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"What's that moving in the bushes?" questioned Wayne Evers as he stood perfectly still.

"It's some kind of a critter thing," I answered.

Wayne picked up a long bamboo pole and began pushing it in and out of the thick clumps of bamboo, which surrounded the boy's dormitory at the orphanage where we lived.

"Probably just a big old possum," he said.

About that time, this funny looking thing came running out of the cane. It ran across the field headed for the blackberry bushes by the back fence of the orphanage.

"IT'S A COON!" yelled Wayne.

Every boy in the orphanage came running out to see what was happening. However, by the time they all got to where we were standing, the coon had made its way into the safety of the blackberry bushes.

"I ain't never seen no bacoon before," I said.

"Ain't any bacoon, stupid. It's a raccoon," said one of the bigger boys.

"How come it's got two black eyes?" I questioned.

"It's born with black eyes," said Wayne.

Just as about 15 of us boys, all 7 to 10 years old were about to surround the raccoon, we heard the house parents calling us for supper. Immediately, we ran back to the dormitory building. We washed our hands and faces, and then got into two straight lines so we could march over to the dining room.

After we ate our supper of eggplant, powered milk and bread, we all ran back out to the field to see if the raccoon was still hiding in the large bushes. After looking for about half an hour, we decided he had escaped.

"Sure would have been nice to hunt the critter down," said one of the new boys who had just moved into the orphanage.

"There he is. I seen him move!" yelled another boy.

Within seconds, we surrounded the animal and there was no escape.

"I'll get a cardboard box to keep him in," hollered one boy.

Soon he had returned and within minutes, we had the raccoon captured beneath the large box.

"Whose gonna get him out?" asked Wayne.

"Not me. He might have big old teeth in his face and he might bite us," I said.

It was suggested by one of the boys that we break off large pieces of bamboo and build a cage around the large box. That way, we could tear the box away and the raccoon could not escape. Like beavers hard at work, we built a cane cage around the creature. Then we waited for someone to get up enough nerve to reach in and tear apart the cardboard box. We were all excited to examine the beast.

Eugene slowly reached into the cage and thumped on the box. Every time he tried to pull on the box, the raccoon jumped all around scaring the heck out of us kids. After about 10 or 15 tries, the box fell apart and Eugene pulled it out of the bamboo cage.

"WOW!" Look at the size of that critter. My Daddy used to hunt coons and he ain't never got one that big," said one of the boys

"Why would somebody hunt coons? Can you eat ‘em for meat?" I asked.

"Can't eat no coon. They got disease, I think," said Wayne.

"What are we gonna do with him?" asked Frankie, Wayne's brother.

"Were gonna hunt him like my daddy did," said the new boy.

"Hunt him? We ain't got no gun. You gotta be old to have a real gun," I replied.

"Don't need a gun. We got bows and arrows," said another boy.

"You just gonna kill it in the cage?" I asked.

"Yeah!" screamed the boy.

"That ain't no fair. He ain't got no chance," I said.

"Let's make him a bed for the night and tomorrow, we'll decide what we’re gonna do," said Wayne.

We gathered up as much pine straw as possible and forced it in the cage, so the raccoon would have a bed for the night. Several of the boys threw in some bread crusts they stole from the dining room at suppertime, so the raccoon could have some food to eat. Then we all marched back to the dormitory where we took showers and went to bed.

We boys made our own bows and arrows out of bamboo. Our arrows had steel tips, which we made from coca cola tops and they were real sharp.

All night long, I had bad dreams about the raccoon and what some of the boys wanted to do to him. I could not sleep 'cause of thinking about the critter being locked up in a cage. He was just like the boys here, with big, high steel fences all around the orphanage to keep us in.

I got out of my bed and shook Wayne to get him up. I told him that it was not fair to kill something that hadn't done anything wrong.

"What can we do about it?" said Wayne.

We can let it go, before everyone gets out of school tomorrow," I said.

"We gotta do it fast and we gotta do it in the dark or we'll get caught," he noted.

"Like right now in the dark?" I asked, my eyes getting really big.

"We can go out and let him go right now. That was a good idea,” he said.

"I ain't had no idea like that," I replied. "Can Frankie go out there with us?"

"NO! Frankie will tell on us," said Wayne.

Within minutes, Wayne and I had dressed and were slowing making our way down the back staircase. We took one silent step at a time, so as not to wake the matron or any of the other boys.

"Man, it's darker than black out here," I told Wayne as we made our way out to the area where the cage was.

"Shhhh," he whispered.

"Wayne, we need a light or he's gonna bite the heck out of us when we get there," I said.

"Shhhh, I got a match I stole from the matron."

He struck the match, but it immediately went out. Then he tried another and another, but they would not stay lit. We inched forwarded just a little bit at a time. Wayne continued trying to get a match to light as we slowly walked toward the cage. Finally, a match stayed lit. Just as it lit, Wayne tripped over the cage and fell into it. He screamed, I screamed and all heck broke loose. The raccoon went running to who knows where.

The next thing I knew, the pine straw was ablaze and within seconds, it was like daylight outside. The fire was spreading across the field like gasoline traveling across water after a bad shipwreck. Wayne and I ran as fast as we could back toward the dormitory. Just as we arrived, all the boys were running down the stairs to see what had happened. The matron was on the phone with the fire department.

In about 10 minutes, three fire trucks from the Jacksonville Fire Department were on the scene and the fire was out in about 15 minutes. No one ever knew how the fire started, except Wayne and me. It burnt about half an acre, before it was contained.

The fire was talked about for years after that. It was finally decided by several of the boys that the raccoon probably started the fire as he tried to bite through the bamboo. Kind of like someone rubbing two sticks together, until they get like really hot and then it starts a fire.

That sounded like a good story to us.

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