Lester, Eunice, Billy, Charles, and Carolyn: McClellan Family #1 and Raccoon #1:

The year must have been Spring, 1950! Billy was fifteen (15), Charles was fourteen (14) and Carolyn was eight (8) years of age. The Kenneth Chupp family had come from De Leon, Texas to the Lester McClellan home in the Liberty Community, Coleman County, Texas to visit and purchase hogs. The hogs were running loose in a big pasture on a farm in south Coleman County. While trying to round-up the hogs, Lester and Kenneth happened upon a large, tall Elm tree that had been hit by a lightening strike! The tree was topless, and the remaining tree trunk was about fifteen feet tall! Its topmost part was blackened where the tree had been burned by the lightening strike. As the men examined the tree, they saw movement in the blackened top and discovered that a raccoon was in the blackened hollow of the tree! They guessed that a mother raccoon had a home in the tree and that she might have babies in the hollow of the tree! The two men began yelling, pounding on the tree trunk with tree limbs that they found on the ground, and throwing rocks at the blackened top of the tree trunk. Soon, the mother raccoon rushed out of the tree hollow, down the tree trunk, and scurried away into the wooded pasture. Lester climbed the tree trunk to the blackened hollow, announcing that it contained two baby raccoons! He handed both baby raccoons down to Kenneth, who delivered one to Billy and the other to Charles. The search for and purchase of hogs then continued successfully. The Chupp family took a raccoon baby with them to De Leon, Comanche County and the Lester McClellan family kept the other raccoon in Coleman County, where they soon selected the name name “Booger” for their new pet!

Lester and Eunice McClellan, parents of Billy, Charles, and Carolyn, guided their children to care for the new pet by finding a small wire chicken cage where the raccoon was to be kept. They taught the children to feed and water the new pet; taught them how to play with Booger; helped them clean his cage, move his cage out of the house in day time and into the house at night; helped them know when and how to let the raccoon out of his cage in the house and in the yard. By December, 1950, Booger was fully a member of the Lester McClellan family! Christmas-time, 1950 came and the youth group of First Baptist Church of Santa Anna, Texas was Christmas Caroling the week before Christmas. The Lester McClellan’s was the last house to be caroled and refreshments were to be server after the caroling. The carolers stood outside the chain-link fence with the gate open singing a carol, when a piercing yell interrupted the singing: “THE COON!” a girl yelled! (Booger, the raccoon, had jumped on to her bare leg, clinging to her leg with his cold feet!) The singing stopped! The carolers stampeded into the house, only to find that Booger was already in the house!

Booger was given more and more freedom as he grew into adulthood! He was required to stay outside day and night, but he did not agree with that plan. He learned to open the screen doors of the house and let himself into the house. He was not a helpful guest! Eunice solved the problem of self-entry by installing a latch at the top and bottom of each screen door, so that she had to let Booger into the house and would know to be was inside. It was three days before Christmas, 1950 that someone did not latch a screen door and Booger let himself into the house while the family was away! When they returned home, they found Booger sitting under the Christmas tree, tearing into a Christmas present of a carton of Camel cigarettes, opening each pack of cigarettes and rolling each cigarette between his paws, scattering shredded tobacco on the floor, on other presents, and on himself!

Occasionally, when Eunice McClellan had guests, she would give her guests an opportunity to hear Booger enter the house(she would leave a screen door unlatched; they could hear the screen door bang against the door frame), listen for Booger to run under the bed and hide; watch for him to come into the kitchen; watch him scout the room where they were sitting by slowly walking abound the room, smelling, listening, and looking; watch him walk around the chair that had been left at the dining table, then jump into the chair seat, walk around the seat smelling and looking; and watch him jump onto the table top, walk slowly around the edge of the table, continuing to smell, look, and listen; finally, he would go to the center of the table, find the sugar bowl in the middle of the dining table, and watch him walk around the sugar bowl, smelling, looking, and listening; then they would watch him sit with his back next to the sugar bowl, looking around, smelling, listening; then one of his paws would slowly reach back to touch the sugar bowl and get some sugar; then, Eunice would say: “Booger! What are you doing?” Booger would make a mad dash off the table, out of the room , and under the bed in the bedroom.

