A Christmas Story

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A true and legendary Christmas story in our family!

It seems that all families have stories that are told over and over again. Sometime they are poignant, sometimes they are embarrassing, and sometimes they are funny. These stories seem to grow over time and sometimes they even take on a life of their own. The story about to be told here is very recent and I just wanted to set the story straight before the stretching begins.

Our family was looking forward to Christmas this past year. Brendan our oldest would be home from college. Liam, his younger brother, although still living at home would be more available due to his brother’s presence. My dear old mother would be visiting from South Carolina, an event that does not occur every year. There would be the usual exchanging of gifts, and the big Christmas dinner. There would be memories of Christmas past, and hopes for ones to come. Christmas is largely a predictable event in our household, and we cherish the yearly routines as much as the day itself.

Christmas 2003 would not prove to be such a predictable day.

I was talking to my sister on the phone, when my wife Maureen ran through our kitchen door. The expression on her face bore a discerned look of concern. In retrospect I should have paid more attention to that expression, but I was busy exchanging long distance Christmas greetings. She interrupted my phone conversation, something Maureen never does, and suggested that there was something outside that might need my attention. I casually said goodbye and handed the phone to my mother so that she and my sister could do some catching up. I sauntered over to the kitchen to see what all the fuss was about, after all it was Christmas day and I didn’t have a care in the world. Maureen, in an unusually animated fashion, told me that there was a raccoon in our wood shed, and oh, by the way, it was growling. She had evidently encountered it while fetching wood, and after hearing the bandit growl sped back to our safe and sound kitchen at warp speed!

Not too worry I thought, I’ll go outside and shoo the critter away. It was warm outside, I reasoned, and it was probably aroused from a deep sleep by the warm weather and was in search of food. As I was about to go outside, as a last minute thought I decided to take a gun. No real danger out there, I thought, so I grabbed the most easily available gun, a 12 gauge single shot and two number 6 shot magnum turkey loads. As I went out the door I spotted the raccoon running by the stoop and around the corner of the house.. Good, I thought, problem over. He’s decided there are better pickings somewhere else.

Let the fun begin!

Curious as to where the raccoon was running I walked around the corner of the house. No raccoon to be seen! Not enough time had elapsed for him to disappear yet, where could he be? Just then I heard a scratching noise over my head, looked up, and saw a raccoon dropping down from the side of my house. It sure looked intentional at the time. The raccoon looked like a masked kamikaze pilot as he plummeted down apparently ready to land on my head. These are times when we are all better off letting our natural instincts take over, rather than trying to figure out the best course of action. I reeled to my left and let the raccoon ricochet of my right side. He actually bounced off of me and turned to face me, and like Old Yeller in the Disney movie from years ago, he was foaming at the mouth, his back hunched high in the air with the hair standing on end, and growling in a fashion that could lead to no other conclusion that this was very serious business. I swung the barrel of my shotgun up to my shoulder, aimed the sight on the gun barrel directly at his body, and promptly noticed he was standing directly in front of a 100 gallon propane tank (somewhere in the back of my mind I pictured myself trying to tell Mike Smith, our Fire Chief, just how it happened that I blew up my house). At this point he was coming in my direction gangbusters, and my only choice was to run as fast as I could around the corner of the house. I turned to take aim once again, only to see that he had lunged, was in mid air, and the only thing I could do was to club him in the head with the barrel of my gun. And club him I did, as hard as I could, and with all the conviction that I could muster. He fell to the ground and started to lunge again, still to close to fire the gun I hit him a second time, stepped back and fired the 12 gauge round directly into the poor fellow at a distance of four feet. Instinct had me reloading the single shot, and just as I closed the breech he lunged at me again, this time directly at my face. The gun went off at point blank range killing him in a most unfastidious manner.

And then there was the silence. All of this had occurred in just a few seconds, and as I stood there looking at his carcass the world seemed suddenly very quiet.

I looked up towards the back door, and saw my family members staring at me. Their faces pressed against the storm door glass. They had not witnessed the entire set of events and were more than curious as to what had just occurred. Later, my poor dear mother would tell me that she had not seen me exit the house with the gun and had no idea what was going on. She heard me swearing loudly“you rotten #$#^##$%!, followed by a loud BOOM, and then I swore again, “you dirty #@$#@@#!”, followed by a second BOOM. She was on the phone with my sister at the time, and said, “My god, I think Bill’s lost his mind, he’s out there shooting someone!” Thank goodness we were able to straighten that out. I later reasoned with her that I would never shoot anyone on Christmas day.

