Robert Hitt Neill Column
Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2008
This didn’t happen to me, but it’s too good a story to pass up, and the Statute of Limitations should have run out by now. Besides, the main hero is somewhere in Texas nowadays, and we’ll change any names to protect the innocent
A country homeowner went to his roadside mailbox one morning, and there in the road was a raccoon which had been hit by a car during the night. This was a big boar coon which area homeowners knew well, and he had acquired the name of Albert.
Albert came a’calling in the evenings, checked the dog’s bowl for any leftover vittles therein, looked for scraps around the barbecue grill, and just cleaned up in general around the houses, plus maybe caught a mouse or so that might have gotten inside on a cold day. Albert was easy to recognize, being so large – he must have weighed 30 pounds – and was almost tame. The homeowner in question really hated to see him terminated by a late-night rider.
It was a sunny summer Monday, already hot. A 30-pound coon dead in the road is big enough recently deceased, but one that has been in that state for maybe twelve hours is even bigger. Albert looked almost like a hog just to the side of mid-road. The homeowner could tell from the mailbox 20 steps away that Albert was beginning to, as Martha told Jesus about the pre-resurrected Lazarus, “Lord, he stinketh!” By noon he would be unapproachable.
The homeowner went back to the house for a large, heavy-gauge garbage bag and a shovel. With the spade, he rolled Albert into the bag, which predictably released more rankness into the nearby atmosphere, and quickly twisted the sack closed to reduce the odor emanating therefrom.
He was carrying the heavy sack when a young friend in his pickup drove by, saw him walking back toward the house, and swung into the driveway. They had hardly exchanged greetings when the younger man asked what was in the sack.
“A dead coon,” the homeowner replied. Then he added, “Say, you headed out toward the river?” The driver was.
“Well, how about dropping Albert off the bridge? Someone ran over him last night, so he needs disposing of fairly soon, and turtles got to eat, too.” The driver agreed and accepted the bag.
The young man almost forgot Albert until he was across the bridge, then he remembered and slammed on his brakes, glancing in the mirror to make sure no one was behind him, like no car was visible for over a mile ahead of him. He backed up 50 feet, got out, reached over the side rail, picked up the sack, and gave it a mighty heave. There was a muffled “Splat” in the shallow muddy water below.
As he shifted into drive to pull off the bridge, suddenly two sheriff deputies appeared from a church driveway across the road, blocking him. He shifted into Park and got out to see what the lawmen wanted. They were investigating a missing person report from a rural church right there at the riverbank, and had observed him suddenly brake, back up quickly, and toss a heavy sack over the bridge railing. “What was in that sack?” one of the deputies asked loudly in an Official Question Tone Of Voice.
One must understand that the young man being Officially Questioned was from Texas, where the minority race is Hispanic. He was not raised up hearing colloquialisms that rural Southerners used to hear in those decades before Enlightenment, nor did he consider his answer in view of the fact that the two deputies and the nearby church were all of different ethnic origins than he was. He replied in complete innocence, and total honesty, “A dead coon.”
This was the Wrong Answer, no matter how truthful!
The driver was fortunate that the water underneath the bridge was shallow enough to be waded rather easily, so that the heavy bag could be retrieved for examination by the deputies. It did indeed contain a dead raccoon, which would have been a much better noun for him to use to reply to the Official Question.