If I started ripping newspaper shreds for Chickenloaf's litterbox, however, off Humpers would lope, in that hunch-backed manner, humpty hump, through the dandelions.
Every morning Humpers showed up under the bird feeder, hunched in that peculiar raccoon way that made me want to suggest, "sit up straight Humpers, you'll ruin your posture!" Humpers daintily scooped up handfuls of spilled cracked corn. We thought Humpers was a loner.
Humpers disappeared for a month or so.
Then one evening when it was almost dark, I thought I was seeing an enormous undulating badgerlike creature roving around under the birdfeeder. The flashlight's beam revealed Humpers plus five fat raccoon kittens. One of them upon seeing me, casually walked 20 feet up the maple, like it was the easiest thing in the world to do. The smallest repeatedly trundled to the top of the mound near the birdfeeder's galvanized pole, leaped onto the pole and clung with both hands, spinning all the way down to its base.
They were half grown when the midsummer drought came around. They caused all kinds of mischief. They turned the coleus pots over every night. Uprooted perennials. Flung around the four-by-fours lining the garden beds like they were toothpicks.
They were thirsty. Of course.
We filled two big zinc Lisk washtubs with fresh water every dusk and piled leftover sweetcorn from dinner next to the tubs. Edsel broke the corn up into three-inch chunks. For the little ones.
Sunrise glinted off a butter slick on that water.