The Masked Bandit of Tygart Lake
Jenny Lee McGinn
Copyright 2020 by Jenny Lee McGinn
few years ago, we spent a fabulous weekend in rural West Virginia
with longtime friends from Ohio. The four of us rented a beautiful
cabin together at Tygart Lake State Park near the peak of autumn with
full myriad colors beginning to flourish. The structure was small
with a rustic feel, yet tastefully decorated with pictures of “lake
life” wall hangings and comfortable living room furniture. A
small bathroom separated two bedrooms; one with twin beds, the other
a queen. Although the bathroom met all the requirements one would
hope, complete with a toilet, sink and shower, the shower was quite
narrow without much room to move. It provided little more room than a
coffin, so none of us dawdled as we did not wish for claustrophobia
to set in. The fully functional kitchen met our needs perfectly with
not only a cookstove, microwave, and coffee maker, but the cupboards
were stocked with plenty of pans, dishes, glasses, and silverware.
With wood paneling throughout and a stone fireplace to boot, the
cabin was a relaxing atmosphere in which to laugh and enjoy ourselves
with wonderful friends.
the porch we saw a large black trash can lined with a plastic bag
inside curiously leaning against the railing. It appeared to be a
normal, run-of-the-mill trash can, yet upon closer inspection, we
discovered it had a lid none of us had ever seen before. The twist
top lid was more than childproof; we four grown adults had difficulty
opening it. We later learned from a park ranger that this style trash
can is so designed to keep the hungry raccoons out of it. He informed
us that it was not uncommon for them to rummage through the trash
cans, and the screw on lids kept them out. Even though we struggled
to open and close the lid, we were relieved that its stubbornness was
to prevent wildlife from delighting in our refuse.
first night we had a small amount of trash which we kept in the
kitchen. It wasn’t until the second night we transferred the
trash to the outside can. We twisted the lid shut, and no one thought
anything more about it.
five o’clock the next morning, I awoke to a knocking sound.
After realizing it was not a dream, I looked out our bedroom window.
There, in the darkness, I could barely make out a figure rustling and
scratching on the trash can. Too small for a bear, I concluded that
it was a raccoon. Clearly awake and now curious, I jumped out of bed,
quickly dressed, and went to the front door to observe the activity.
One friend was awake by now and I called her to the front door. We
had enough light from the cabin to see the raccoon working diligently
on the trash can. When we turned on the outside light, the masked
bandit stopped briefly, then continued on as if to say, “Hey,
thanks for the light!”
several minutes we watched the critter twist and pull, bite and grab,
chew and scratch on the can. He used the porch railings to brace
himself while attempting to open the lid. The raccoon was large,
running approximately 20-25 pounds. We decided that since it was so
big, it must’ve been a male. I attempted to take photographs,
but it was too dark to obtain a clear picture of the rascal. After
several minutes, my friend returned to bed, but I stayed on, anxious
to see the outcome. I deducted that this fella was quite skilled in
trash can lid removal, even the screw top variety. After all, he had
several cabins of which to choose, a full buffet of myriad scraps and
leftovers to feast upon!
I watched him tenaciously yet methodically work on the lid, I saw he
was actually unscrewing it! The dedication and determination he
possessed was impressive! At this point I realized three things were
about to occur- he would open the lid, feast on his findings, and
leave us a terrible mess. Not wanting to have trash scattered about
the porch and yard to undoubtedly attract other wildlife, I
distracted him. As I cautiously opened the door, he swiftly crawled
off the can and railing then scurried away from the porch towards our
parked cars. As a token prize I threw a few pretzels onto the porch,
closed the door, and waited. Within minutes, I observed him return.
He found the crunchy snacks and began devouring them, but he was too
close to the door for me to pull the can inside. After he finished
his snack, he returned to complete his quest of opening the lid to
feast on the inside. Once again I opened the door, this time with a
handful of cheese puffs, and threw them further away. They landed in
the grass near the walkway leading to the porch. The raccoon paid no
mind to the cheesy snacks. Instead, I watched in utter amazement as
he braced himself once more on the porch railings, held onto the can,
and with great determination and persistence, he performed the last
twist and opened the lid.
simply could not allow him to continue, so I opened the door once
more with hopes that he would scurry away again. He did. It wasn’t
until he disappeared into the shadows of darkness that I quickly
slipped out the door and dragged the opened can inside, then closed
the door behind me.
watched for our furry visitor to return, and sure enough he did
within a minute or two. He found a cheese puff and ate it, then
discovered the others in the yard. As he munched on the cheesy
delight, I smiled. After all, he deserved to enjoy some fruits of his
labor, even if they didn’t come from the can.
minutes passed, and he sauntered up to the porch yet again after
finishing his snack. He waddled around to the front of the porch out
of sight, and after deciding he was no longer a threat, I returned to
bed. Our early morning visitor proved quite entertaining, but a
lesson also learned.
all have within us the necessary determination when we want something
the raccoon opening the trash can, he was not giving up until his
task was complete; his end result being rewarded with the food
inside. We are no different. When we are tenacious enough, like the
masked bandit of Tygart Lake, we are met with the satisfaction of
accomplishment, and, when done properly, we are motivated to perform
successfully on the next task or project.
I reside in rural Pennsylvania and enjoy writing
poems, songs, and short stories, often for other people on special
occasions. I have two faithful pups who are by my side as much as
they can be! Spending time with them as well as my family and friends
is important and when weather permits, wind therapy on the motorcycle
is an excellent way to de-stress and free my soul.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Another story by Jenny
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