It didnt take Maureen long to figure out that the raccoon had wounded my right hand. I called the Massachusetts Center for Disease Control.  Miraculously someone was there to answer the phone.  I was really surprised because it was Christmas day.  I told the gentleman that I had been bitten by a rabid raccoon.  He asked me how I knew it was rabid.  I replied that it had been foaming at the mouth, attacked me with the ferocity of a mountain lioness defending her cubs, and had taken several shot with a twelve gauge shotgun to kill.  There was a distinct silence on the other end of the line.  And then he told me that he would send a stainless steel container by special delivery and I should cut the head off of the animal, put it in the freezer, and when the container arrived send it back with the head in it.  I hesitated, somewhat shocked by his request.

“Wait a minute!  Am I not supposed to be avoiding the brain and spinal column fluid?  And if I am how am I supposed to cut off the head and avoid the spinal fluid?”

“Well you must wear a plastic surgical mask that covers your face and heavy rubber gloves”, he stated.

“I’m guessing you won’t be too surprised when I tell you that I really don’t have a lot of surgical equipment at the old homestead” I retorted.

“Perhaps you could improvise”, he replied.

“Well, I’m not sure how useful the head will be sense it’s entirely blown up”, I said just a little bit frustrated while bleeding profusely from my wound.

“You shot it in the head?  That was a big mistake!”, he said with disgust.
“Yeah, I shot it in the head.  It was one of my more careless moments”, I responded.

“Well, it’s no good to us”, he stated, “If I were you I would go to the nearest hospital and get the rabies treatment immediately!”

And with that statement he hung up on me.

I was going to ask him how wise it was to put the bleeding head of a rabid animal in my freezer with all my wonderful vegetables and venison but I never got the chance.

I had no other choice but to begin the rabies vaccination series that Christmas day. The good news was that the rabies treatment is no longer the horror show of years past that we have all heard about. The bad news is that I am a power weight lifter and as such a very large fellow. The number of shots on the first day is determined by your body size. My body size dictated that I begin the vaccination series with 10 shots! Five more shots and three weeks later I am nearly done with the rabies vaccination series. A piece of cake.

So that’s my Christmas 2003 story. Next year our family will relive the incident with moderate exaggerations, but by the year 2010 my bet is that the story will have changed significantly to my disadvantage. And that’s why I’m setting the story straight. Right here and now!

Originally written for the Heath Herald in January 2004.


  • http://everyday-adventurer.blogspot.com/ Ratty

    That must have been pretty scary to think about once it was over with. These kind of things always seem to happen so fast that there’s no time to be afraid until it’s all over. You were probably lucky that the animal didn’t decide to act up until your wife was back inside. I know it always scares me more when it’s someone else close to me that’s in danger. I’ve never seen a rabid animal before, but there were several reports of rabid skunks around here a few months ago.

  • http://eastgwillimburywow.blogspot.com EG Wow, Canada

    OH my goodness! What a story. I hope that never happens to you again!

  • http://www.landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com Emily

    GEEZ LOUISE! I hope it doesn’t offend you that as I was reading this, I laughed out loud–twice! Great storytelling. If you have or will have grandkids, no doubt this will be a story they use to brag about you in the very best way. :)

  • bill

    Emily,
    I’m delighted it made you laugh! No grandchildren on the horizon, but someday maybe. This is already part of family lore, so the story should be around for quite a while. Thanks for reading, as always.

  • http://www.DancesOfDreams.com/ Dances Of Dreams

    Wow..what a great story, though it was kind of scare to find out you were hurt in the process and too many rabies shots for me to handle just thinking about it. I’m glad you’re ok!

    Happy holidays, Bill!

  • http://swamericana.wordpress.com Jack Matthews

    Bill! What a story you have told. “But you don’t understand,” were words, I’m sure, that began the explanation to your family after the raccoon’s dispatch. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Looking forward to your writing this next year. — Jack.

    P.S.: The raccoon falling from the sky is an image I’ll not forget.

  • http://www.naturenet.net/blogs The Virtual Ranger

    What a splendid tale! I’m glad you were around to tell it afterwards, thanks for dusting it off!

