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Not necessarily a man's best friend

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As garbage pails rattle in the summer night, let us now praise raccoons. With certain reservations, of course. For in the detente that exists between raccoons and the human race, who, we may ask, is pushing whom around, fellow victim?

Most of the legends about raccoons are told by Uncle Remuses whose pockets, as it were, have been picked.

A week or so ago a friend phoned to announce that, after a quarter of a century of country living, he had perfected his raccoon Maginot Line at last. "For every offense I have a defense," boasted our von Clausewitz of raccoon warfare.

Reckless man! The raccoon is the most indefatigable of guerrilla fighters. A few days later our very exhausted friend called to report, between huge yawns, his defeat and capitulation. Using the latest techniques of protest, the raccoons had spent their nights parading, very noisily across the roof above his bedroom. On the second night, shortly after 3 a.m., our friend staggered onto the porch waving a slice of white bread as a flag of surrender and abjectly unwired the lid to his garbage pail.

He has become another victim who will join all us other victims in telling tall tales about the cleverness of the raccoon, until the Scarlet Pimpernel seems a clumsy clod by comparison. Thrusting the photographic evidence under one another's noses, we exchange accounts of how our favorite enemies twist our doorknobs, enter our kitchens, open our refrigerators, turn on our faucets to wash down their chosen snack, or even unseat a bottle cap for a swig of soda.

Once beaten, a raccoon-humbled person, like our friend, will dedicate himself to overestimating the powers of his conqueror. Sterling "Rascal" North claimed he knew a raccoon that would trot upstairs and take a shower whenever that word was dropped into the conversation.

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