80 Proof

Story and photos by Gloria Salavarria

Racoons 1I feed my neighborhood raccoons.

As to why I do this, it’s because I feel an obligation to pay them rent because my house is in their backyard. I’m the interloper and they’ve lived here long before my arrival but my main reason is that feeding raccoons is a link to happier times in my childhood.

During my teen years, we had English bloodhounds and through no fault of their own, bloodhounds are sloppy eaters with those loose lips of theirs. Soon after the arrival of our first bloodhound, MAX – so named because he was big – quickly taught us the foolishness of our feeding him his dog kibble inside the house and so we took to putting his food on the stoop outside the sliding glass door that led from our kitchen/dining room area. There he could be as sloppy as he wanted to be and it was no bother to us. Hound slobber evaporated in the afternoon sun and the residue would always be washed away by the rain.

As our days were busy with chores and the number of hounds in our life grew, we kids often forgot to bring the dog dishes in for the night and since we liberally filled the dishes with more food than our dogs could eat in one day, our local coon population became regular nighttime guests at our stoop. We, in turn, became their regular audience at the kitchen table, watching the Mama coons bring their babies and then later watching the Big Daddy coons growl and fight over possession of the dog dish.

Since this was 1960 and we lived in rural northern Michigan, TV reception wasn’t all that great – just two and a half channels (Traverse City, Cadillac and maybe Green Bay, Wisconsin if we were lucky) and depending on the weather, the TV reception could be snowy even during the summer. So for our viewing pleasure we had Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and The Coons Outback – and it was only The Coons that came in loud and clear and very entertaining.

Later when my husband Joe who grew up in New York City came into my life, I found that my old habit of feeding the coons served me well in keeping my husband entertained. The idea of wildlife coming freely to our doorstep delighted Joe into becoming a three-year-old boy once more. His enthusiasm for watching The Coons Outback equaled and exceeded that of my family back in the 1960s.

Unlike back then, I now had more money to spend and so I decided to offer not only the finest in cheap, dry dog kibble but I bought a bag of apples to add to the feast. I knew coons love apples because as a five-year-old I saw them eating rotten apples underneath our apple trees late at night but as a 50-year-old I was in for a surprise because the next morning I saw that my apple offering was untouched but all the dog kibble was gone.
The next night, the apples still were scorned.
I decided to pick them up and dispose of them – and then I thought better of it. If I threw them out on the compost heap they’d only turn brown and, well, they could do that just as well in the coon dish and so I left them in the dish. Over the next week or so the apples began to turn brown.

The coons began to take more interest in the apples as the brown spots appeared on them and so in the morning I saw signs of tentative nibbles taking place.
As the apples continued to ferment, it didn’t take long before the coons started to party and then I realized that the coons aren’t much different from us – they prefer their apples 80-proof.

The males still fought but this time they were under the influence and more often than not, they’d just drop on the deck in a drunken stupor for a couple of hours before staggering their way back into the woods.

So no worries, folks! A well-fed coon is a well-behaved coon – and besides, they don’t drive.