  • http://crazymountainman.blogspot.com out on the prairie

    I have heard similar stories to their ferocity, and found a cat that tried to beat one. I have never seen them in action, mostly very passive, but I tend to keep my distance.I had one stick around when I was trout fishing and I coldn’t even shooo away.In my family the size of that critter would have doubled. I had a preist who always enjoyed fish tales by my daughters, they grew from in front of them til they were holding their arms behind them to show the size as the tale grew.

  • The Marine

    Bill glad to see that you are feeling well enough to fish. I enjoyed reading your Xmas story once again. I’ve been
    sitting here reflecting on the hundreds of adventures we have had and realized that there are at least 20 or 30 more good story’s you could write about. Most of them are even amusing, now…

    Hope you having a good New Year’s holiday.

  • http://gardenpath.wordpress.com/ Sandy

    Two good stories at one time! I did a lot of laughing while I was reading this one, but I realize it was plenty scary, too. That story is going to live on forever in your family, you know.

  • Montucky

    Oh my, what a way to spend Christmas day! I would not like the idea of getting those shots!
    Turns out that twelve gauge was not a bad choice, although I would have thought just your language might have disabled him; I know mine would have!
    Who would have thought of a visit by a rabid raccoon! I sure wouldn’t have, and I would have grabbed my .357 and wonder how that might have turned out and what would have been the life expectancy of the propane tank! Glad it all turned out alright! Wow!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thanks Montucky. This took place ten years ago. Seems like it was just yesterday. My mother would laugh and laugh each time I retold this story. I only wish I had chosen a pump shotgun; would’ve have prevented the second bite.

  • Emily Brisse

    Ohmygoodness! This story deserves to be told over and over again. Ha! ha! ha! And a heeheehee! Merry Christmas to you and your family, Bill!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thanks Emily! Hoping you have a wonderful first Christmas with your new son and husband (and the rest of your family)! May peace and joy follow you through the next year ahead.

  • Teresa Evangeline

    Good Lord, Christmas in the country … sounds pretty horrendous. Hope this one is Merry and Bright … and the critters stay a respectable distance from the homestead. :)

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    You never know what you’ll run across in the outdoors, and most I enjoy, but dealing with rabies vaccines from rabid animals is less than an optimal way of spending the Christmas holiday. Still, the retelling of the story each Christmas is a lot of fun.

  • Jack Matthews

    Merry Christmas, Bill.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Right back at you Jack!

  • Barbara

    What a great story Bill – no wonder it’s a family legend! Always fun to have a story that we can re-tell and embellish and share. Specially at Christmas. I do hope that Christmas this year was warm and wonderful, filled with other memory-making events as well. May the coming year bring you joy, adventure, great fishing and much laughter.

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Thank you Barbara. Oft told stories have a life of their own, don’t they? How did you do in the ice event in Ontario? I heard it was very challenging in some areas.

  • Barbara

    The ice storm has caused tremendous damage to the trees in cities and throughout the countryside. I don’t know about my former home, I suspect the white birch did not do well, but that’s a snow belt, so perhaps the ice didn’t get that far north… here two slender ash were bent over and finally broke, but given that there are some ancient ash lining the driveway and locust as well – not sure whether they’re honey or black locust, I was pretty lucky, only the ends and bits of branches… but everywhere i went in the small communities it was mind numbing and terribly sad. Family in Toronto were without power for days, and one of my sons had tree damage, the other was very worried that an overhanging branch of an anciet maple would fall on the roof… so far not.

    Was and is still not a good sign… still people without power 11 days later And many small towns had no emergency plans… no warming centres, or spaces for the elderly or infirm to go. Hopefully people will start to wake up and realize that this is only the start – this, the typhoon in the Phillipines, the ship stuck in the ice in ant-arctica… all symptoms of Climate change and we don’t have a whole lot of time left, it’s only going to get worse… but this is an old rant, and one for another day.

    May you and your family have a wonderful year ahead! Happy new year, as well to all your readers. I so enjoy the comments section almost as much as your essays!

  • http://www.wildramblings.com Wild_Bill

    Sounds like a very serious ice storm Barbara. I know parts of Maine are just getting their power back, mostly rural unpopulated areas, but significant nonetheless. Hope everything goes good for you and Happy New Year! May you have the best year ever!

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