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Cute, but potentially deadly

No, not me. I've never had the cutting edge it takes to be called deadly. This guy who wandered into the garden center yesterday afternoon qualifies, however.

He parked himself under a cart full of potting soil, the soil I was using to move Black Pearl Peppers and Dragon Wing Begonias into larger containers. He was acting funny, very subdued. He was moving slowly and once he found his shady spot under the cart he decided to camp there. And, of course, raccoons are nocturnal and he was out strolling in the middle of the afternoon! That alone was enough to make us all cautious.

I moved all my supplies to another potting bench and even got a new bale of soil to work from. We warned customers who wanted to check out annuals displayed near his spot, and we workers were all wary and watchful when we were in his vicinity. I didn't even clean up my mess, and I never leave the potting bench a mess when I'm done working for the day.

Raccoons are definitely cute, with their little handlike feet and distinctive masks. We all went around trying to remember the lyrics to the Beatles' "Rocky Raccoon." Everyone who works there found a reason to wander over to check on him, several times, and it was hard for me to concentrate on work that takes almost no concentration at all.

I left around 4 p.m. and he was still in his spot. Three hours later I got a text message from the owner: Rocky had bitten my co-worker. She was walking out of a greenhouse and didn't notice that he'd moved out from under the soil cart. He attacked her swiftly, biting her shin. At the hospital, she was given eight injections containing the most up-to-date rabies treatment available. I got a call later with more details.

The E.R. doctor decided to be safe and go ahead and treat my co-worker for rabies. Our tiny local hospital just happened to have the treatment on hand; most hospitals don't stock it because it's rarely needed and is very expensive. But there have been a few cases of rabies in southern West Virginia this year, including one death in the county just south of us, so the medicine was readily available.

The raccoon was destroyed and will be tested for rabies today. As much as I like animals, I can't say I'm sorry he won't be there when I go to work today.

We spend a lot of time enjoying nature around here. What southern West Virginia lacks in Starbucks, multiplexes and Target stores we make up for in rivers, ponds and woods. But nature can be deadly, or at the least, scary. I see a snake almost every day, and pull a tick off myself or my dog at least once a week. I even saw a bobcat once, a long time ago, and we've had black bear sightings on our road.

This incident, along with all the crazy weather-related crises the world has experienced recently, reminds me that when it's Man vs. Nature, Nature has the upper hand.

And what does all this have to do with knitting, running, reaping or eating? Not a damned thing. Heh.


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