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A Close Encounter of a Different Kind Copyright © 1993, Sylvia L. Ramsey All rights reserved

          A Close Encounter of a Different Kind
                   by Sylvia L. Ramsey

You hear stories about people having encounters during the nighttime with strange flying objects. These people tell how overwhelmed they were by the experience. I can't say that this story has anything quite so glamorous as UFO's; but, sometimes things happen that are very much a part of our very own world that are just as overwhelming as visitors from outer space. This is a true story and none of the names have been changed to protect the innocent or the guilty.

If you are going to fully understand and appreciate this strange encounter that happened in our present day advanced technological society, a little background is needed. There are still places (a few sprinkled here and there) in our country that have retained all the flavor of an age many have never experienced. I often feel like a time traveler in today's society because of my background.

I'm not "old" (however, my granddaughter may disagree) and many of the people my age never experienced the same world as I. I guess you might say I'm an oddball in my own generation. The reasons for it were quite beyond my control. My parents were married for twenty-two years before I was born (and I was the first and last)! Talk about a generation gap, it was like being raised by grandparents! Now, I marvel at all the things my father experienced throughout his lifetime and taught me. Imagine being born in the late 1800's and living until 1986. Think of all the things that man created during that time that has become part of our daily lives. When I do, it almost boggles my mind. Anyway, you get the picture of my parents. The next image you need to set the scene for this encounter is where it happened.

Imagine a small, quaint house resting, nestled among the pine of a secluded valley in the foothills of the Ozarks. It's a simple house, not designed by a architect or built by a contractor; but, the trees for the lumber were cut, the boards were sawed, and it was built with the owner's hands. It began its humble life as a home with only one room without windows or doors in November of 1932. The spot it sat on was carved out of the wilderness far from roads or neighbors. It was a symbol of hope and faith for a future during the dreary days of the depression.

It was built by two young people who believed in themselves and each other. People who had traveled and explored their world for the first ten years of marriage. They had seen the world and decided it was time to return to the place they had known as children, settle down, and begin to invest in their future. They had accumulated very little material possessions during their days of exploration. They began their new adventure with very few of the things we take for granted in today's world. But, they believed enough in themselves to start building a house and begin a new business when their world was in a state of darkness. The dreary days of the depression ended. The house grew room by room and the business grew to be a very successful one. The two were happy and content; but, eventually the two young people became three. This was when I enter their lives, just when they had grown accustomed to being a couple without children.

My father always wanted a son; but, that was not in his future, he got me instead. However, I may as well have been a boy while I was growing up. I became the son he had always wanted, and I was his buddy. Instead, he taught me all the things he had hoped to teach to a son. He knew the forest and the land, and he taught me what he knew. We fished the numerous streams located near our home, hunted together, and did what most father's and sons usually do. My father taught me to respect the land, and its creatures. He taught me to hunt for food and not kill for the sake of killing. He taught me to "see", "hear", and appreciate the beauty that surrounded me.

My father saw a day coming when a haven such as ours would be as valued as a rich man's mansion. He chose to preserve a small area of his land as a refuge for his family and all the living things that depended on just such a refuge. This place would be a legacy to his grandchildren and his great- grandchildren. They would be able to know a little part of the world that existed when he was young.

I inherited this small mecca and I have made sure that his wishes have been carried out. It will go to my son and then to my eldest granddaughter. It has been a haven for us to escape the fast paced world we live in today. A few years ago, when my husband became disabled, we lived in the house for about six years.

The back of the house faces a small brook with a hillside full of pine, maple, wild cherry and dogwood trees. My husband loved the outdoors; but, because of his illness was limited in how much he could get out. We decided to build a screened in porch on the back of the house so he be outside during the daytime when I was at work. The back porch became a place to spend the early evenings. We would watch the little valley change from a bright cheery haven to a mysterious realm of sight and sound as the shades of dusk encircled it in its arms. We soon discovered that the back porch was a place for a variety of activities. We enjoyed it so much we decided it was a good place for our exercise bike.

It wasn't long before we, also, discovered that the hillside in front of us was a source of entertainment. Almost every evening we watched deer casually stroll across the hillside as they nibbled at tender leaves and grass. Sometimes there would be four or five deer together. On other evenings, wild turkey would be spotted. It seemed as if our little valley had become a refuge for a variety of wild animals that were being pushed out by the growing population that had cleared away the forest that has once covered the area. The presence of all the animals prompted us to put grain and other treats out for them to eat.

The next summer, we began to notice that the wildlife population was increasing in number and variety. The animals quickly learned they had nothing to fear from the two humans who shared their sanctuary, and they began to visit our backyard. We were invaded by deer, turkey, opossum, wild duck, and a variety of other animals and birds.

We took the invasion in stride, enjoying the chance to observe all the wild creatures. However, one morning after I arose from my bed and took my morning coffee to the back porch to enjoy the sights and sounds, I walked into a disaster area. Something, or someone, had invaded our back porch and played havoc with everything. It had been vandalized. I disposed of the things that had been destroyed and straightened the rest. I couldn't imagine who or what had committed the dreadful deed. The next morning, the porch was in the same condition. I cleaned it up again. This became a pattern, and needless to say, I was beginning to get tired of it. There wasn't a lock on the door to the porch; but, the door had to be opened to get in. Who or what was doing it was a puzzle. The first time it happened, I could believe it to be the results of a prank; but, not every night! It had to be an animal.

