Victoria asks, “Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?”
CLaire, who is riding just in front of Victoria on the trail, twists in her saddle to look at Victoria and replies, “Animal.”
To eliminate the obvious, Victoria asks, “Is it a mammal?”
Claire, twisting again, says, “Yes.”
Twenty questions is Claire’s favorite long trail ride past time. No one has ever counted the number of questions. It usually takes upwards of an hour of guessing to get to the answer, but not this time. Victoria had already guessed at the answer.
“Does it have sharp teeth?”
Keeping looking forward, Claire hollers, “Yes!’
Standing up and out of the saddle and fiercely clutching the reins, Victoria hollers back, “Is it a raccoon?!!!!”
“YES!!!!!!!” shouts Claire.
Maya, in the lead on Velvet, responding to the subject, not the game, says, in what is, for her, an unusually clear and penetrating voice, “Victoria, you’ve got to remember to bring your arrows into the tent tonight!”
Besides the arrows, they collect shoes and rocks and set up Claire’s iphone to blast loud music if necessary.
They were not so prepared the previous night.
Because of Chavali’s displaced patella, the horse camping trip was delayed for a day. Claire had said, “But if you’ve got the camp reserved already, can’t we take Stoney and Cowgirl up the first night and we can at least camp there? And that is just what we did. Claire and Maya and Victoria had unpacked the trailer, set up the tent, packed away the food, cooked dinner, made the camp fire and did all of it while running, leaping or jumping and babbling and yacking back and forth to each other the entire time. My presence only served the purpose of answering questions like “Where are the matches?” I was also, I assume, useful in the function of being the person who could actually drive the trailer.
The girls set up the tent right next to the two paddocks where Stoney and Cowgirl were housed. I momentarily considered setting up the other tent next to them, but knew I’d get no sleep. Instead I pulled the trailer alongside the tent, figuring I could sleep in the trailer tack room loft and be near enough to know if there was any trouble.
The girls had not been thorough in attending to all the unpacking details and had left a couple of duffles and one IKEA bag scattered around the entrance to the trailer tack room. As I was dozing off, I heard the characteristic shuffling and scratching of the nightly invasion of hungry raccoons as they examined the bags for signs of food. I called to the girls out the window to tell them about the raccoons, but they were too busy yacking and giggling to hear me.
At one in the morning, I was too sound asleep to hear them. Their call awakened me from the deepest sleep. Not sure if it was a dream or if I’d even heard anything in the first place, I looked out the window. The tent was still; no noise or disturbance of any kind in or around it.
Fifteen minutes later, having only dozed off, I was awakened by the wobbling beams of flashlights outside the window. The girls were making noise, wiggling the tent, waving the lights; it looked like a space ship trying to take off.
“Claire, Maya, Victoria!”
“Deborah!!! It snarled! It was making noises! It tried to get in the tent! We need to come sleep in the trailer!!!!!!!”
Apparently two raccoons had decided to mix it up right outside their tent. After calling out for me and scaring them off, they decided that they should just stay still and quiet as possible and had spent ten minutes hugging each other, trembling in terror, every little sound; a deer jumping through the brush, Stoney drinking water, Cowgirl rubbing her butt on the pipe rail fencing; renewed and fed their fear. Claire finally figured she could use her cell phone to call her mom who told them to make noise and turn on the lights.
We spread out a tarp over the shavings and manure and the girls gratefully laid their sleeping bags down on top and fell fast asleep.
On the evening of the next day, after our ride. after the horses were fed and watered and the paddocks cleaned and it was time to start making dinner, I couldn’t find the bowls.
“Does anyone know where the bowls are?”
Maya, who had just sat down in front of the tent, unzips the front flap, pulls out a bowl and says, “They’re in here; for banging pots and pans.” To this, Claire adds, “Oh, and can we have the skillet?”
At the request of the ranger, we’d moved the tent to the proper camp ground. At the request of the girls, I’d moved my sleeping mat and bag out in front of the tent. Going to sleep I heard Maya say, “I feel much better with Deborah sleeping out there. Gosh, I was soooo scared!”
There were a few raccoon prints on the camp chairs and the trash can in site one had been over turned, but none of the drama of the night before. Victoria was down right disappointed that she didn’t get to use her arrows.
Although the girls will never forget the snarling raccoon; the verified the sound by searching for snarling raccoon videos on youtube; the rest of our wildlife encounters were limited to deer, coyote and turkeys. The rest of the days consisted of leaping creeks, fording rivers, galloping up trails that zigzagged through redwood forests and playing pass the branch, the other favorite trail ride past time, that involved tossing objects from rider to rider. Despite the raccoons, they’d spend the entire summer at the camp, given the chance.