Why can't we just get along?

Why can't we just get along?

© David Burton 2007


The human race just can't seem to get along with each other. Wars, genocides, internecine fighting, etc., continue to plague civilization - perhaps more now than ever before in human history. I have a problem in understanding the reasons for this behavior. You see, my family, my pets, and I have easily learned to get along with what I assume are several generations of raccoons. If we and raccoons can learn to get along with each other, why can't we supposedly inteligent creatures get along with each other?

My wife and I (and previously 2 daughters, five cats and a dog) have all live harmoniously with a family of raccoons. We moved into our house nearly 40 years ago. One feature of the house, an old New England Victorian, is an enclosed wrap-around front porch, shaped like the letter 'U'. Shortly after moving into the house, I noticed that on either side of the 'U' there appeared to be small areas of dug out dirt, providing access for some small creatures beneath the porch. Over the years, in addition to providing shelter for my family and our pets, our home has also been providing housing, rent free, to one or more families of raccoons.

How do I know that we share living quarters with raccoons? Easy - first, I have met with members of the family face-to-face, and second, I frequently see their footprints on my asphalt driveway following a rain.

In the nearly 40 years since we moved in, my family and our pets have lived in peaceful harmony with our 4-legged squatters. We don't bother the raccoons and the raccoons don't bother us. True, there have been accommodations on both our parts, but these have been quite minor and neither the racoons nor I seem to resent these adjustments.

The first accommodation that we made was in relationship to food. The raccoon family figured they were entitled to whatever food we put our with the trash. They were clever enough and had enough dexterity to tip over the trash barrels and remove the covers from the barrels before helping themselves to our leftovers. I solved this problem by tying down the barrel tops with bungee cords. The raccoons got the message and today I no longer bother with the bungee cords. The raccoons now leave the barrels alone.

I first met the raccoons several years ago. I was having my morning coffee in the kitchen when I heard a scratching at the back door. I went to the door to see who it was. There, standing on his hind legs on the back porch was a raccoon, scratching on the storm door. Since the raccoon couldn't reach the doorbell, he took the next logical approach - to scratch on the storm door window. The raccoon obviously wanted to come in and visit with me. I politely informed him that we didn't allow raccoons in the house and after a short wait at the back door, he or she left. The raccoons apparently got the message and we have not had any raccoons asking to come in and visit ever since.

My second meeting with the raccoon family occurred a short time later. My wife had left a large uncovered crock out on the back porch. Coming home from work one day, I met one of our family's cats who accompanied me up the steps of the back porch. The cat jumped up on the top of porch railing and went over to where the crock was located and took a deep interest in whatever was in the crock. Now it had rained a day or two previously and there were a few inches of rain water in the bottom of the crock. I walked over to see what was so interesting to my cat. I looked in and there, inside, was a raccoon taking a bath. I immediately backed away to give the raccoon some privacy. My cat, however, was not so polite. I called to the cat to come into the house with me before the raccoon might take umbrage at not being allowed to bathe in privacy. A raccoon’s claws can be dangerous and even lethal to a cat. Instead, the cat parked himself on the porch railing, just above the crock and reached down to touch the raccoon on its head. I fully expected a razor sharp claw to emerge from the crock and dispatch my cat to kitty heaven. However, the raccoon exhibited better manors than my cat and merely went on with its bathing. Finally, the cat lost interest and came into the house where I gave a sigh of relief.

These days, I never catch sight of my raccoon tenants. I suspect that that they have taken to sleeping during daylight and roaming about only during the nighttime. The only ways that I know they are still residing under the porch are as follows. In the winter, I can see their tracks in the snow leading to and from the entranceways to their living quarters under my front porch. During the rest of the year, I am reminded of their presence following a rain storm by the muddy footprints that they leave in our driveway (and sometimes on the hoods and roofs of the cars that we park there). I haven't bothered to try and get them to stay off our cars since their footprints wash off easily and they apparently take care not to scratch up the finishes on the cars.

We and the raccoons have now peacefully co-existed for nearly 40 years. We get along just fine. On the other hand, how many millions of people have been maimed, murdered, raped and tortured over that same period of time? We humans simply seem totally incapable of getting along with our own species. Why can I and the raccoons get along without conflict and the human race cannot get along with itself?

In the famous words of Rodney King, “"I just wanna say, can we all get along?" Unfortunately, the facts seem to say that the answer to Mr. King's question is no.

  26 May 2007 {Article 25; Whatever_06}    
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