Long, long ago, and far, far away in a magical wood, lived the mighty Clan of Coon.
The Clan of Coon, counting only the women and children, stood more than a hundred strong. No one knew the entire strength of the Clan, but all the domain knew that their men kept close watch on their families and defended them fiercely.
Theirs was a blessed country, filled with forests, lakes and streams for hunting and fishing. The frogs and skinks were plentiful, as were the delicious rodents and tender shoots. It was a true paradise.
But, nothing lasts forever, and one day Evil entered the lands of the Clan. Huge, noisy yellow animals of metal came and felled the trees, dug up the earth, and hurled the great boulders of Mother Earth into boxes which rode upon the backs of other dusty and dirty metal animals.
Devastation lay across the land, only to be followed by a terrible invasion of pink and brown and yellow animals who built their enormous dens throughout the Clan's favorite hunting grounds.
Now the Great Mother of the Clan was a coon of many years and enormous wisdom. She admonished her kin gently. "Let us learn about these new animals. Perhaps we can benefit from their presence. They also come from Mother Earth."
The Great Mother sent out scouts upon the land, and behold! they returned with wonderful news. These new animals had left offerings to the Clan of Coon. In fact, they had even created a ritual for it. Twice in the space of every seven suns, the tall ones would carry large containers filled with delectable foods to the end of the hard paths leading to their dens.
Nodding in approval, the Great Mother bade her Clan enjoy the offerings of the mysterious new creatures.
And so, on the Night of the Trash, the coons accepted the bounty that was their due. They climbed the barrels and drums, pulled the coverings assunder with their clever hands, and delved into all the aromatic and flavorful offerings. They chose one thing and then another, tossing some to their children and some to their friends, all eating with joyous abandon.
The Clan of Coon prospered and multiplied. Their only sorrow was caused by the vicious animals with snapping jaws and savage fangs that seemed to like living with the pink and brown and yellow animals. The Vicious Ones killed several of the Clan's members and the Great Mother warned all to beware.
The Great Mother's scouts, ever vigilant, returned one day with more news. There was a bounteous feast laying in wait at one of the gigantic dens!
The clan members chirruped amongst themselves. Who would be the brave one to first partake of the banquet that might be a trap? Would the feast be as tasty as the offerings they received on the Night of theTrash?
Fortunately, the Great Mother and the scouts knew the answer. They had lurked and watched, tasted and drunk. It was a feast fit for the Clan! All were encouraged to partake.
Soon Mother Coon bravely settled her children in a tree near the den providing the food. She cautiously made her way up the steps of a wooden platform with thin, straight twigs poking up and saw before her tray upon tray of food and many bowls of water. She went to each, gingerly sampling the food and sipping the water. It was delicious!
Mother Coon chirruped to her children to join her and guided them up to the banquet. Thereafter, all the Clan of Coon dined at the feast with exceeding pleasure.
Many moons passed, indeed many turnings of the years went by. The banquet never failed. Night after night, the food appeared and the coons were left in peace to enjoy their good fortune. The pink animals in the great den made themselves known, and the children of the Clan learned how to take the delicacies that the fingers of the pink ones offered. All was done under the watchful eyes of their mothers, of course.
One night, when the stars were bright and the smell of honeysuckle filled the air, a family of the Clan arrived for a meal. Mother Coon and her children settled in at their favorite tray and dove into the succulent kibbles and bits, washing the pieces carefully, turning them in their hands as they inspected them for twigs and pebbles and other inedible things.
The son of the family, who the pink ones called 'Buddy', was licking a particularly scrumptuous treat from Pink Thing's fingers, when suddenly there came a great thrashing of branches and the pounding of large paws on the earth. Growls and howls and barks came from the darkness and all the coons bristled with fear.
Mother Coon ran to the edge of the platform and looked through the upright twigs. Her children followed her closely, afraid to be left alone.
It was the worst of horrors! A Vicious One! Ready to wreak havoc with the small family.
Young Buddy scurried up the strange metal spider web in front of him, quaking in terror. From his vantage point he could see the slavering jaws of the Vicious One, the sharp fangs and lolling tongue glistening in the starlight.
He watched as his mother and sisters attempted escape, only to find that the Vicious One would assuredly catch them before they attained the safety of the trees. Mother Coon regrouped her quailing children and considered what to do.
At last Mother Coon chirruped her instructions to the children. Buddy was told firmly to come down from the metal web and join the rest of the family. Nudging and prodding, Mother Coon bullied her children into climbing the twigs. They would be safer up on the wooden beam and could, perhaps, jump out into the darkness and race to the trees before the Vicious One could react.
The youngsters were panicky, but remembered their tree-climbing lessons and began to ascend the twigs. One of the littlest lost her footing and came tumbling down. She lay there quivering on the platform until her mother chirruped again and pushed her back to the twigs. The little one made several more attempts and finally, after losing her way once or twice, righted herself and climbed all the way to the top.
Mother Coon turned toward the steps and braced herself for the attack that she knew was to come. Her teeth were bared and the fur stood up all over her body, making her appear to be twice as big. She chittered and growled and hissed at the massive shape at the foot of the stairs.
Suddenly, Pink Thing rushed out of her den wielding a long pole with thick straw thatch at the end. Pink Thing made loud shrieking noises and ran down the steps, jabbing the pole at the Vicious One. Finally she began swinging the pole like a bat, driving the lumbering beast back into the darkness. What sounded like a thwack on the rump echoed from the border of the woods and Mother Coon soon heard the sound of thundering paws receding into the distance.
Pink Thing had saved them all. Mother Coon and her children bowed in sincere thanks to Pink Thing and returned to their home.
The tale of the Pink Thing spread far and wide across the Clan of Coon. The Great Mother herself visited Pink Thing in her den and observed her carefully.
"She is indeed a protector of the Clan and worthy of our trust," she announced to the Coon Community. "She has agreed to sit with our children while the adults go and do... adult things. Pink Thing is now an honorary member of our Clan."
And from that day forward, the human, Pink Thing, was accepted as one of them.
Photographs © Cressida of Troy