The Lester McClellan’s did not get to keep Booger as a pet beyond the summer of 1951. The now grown raccoon was not kept in the wire cage at night, but was kept outside where he could roam and investigate. He would come home in the morning and lay around the McClellan house all day. On morning he did not come home! Lester told Billy, Charles, and Carolyn that he had probably been killed by a neighbor, especially if he was in their chicken house! Sure enough, a neighbor had found him in a tree in his back yard and had shot him. When the racoon fell out of the tree the man saw his collar and guessed he had killed someone’s pet!

Billy, Joy, Russell, and Stanley: McClellan Family #2 and Raccoon #2:

The year must have been 1967 … probably June, 1967! This McClellan family was living in Valley Mills, Texas and were deeply involved in the Boy Scout Troop sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Valley Mills. Billy and Russell were leaving Camp Tahuaya, located south of Belton, Texas where they had delivered the Valley Mills scout troop for a week of scout camp. Russell was ten (10) years old and too young to attend scout camp! Darkness was closing in fast as they slowly drove from the 147 acre camp on the two-lane paved road with the car lights on! Suddenly, a mother raccoon and her three babies appeared in the road in front of them! Billy slammed on the brakes and bolted from the car toward the nearest baby raccoon, grabbing him before he could run away! The baby raccoon was young enough that it did not bite and scratch to free itself from Russell’s grip on the trip back to Valley Mills, where Russell introduced the baby raccoon to his mother, Joy, and his brother, Stanley! Joy quickly prepared a small baby bottle with warm milk for the baby raccoon, which it immediately began to suck! A small animal trap was brought from the garage closet to be the cage for the baby raccoon until a larger, better cage could be found. Joy placed a towel in the bottom of the cage, tied a cup of water in one corner of the cage, and placed the caged baby raccoon in the garage for the night. Discussions began about a name for the little fuzzy animal! Soon, agreement was reached that the black, mask-like area around the raccoon’s eyes made him look like a ‘bandit!’ Thus, the name for the new pet … Bandit, the raccoon!

Russell and Stanley played with Bandit several hours every day, inside and outside of the house! When Bandit would climb a tree in the yard, they would coax him down from the tree with orange slices! When he would hide under a bed, they would hide from him in the hall, waiting for his curiosity to drag him out of hiding! They would pretend to be asleep on the couch in the family room, waiting for Bandit to jump upon the couch and attack them … biting their fingers, ears, and head! After a the playtime, Bandit would wander into the kitchen where he would feel around the cabinet doors and the refrigerator doors in attempts to pry a door open! He was able to open some of the doors and drag out the contents of the cabinet, before the boys or their mother could distract him or put him outside!

Bandit lived with us into the winter, probably early December, 1971. At this time we were visited by Joe Stevens, Billy’s friend and fellow Baptist pastor. Joe was also a Texas Game Warden for three or four central Texas counties, including Bosque County where Valley Mills was located, so, Bandit was of interest to him. As Russell and Stanley played with Bandit during the visit, Game Warden Stevens asked: “Do you know it it against the law to own or keep a raccoon as a pet?” Billy and Joy were startled by this question for they had not considered they might be breaking the law by making the raccoon a family pet. An informative conversation with Game Warden Stevens was concluded with the question: “What do you suggest that we do with Bandit, since we cannot continue to keep him?” Officer Stevens suggested that the raccoon might be given to the Waco/McLennan County Zoo, if they have room for him. This suggestion was a fitting end to Joe Stevens visit and provided this McClellan family with a hopeful solution to care for a much loved pet. The Waco/McLennan County Zoo was called and arrangements were made for Bandit to be delivered to the zoo within the week!