As I grew older, my permissible boundaries were expanded (see “Walking to Susie’s”). By the time I was eight or nine, it was not uncommon for me to announce, in the morning, at breakfast, “I think I am going to take a walk down to the marshes” (about two miles from the house) , and I would pick up my Brownie box camera and leave the house, often for most of the day. The only instructions I received were to be careful around the water, especially along the steep banks above the creek and the river.
The entire time that I lived on the farm, at least once a month, all year round, I would take off and walk the trails, hills, ravines and even the marshes of the farm.Raccoons are very agile and flexible, and this one brought its hind feet up and clawed at my hand, leaving several deep The only real misadventure I experienced was when I was about 12 or 13 (1956 or 1957). On this walk, near the marshes, I encountered a small raccoon in a hollow in a dead tree trunk. I took a photo of it staring out at me. Then, because it looked so cute and harmless, I reached in and grabbed it by the scruff of the neck to pull it out of the tree.
scratches across the back of my hand and down between my fingers. It hurt, and I quickly dropped the critter. It ran off into the underbrush, happy to be rid of me.
There was a running artesian well nearby and I rinsed the scratches in the fresh water running from the well. The cold water eased the pain, and I went on my way.
That night, my hand began to really hurt, and soon my hand was swollen so much that you could hardly see between my fingers. That was when my parents decided that I needed medical attention. We went to Williamsburg Community Hospital. I explained what had happened. The doctor diagnosed the infection, gave me a shot of penicillin and told me to soak my hand in a warm solution of Epsom salts to relieve the swelling.
I recovered quickly, but learned a critical lesson—don’t pet the cute wild animal!