in the dark before realizing that he was a young possum. He seemed healthy and never moved on, making his home with the barn cats. I named him Pokey. He lived with us for about 10 years and gave my beloved border collie fits because he wouldn't run up a tree like all the other barn cats when she picked on them. Instead, Pokey laid down and played dead. My collie would circle him, worrying about it, trying to convince him that he needed to get up and allow himself to be treed. Which never happened. But then this story isn't about Pokey and my collie.

I've known that throughout the years several other critters show up from time to time on the front porch, hungry for cat food. I tried to discourage this by taking the food away after dark. Still, I knew the critters were about. We had a "live and let live" philosophy and got along well this way.

The other week I stumbled out of bed, half asleep and craving a cup of coffee. I reached for the coffee pot and heard a hiss that sounded like it was coming from the depths of hell. It made me stop and look at the coffee pot. Huddled behind it was a pair of glowing eyes. I looked closer and realized it was a raccoon!!

We stared at one another for several seconds. It was just as surprised as I was.

Slowly I reached out and removed the glass pot from the coffeemaker, not wanting it to get broken in what I thought would become a life or death wrestling match. The raccoon hissed and growled but didn't make any attempts to amputate my hand or take the pot from me.

The raccoon looked mean I thought. It took a few more minutes before I realized the stuff on her face was nothing more than cobwebs. Probably the cobwebs I had missed in the back of the shelving and ones she picked up while getting behind the coffeemaker. Being interested in photography, I did stop and take her picture before getting the broom.

The raccoon did not like the broom at all. It was a battle during which I realized the raccoon was stronger than me. However, she wasn't quite as determined as I was. I DID want that cup of coffee!

About 15 or 20 minutes after wrestling around with the broom, the raccoon cried "uncle" and jumped from the shelf. A couple of prods from the broom convinced her to amble off into the bathroom. I quickly shut the door behind her.

After finally getting a cup of coffee and thinking about what to do next, I tried calling my cousin who happened to be the county's conservation officer. She was out and about doing conservation officer things. I wasn't able to reach her.

By this time the raccoon had been in the house long enough to earn a name. I started calling her Roxanne.

It was a bumpy day and night. All sorts of noises were coming from the bathroom. I was too afraid to open the door and look. I did, however, slip a plate of cat food through the door, which calmed Roxanne down a bit. All was quiet for a couple of hours.

Then it started up again. I slipped an old plastic butter tub of water through the door. Everything was quiet again.

The next morning I was able to borrow a live trap from my cousin.

Having had experience in live trapping raccoons before (only OUTSIDE the house), I set the bait. Marshmallows mixed with cat food. My cousin had told me before that raccoons have a sweet tooth, especially for marshmallows.

I cautiously opened the door. Roxanne ran behind my claw-foot bathtub, peeking out to see exactly what I was up to. I woman-handled the trap into position, then shut the door behind me. I took one step and heard the trap slam shut.

I opened the door and there she was, Roxanne standing in the middle of the trap, wondering what had just happened to her.

Roxanne and the trap were escorted outdoors. Feeling sorry for her, I slipped in the butter tub of water to go with the food. Roxanne immediately proceeded to shred the butter tubs into tiny pieces. (I won't mention what kind of a condition she left the bathroom in, except I will say the word "tornado.") By the time I got ready to release her with the assistance of my friend Mat, Roxanne seemed to be thirsty. Mat had a bottle of water and sat down beside the trap. With a couple of sweet words, Roxanne came over and drank as Mat poured water for her. She was not afraid, making us think that she had been stealing pet food all over the neighborhood for some time and knew what people were all about.

Assured that Roxanne had enough to drink, we loaded her into the trunk of the car and headed off to a wooded area. To us it seemed to be an ideal new home for Roxanne. There was plenty of brush and undergrowth, trees, and above all, close to a pond. No one lived nearby so we knew that Roxanne probably wouldn't get into trouble with humans. Plus my cousin gave the area a 5-star rating as a raccoon habitat. I attempted to photograph the release but Rosanne was quicker than my shutter finger. She is the brownish blob running past the gate to the wooded area.

Exactly how did Roxanne get into the house?

I tend to believe that she was a frequent dinner guest of my barn cats. Being comfortable on the front porch, she peeled back the screen on the door and crawled through. She may have followed the house cat around. He wasn't scared of her and she wasn't of him. So they probably had met before on the front porch one night.

I'm very grateful that it's over and there was a happy ending. Or, at least I think it was a happy ending. Roxanne hasn't sent me a postcard, saying "Wish you were here."

If I do hear from Roxanne, I'll post it here under the heading "Postcards From Roxanne."

Roxanne's New Home

Contribution & photographs by Sharon R. Becker, July of 2009


Roxanne, Is That You?

To contribute to "Tales from the Front Porch: Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project"
contact Sharon R. Becker at
Please include the word "Ringgold - Front Porch" in the subject line. Thank you.

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