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.