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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Ian & Mac Bedtime Stories - How Raccoons Got Their Masks

“Mac, have you ever noticed how we’re the only animals that have masks around our eyes. We look like bandits. I remember when I was wee how all the squirrels and chipmunks used to hide their food when I walked by. They’d say, ‘Oh look, it’s Ian, the raccoon. He’s wearing a mask. We’d better hide our food or he’ll steal it. He’s a bandit.’ Oh, I used to get so tired of hearing that.”

“I think I know your bedtime story for tonight. I know how raccoons got their masks. Would you like to hear about it?” Mac made himself comfortable.

“Yes, of course.” Ian nodded.

“It happened like this; there was this famous Scottish explorer named McTavish McGee. He went to Africa, into the jungles. He had a pet raccoon named Nibs. Nibs didn’t have eye patches. His fur was all the same color, except his tail, of course. Nibs accompanied McTavish McGee everywhere he went. While they were exploring in the deepest, darkest parts of Africa, where you couldn’t see the sky because of all the trees, McTavish came upon a tribe of primitive people. They’d never seen anyone outside of their tribe and, more important, they’d never seen a raccoon before. They wanted to eat Nibs, but McTavish stopped them.

“The tribe had a witch doctor named Ungabunga. He was an odd looking man with a bone through his nose and sharp teeth. He wore a strange hat and carried a staff with a blue ball on top. Ungabunga was very interested in McTavish McGee and Nibs. He welcomed them into his tribe and made them honorary tribal members. He taught them the things he did as witch doctor and McTavish taught the tribe how to read and write. Ungabunga was so grateful to McTavish that he granted him and Nibs each a wish. McTavish wished to stay with the tribe forever and learn of their ways and help them with what he knew. Nibs didn’t want to stay in Africa, but he did have a wish. He wanted to look different than any of the other animals in the world. He wanted raccoons to be special. He didn’t want the wish just for him, but for all raccoons.

“Ungabunga allowed McTavish McGee to stay with the tribe. He gave him his very own hut, mat to sleep on and his daughter for a bride. Ungabunga picked Nibs up by the fur on the back of his neck.”

“Ouch!” Ian rubbed his neck.

“He held him a few inches away from his face and danced around, bouncing the staff on the dirt. He sang some song of enchantment and then he spit on both of Nibs’ eyes. Nibs was horrified. He thought that Ungabunga had tricked him and was going to kill him. The witch doctor bent over near the fire and blew on it.  A flame swirled around him and Nibs, not burning them though. When the flame disappeared, Ungabunga dropped Nibs into the dirt. Nibs ran as fast as he could, trying to get away from him. He came to a stream and looked at his reflection. He had patches around his eyes.”

“So the witch doctor was just doing a spell and wasn’t going to kill Nibs, right?” Ian’s eyes bulged.

“Right, Ian. Nibs ran back to the camp and into McTavish’s hut. He thanked Ungabunga and then left on the journey back to Scotland. It took him three years to get home to the highlands. He was very surprised when he returned and found out that all the other raccoons had patches. And that’s how we got our patches.”

“Well? Where’s my song about it? Surely you’ve got a ballad you know?” Ian waited patiently.

“There was a ballad written, but usually it’s done with a bagpipe accompaniment. I’ll give it a try though.

There was a raccoon that traveled here and there
All around the world with his partner; quite the pair;
They went to China; they went to the North Pole,
They traveled about to places both warm and cold.
One journey they found themselves in Africa so dark,
They saw not a robin, a hedgehog or a lark,
Only thick foliage and snakes galore
And wriggly bugs that crawled about the jungle floor.
The raccoon and his pal discovered a tribe
Of men and women and he became their scribe,
A witch doctor named Ungabunga gave the raccoon a wish;
He could choose anything except for being a dish.
The raccoon wanted patches all around his eyes,
The witch doctor held him up by his hairy thighs.
He uttered a magic spell and what happened then?
The raccoon got his eye patches; he’ll never be the same again.”

“All right, Mac. That was an interesting ballad. I think I’m ready for bed now. Don’t you think that patch of stars up there looks like a man’s face with a bone through the nose?”

Mac looked up. “Why yes it does. They say that Ungabunga looks down on all the raccoons and watches over them, even today.”

“Hmm.” Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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