Thursday, November 15, 2007

Raccoons Meet Ostrich Egg

Several weeks ago a friend dropped off an Ostrich egg as a gift. You have to know both of us to understand why this is not an unusual thing in either of our lives, but that is a subject for a different post. For now let's concentrate on this amazing thing called an Ostrich egg. For those who have never seen one up close, it is huge and it is almost impossible to crack open. Without the mama Ostrich's help breaking open the hard shell, the baby inside would never get out alive. If the mama forgets or is somehow injured, the baby Ostrich dies inside the egg.

I suspect that's what happened to this one and because I didn't want to drill it open to drain whatever icky contents were inside, but I still wanted to keep the egg, I put it out in my garden to hopefully dry up and evaporate the innards over time. It looked pretty cool out there in a tall bunch of grass, almost as if the mama bird was returning at any moment to sit on it some more. And since my life is insanely busy this time of year, I forgot it was there.

One night I was working in my office getting my various online shops ready for the holiday shopping seaon when I heard that crazy chattering sound that raccoons make when something gets their attention. I looked out the window and there was a family of mom and three youngsters crouched around the Ostrich egg. They had stumbled upon the find of the century and their little raccoon minds were working overtime trying to figure out a way to take advantage of such a marvelous piece of luck. I watched the mama tackle it first, as if showing the youngsters how to do the job properly. She tried to bite into it and backed off in surprise. She then scratched at it slowly and then harder to no avail. Then the youngsters chattering the whole time, circled and smacked at it.

This went on for about ten minutes and finally the family sat around and chattered with what I'm sure was complete and total frustration over finding this amazing thing and not being able to get inside the juicy and deliciously stinky contents. And then they figured out that they'd go hungry if they didn't set this task aside and move on to some nice overflowing recycle bin or trash can down the road. But they couldn't just leave it there for some luckier creature to steal from them. After all, they found it first and had spent a lot of time and energy trying to crack the mystery of its hard shell.

In unison and with an amazing integration of group effort and will they began to push and roll the egg toward the 80 year old pear tree I suspect they sleep in during the day. This is not a small trek. It's way on the other side of the garden and it took them quite a while to get it there. Finally I could see them do the equivilent of wiping their little raccoon brows as the egg was finally at the foot of the tree.

And that's when the realization set in. It was too heavy to haul up the tree to safety. It would have to stay where it was. I swear those raccoons chattered in a final fit of total disgust: "Just leave the damn thing. It probably tastes like crap anyway."

I haven't seen them the last few nights. Maybe the shame is too much. Maybe the egg taunts them with its presence so they've moved to another tree. Maybe they decided that a nice trash can is a much better choice. And maybe, just maybe a new legend is taking shape in the world of raccoons that will be told over and over again to the young ones under the light of a full moon about a magical egg that was so sacred and special no one was ever able to crack it open and eat its holy contents.

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