How an animal could open the back door and come in, I didn't know. My husband and I became determined to find out. We began our quest by leaving the porch light on at night. It didn't help. Whatever was getting on the porch wasn't afraid of it and the destruction continued. We decided to set guard and solve the mystery.

One evening, after we had grown too tired to watch the porch anymore, my husband thought he heard a noise. He got out of bed and very carefully went to the door that led to the porch. He was gone only a few seconds when he returned and motioned for me to accompany him. I started to ask why; but, he shushed me to silence. We tiptoed together like cat burglars as we made our way to the back door. We very carefully peeped out. I couldn't believe my eyes! I saw one of the strangest and most amusing sights I had ever witnessed. Sitting on the seat of the exercise bike with paws on the handlebars was a raccoon that looked big enough to be a small bear. He wasn't only nice and fat, he was long. He had to be large to reach the handle bars of that bicycle.

The raccoon looked as if he were contemplating how to reach the pedals so he could ride it. We simply stood frozen, staring in amazement. Then, the humor of the sight began to take hold of us. He didn't see us watching him until we began to shake with silent laughter that was about to erupt into loud guffaws. When he realized that he was not only being watched by two strange creatures who were obviously laughing at him, he calmly, arrogantly, climbed down off the bicycle. He took his time as he sauntered to the door. He walked with a haughty air seeming to be aware that his privacy had not only been invaded; but, he appeared to be insulted by the behavior of the two creatures who were so rudely laughing at him. Once out the door, he paused, looked back at us as if to let us know what he thought, and slowly disappeared into the darkness. By this time, my husband and I were reduced to tears of laughter.

For some strange reason, I was fascinated with this bold creature and became obsessed with the idea of seeing him again. So, for several nights after the event, I sat on the bench in our back yard, located just outside the porch door, and watched for the raccoon to return. I just knew he would be back and I was going to make sure I saw him. I had no idea what I was going to do when I did, I hadn't thought beyond just seeing him again. Three nights passed and there was no sign of the creature. I was beginning to think our laughter had either scared him off for good, or, had insulted his sense of dignity far too much for him to chance a return.

But, I didn't give up. Finally, my vigil was rewarded. One evening as I sat quietly watching, I caught a glimpse of something moving in the shadows off to my far left. I knew instinctively that it was the same raccoon. He didn't look nearly as large in the shadows as he had that evening he was on our porch. I waited patiently, watching the small figure circle around until he was directly in front of me and was only about fifteen feet away. I watched as he checked out an old trash can we kept to use when we cleaned out our car. It didn't take him long to decide that he would find nothing to eat in the can. He turned and began walking straight toward the door of our back porch . . . and . . . me.

I sat still, frozen by fascination combined with a growing sense of apprehension that began to overtake me. All the things my father had taught me about the dangers of wild animals came flooding back into my consciousness. I had time to move, to run; but, I didn't. My obsession to observe this creature overrode all caution and I sat like a statue where I was, tempting fate. The animal kept advancing closer and closer. The tension and the thrill I felt grew with each step he took toward me. I was beginning to feel a need to bolt for cover. He was no more than five feet away, it seemed like two. He stopped. He raised his head, our eyes locked for a moment. Then, he slowly, very deliberately walked directly at me as he maintained eye contact. The tension within me was growing with each step he took. He began to look bigger and bigger the nearer he came. I felt I could stand the tension no longer as he moved within no more than three feet of where I sat. I felt the urge to move, to speak, to do something. Again, the need to watch this fascinating creature kept me from running or yelling. I had to watch him. I didn't want to scare him away, so, to relieve some of the tension, I merely changed the position of my feet.

My movement, caused the raccoon to come to a sudden halt. By the time he stopped, he was close enough that I could have reached out and touch him. He stood up on his hind legs and looked me straight in the eye. Standing, he was nose to nose with me. He looked bigger than ever. I became the object of observation as he tilted his head side to side looking me over. There was look in his eyes telling me that he was planning to analyze this strange creature at an even closer distance. I had no idea what he might do if he got closer. I thought about us laughing at him and thinking he may want revenge. As he stood there in the soft light I could almost hear him thinking. I observed a change of expression in his eyes from one of curiosity to one of determination. I didn't know what he was going to do, and I didn't want to find out. The hairs on the back of my neck were tingling as fear began to creep over me.

The fear grew and the knowledge that I didn't want the raccoon any closer overwhelmed me. I wasn't sure what to do. If I were attacked, my husband would never hear because he was watching the ballgame on the television. Visions of a headline in our local paper flashed across my mind, "Local Woman Attacked by Large Raccoon." Still, I didn't run or yell. Instead, I did one of the craziest things I have ever done in my life, I addressed the raccoon as if he were a person and said, "Hello, there! What are you doing?"

Again, he looked into my eyes, turned his head this way and that as if he were trying to understand my words. For a moment, I thought he was going to come at me and my body stiffened again. Instead, he lowered himself on all fours, slowly turned his back to me, and majestically strolled into the night without ever looking back. In my mind, I could almost hear him chuckle. The raccoon had gotten his revenge.

I waited and watched several nights after our encounter for him to return. He never did. I think he had experienced all the contact with humans that he ever wanted. I still wonder what would have happened if I could have remained still and quiet. I guess I'll never know; but, it's an experience I'll never forget, and somehow, I don't think he will either.

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