Friday, March 24, 2017

Bandit

It was the summer of 1971 and the Simpson family was living in a mobile home behind what was then the Plateau filling station on the south of Blanding. Woody, our paternal grandfather, was working in Cisco, Colorado, clearing brush for the Nielson brothers.

Craig, Barry and I ran the service station, pumping gas, checking oil, repairing punctured tires, washing windows and drinking Pepsi Cola. At eleven, twelve and thirteen years of age, we were fully in charge. When one of us had a ball game or other important event, the others would sub in. If for some reason we were all gone at once, Rose and Duke took over.

Woody, whose name was actually Woodrow Wilson Simpson, was a handyman's handyman. When it came to welding, driving a Caterpillar tractor or repairing a pick-up truck, there was none better. At times it seemed he could design, build or repair anything. As for catskinning, it was said that Woody could level land so well water would run in either direction. Many testified they had personally witnessed this landscaping miracle.

After a week’s work in Cisco, Woody would often stop by the filling station to say hello and have a soda. On one particular occasion, he came home a few days early. Upon pulling his Ford into one of the fueling bays, he reached into the back of his truck and pulled out a gunny sack full of squirming, chattering critters. “What’s that?” we shouted. “Coons,” he proudly proclaimed.

Apparently Woody had found a nest of kits. Their mother had either abandoned them or been run over during the clearing campaign, so Woody, being a lover of all animals great and small, decided to adopt the whole bunch. As it turned out, they were more than he could handle at his camp trailer, so he was intent on farming them out to his family and friends. We were an intended recipient. After considerable discussion, Rose and Duke consented and we became the proud owners of a baby raccoon. Never known for our creativity, we named him “Bandit.”

Since our home had only two bedrooms, every night Craig, Barry and I rolled out sleeping bags and slept on the living room floor. When he was small, Bandit would crawl inside the bags and sleep at our feet. As Bandit progressed into full grown maturity, we realized our sleeping arrangements would have to change. While building a run to confine him, we put a dog house out in the yard and staked Bandit to a chain, which was in line with the custom of the time. Every morning Bandit would exit his new abode and pace back and forth on his chain, eventually wearing a semicircular path in front of his new dwelling.

During his tenure in the house, Bandit had developed a fondness for the yellow tabby cat we called Tigger. That’s right, T-I-double Ga-Er. Tigger, on the other hand, realizing there was no future in the relationship, had no love for Bandit and consequently avoided him at all cost.

Noting that Bandit’s mobility had been circumscribed, Tigger began sitting just outside the perimeter of Bandit’s walking path, licking her paws and tempting him with her considerable charm. That drove Bandit crazy, and he tried every conceivable trick to reach the feline. It was, however, no use, the cat always stayed just beyond Bandit’s reach.

One morning we looked out the kitchen window to see how Bandit was getting on and noticed he no longer paced at the end of his chain. Instead, he had withdrawn a few feet and was pacing a short path back and forth. It was clear the cat, was about to make a grave miscalculation.

Assuming Bandit was, as always, at the end of his rope, Tigger strolled out and sat down; just inside the worn semicircle. Bandit continued to pace until the cat began preening. Sensing Tigger was not paying attention to her surroundings, Bandit streaked out, scooped up the cat and held it like one lover holds another. Tigger, too startled to howl, spit or scratch, wilted in Bandit’s arms.

Unfortunately Bandit was also shocked by his success, and after momentarily holding the cat firmly to his breast decided he did not know what to do with his captive. All those months of anticipation had given way to an uneasy climax and unattainable circumstances. With no other alternative, and knowing he would never hold her again, Bandit gently released his captive. Surely his heart was heavy as the cat scampered to safety.

When the trading post is slow or work difficult, and I start wishing for something different, I often think of Bandit and wonder what I would do if I actually got what I desired.