Once upon a time not too far away in a place called Richardson Creek there lived a family of mammals called raccoons. There was Papa Raccoon, Mama Raccoon, a baby raccoon and then there was Ralph the obese raccoon. They all lived along the edge of the creek in the hollow of an old oak tree. Their fur was a grayish brown with black markings. Everyone knew the raccoon family because their faces looked as if they were wearing a black mask. Their tails were bushy and had black rings around it. They were one of the mammals that could be easily recognized. They had lived along the creek bank for years and had not strayed too far away until Ralph was born.
Ralph was not one to stay in a single place very long. As soon as he was old enough he began to roam the countryside just to see what he could see. Living in a hollow log was very boring and the sounds of things in the distance kept drawing him from the lazy creek bank. His curiosity often got the best of him even when he was just looking for something to eat. He didn’t think twice about sticking his hand in a hole to see what was living inside. He loved to climb tall trees and sneak eggs out of bird nest. He kept the trees alive with the sounds of the birds when they saw him. He was a dangerous predator to the nest and all birds kept watch every night.
Ralph slept all day and roamed the wild all night. Nothing was safe when Ralph was awake. If it moved, he thought he could eat it.
Now Ralph was a male raccoon with a huge appetite. He ate anything and everything. His diet consisted of berries, nuts, grub worms, snakes, worms, acorns, leaves, fish, grasshoppers and bird eggs. However his very favorite thing to do was to sneak out at night and raid people’s trash cans. There were two log cabins along the river bank and Ralph loved to visit them. Most of the raccoons were very shy and would never consider going up to a person’s house. Not so with Ralph for his food was his life. His tummy had to be full at all times or he was unhappy.
“Ralph don’t you think you need to lose a few pounds. It looks like you are getting a bit chubby!” Mama raccoon said with a sigh. “If you want to be able to fight off the foxes and eagles you need to be fast on your feet.” She cautioned. She knew an over weight raccoon would not be able to escape the talons of the eagle.
“Aw Mom you just worry way too much. I’m doing just fine. A growing raccoon has to eat well and I haven’t finished growing just yet!” He smiled giving his mother a look to show he was ok.
So Ralph continued to eat and did not heed his mother’s advice. He searched for food all night long. He didn’t have anything on his mind but what he was going to eat next. His nimble fingers could pick apart all sorts of nuts and his ability to make all sorts of sounds was getting better by the day. He practiced his screams, his snarls, his deep growls and his high-pitched whines.
“I’m good!” He said as he climbed head first down one of the tallest trees. “I can swim like a fish and I can drop fall from a tree forty feet high. I’m real good.” He said proudly.
“You can never be too good. There is always someone who is a little bit better.” Mama raccoon scolded. “Your pride might be the one thing that causes us all grief.” She tucked the food she had collected under her arm and walked slowly towards the hollow log. He is so stubborn, she thought to herself thinking about how much weight he had gained in the past week.
“A fat raccoon has a big problem!” She muttered softly to herself.
For weeks Ralph went every night to the log cabins and raided their trash cans. He ate everything he could find. The big problem was he littered the yard with all the papers and cans. As you might think all the families were very upset when they went outside and saw all the mess strewn everywhere. They could either get bigger and better cans with locks on the lids or they could buy traps and try to catch the culprit. They decided to get a large dumpster with a very heavy metal lid thinking this would certainly be the end of their trash problem.
“Oh! My!” Ralph gasped. “They have just ruined my food collection” He said as his eyes checked out the big green monster can. “Now I will just have to search harder to get my meals. People just have no respect for us critters!” He moaned sadly as he waddled back into the tall grass feeling all rejected. “No respect at all!”
“Mom you should see the huge container those people got to put their trash in. Now I can’t climb in and get food!” He rattled on, his sad eyes revealed the disappointment.
“Well it is time you went on a diet anyway. You have gotten so fat you can barely climb this tree. If you don’t lose some of that fat in your tummy you will be dinner for the first wild cat or wolf that comes our way.” Mama raccoon sounded loudly pointing her long nimble finger in Ralph’s face.
“You had better listen to me and stop eating so much. Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!” She preached.
So the next two months Ralph only ate what his mother allowed him to eat. His stomach growled for food but Ralph was not allowed to eat anything but grub worms.
“I’m so sick of the same thing day in and day out.” He moaned! “I need some real food or I’m just going to blow away. Why I’ll be so weak I can’t even run from the wolves!” He whined hoping his mother would give in and give him a big piece of fresh fish she had for dinner.
“No indeed! You have lost some of your fat tummy and we are going to continue until you are thin again.
You need to think about all of us instead of just yourself. If a wolf were to come we would need your help to keep the little ones safe. You can’t be selfish and just think of yourself all of the time.” Father raccoon said adding his two cents worth to the conversation. “Now go take the little ones for a walk and be careful not to stray too far. They will not be able to keep up.” He instructed.
So for the next few weeks Ralph walked and walked. His mother had him climbing tall trees and searching for all of their dinners. Ralph became a busy male raccoon and just in the nick of time.
“Gather the little ones quickly Ralph.” His mother screamed loudly. “The wolves are coming! Get everyone into the hollow immediately.”
Ralph gathered the little ones up and put them on his back. “Hang on everybody I’m going up this tree as fast as I can.” Ralph scampered up the tree and tucked the little babies into the hollow first. Then he waited until his mother and father were safely inside. The wolf was nearing the tree when Ralph popped inside the hollow tree.
“No raccoon meat tonight!” He smiled. “Ole Ralphie has become a lean, mean running machine!” So it was that Ralph saved his family from the wolves continuing to watch his weight and help protect his family.
“It is much better to be in good physical shape for you never know when you might need to escape from the evil predators!” He said hoping his brothers and sisters were paying attention. “Take it from me! I was a butterball and I would never have been able to climb that tree in time. Thanks Mom! You are the greatest Mom in the world!”
Ralph gave his mother a few grub worms and popped one into his mouth. He reminded himself that he was not yet as smart as his parents but he would be one day thanks to the strict lessons his mother had taught him.
“One day I’ll be just as wise as you Dad and if I keep exercising I just might become a heavy weight fighter!” He teased showing his pearly white teeth. “You just never know!”
Written by Sybil Shearin
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