By Charles Towne           

The matriarch of our clan, my dear mama, said to me, ”As far as I know there has never been anybody in the family that was certifiable, but every one of us has brought eccentricity to a very fine degree of perfection.”

March 8th.  7:15 A.M – I don’t know if I’m ready for the funny farm or extremely dedicated?   Perhaps equal parts of both.  Oh well, I’ll let you decide for yourself.  
Here I sit in a tiny camera blind knee deep in water in the middle of a creek in the center of a dense Florida swamp.  Yah, now you’re beginning to get the picture.   
Let me continue.  Most of the cute little lady mosquitoes are doing whatever it is that lady mosquitoes do on a chilly winter day in the sunshine state.  I imagine that they are sleeping; perhaps dreaming of the delicious blood that they are going to extract from yours truly once the weather warms up again.

It is cold and damp as a wet clam as well as overcast with a depressing gray cloud layer that bodes no good for man or beast.  On top of all that cheer it has been raining, a chilly drizzle, Florida’s excuse for snow.

Ensconced as I am in the blind I sit on an upturned five-gallon bucket, which will, after a few hours due to the fact that I forgot my wimp cushion, began to feel like a combination of a chunk of ice and a handful of rusty railroad spikes.

Are you beginning to get the picture?  And now, what do you think, crazy or dedicated?  The only thing that I have seen in the last hour is a retarded raccoon out taking an early morning stroll.  The water gently laps against the sides of the plywood blind and as my nose runs copiously and soaks my mustache, a bitter-cold wind is blowing down my neck.   Ah, what a day, what a life!  The raccoon shivers, wipes his nose with one paw and glancing in my direction he shakes his head as he decides to call it quits as he hastily retires to a hole in an old cypress tree.  Just before he retreats from the miserable cold the raccoon glances back at me again, hesitates, shivers again and hastily enters his nice warm den.  And I called him retarded!

I swear that I can see smoke coming from a hole further up in the raccoon’s den tree, could he have a little wood burning stove in there?  And suddenly my imaginer goes into its red zone.

Now I want you to understand that this is the danger area in all imaginations, the forbidden zone, the outer limits, the “DANGER, THIN ICE” region, where even the most adventurous angels fear to tread. Oops, It’s too late.  At the thought of the little stove heating up that nice warm den tree, I can see the raccoon removing his cute little overshoes and his scarf as Mrs. Raccoon calls him to dinner.

There they are, Mr. Raccoon and his wife, Mrs. Raccoon and the little Raccoon’s, Bosh, Huck, Apple Blossom, Teddy and Pinky Doodle.   There they are, the entire little raccoon family sitting down to a delicious meal of fried crawdad tails, hot bread made of the finest acorn flour, and blackberry pie! The bread is all slathered real thick with blackberry preserves and all of this is washed down with great mugs of hot chocolate with lots and lots of marshmallow topping.

The next step in this type of thinking is to begin to wonder if there is enough room for me in the raccoon’s snug den? And will they share their meal with me? Nah, probably not.

That chill wind blowing down my neck suddenly brings me back to reality. The wind is picking up and the palm fronds are making a terrible racket with their dry rattling.  Any dyed in the wool naturalist knows the futility of attempting to photograph wildlife while the wind is blowing, the animals simply don’t like to move due to the fact that the noise of the wind could conceal the approach of a predator but here I sit in a chilly plywood blind in the middle of a creek in the center of a swamp hoping that I don’t catch a terminal case of pewnomia!

I bet Mr. raccoon and his little family are all nice and warm as they sit around their little wood burning stove telling stories and drinking those huge mugs of hot chocolate in their nice snug den up there in the old cypress tree while I sit here with this darned cold draft blowing down my neck! Yah, perhaps you’re right, I don’t have the good sense the good Lord gave a goofy gopher.

Dear papa God, please protect us from ourselves and at the same time allow us to dream of wonderful things as we take jaunts into “the wild side”.  Lead us and guide us and help us to be what you want us to be.  I thank you for giving me a mother that introduced me to Imagiland that strange place that is populated with wonders of which dreams are made.  Amen

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. Dear Charles,
    A big thumb up for this article. I am a member in the crazy-eccentric–imagiland club. I am thinking about some hiking in the woods today. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. My friend NH, please tell me that when you look at the picture of the three raccoons that you want to be in there with them! What a delite, oh yes, what a delite!!! All of Papa God’s Blessings on you my dear. Chaz

  3. I’d say dedicated with a great respect for nature. As far as imagining the home life of the raccoons, I often wonder myself what nature’s creatures do when at home.

    Well written as always. God bless.

  4. Last week you transported make you another time. This week I learned about your experiences as a wildlife photographer. I’ve become addicted to your inspirational writings. Keep them coming.

  5. Well Don, the animals sit around and tell stories about the many escapes and close calls life in the wild presents. Oh, and did I mention checkers? Yes, they like to play checkers, and there are always neighbors stopping by to share a meal with. I could go on and on but I am expecting Ozzie Ottor and Lotor Raccoon and Garloo the Gopher tortoise any minute. We are going fishing for crawdads down on the river Nargoth. The River Nargoth, that is what the animals call the Wekiva River. We are going to use the crawdads to cook up a big pot of delicious Gammerdoosy hot and spicy for a party we are planning. You have a wonderful day with lots of blessings in it, Chaz

  6. Herbert, ol’ pal, I have an unlimited supply of life to draw on so I have every intention of continuing on. Sometimes Life is so darned sweet and grand and delicious and wonderful I walk around drooling, and with a goofy grin on my face, so if you see me grinning and drooling it’s not because I am cuckoo or anything like that, it’s just ’cause Papa God is blessing me so much I can hardly stand it. Blessings on you and yours my friend, Chaz

  7. WOW – that was a great story – told in such a convincing manner I could almost smell the smoke from the tiny wood stove.

  8. Sir Mike, now we know you have a good imaginer but the real test is if you could taste the hot chocolate. How are you guys doing? Is she keeping you out of trouble? Blessings ol’ buddy, Chaz

  9. Enjoyed the story! Made being a racoon seem cozy and fun. I like your imagination. And that you weave your stories with such descriptive scenes. Thanks!

  10. My dear Nicole, I have an idea that being a Rascoon is cozy and fun except when it aint. Sort of like being a little kid, then one day you aren’t a little kid anymore and all of a sudden, Wham! You are grown up with a whole garbage can of responsibility, What a bummer! Girl, how are you doing? I miss you so much. Please take care and remember, I love you muchly. Blessings my friend, Chaz

  11. Hahaha! I loved it!
    Being the animal lover that I am,
    I can envision Papa Racoon going home to his lovely warm den, with a scrumptious dinner waiting.
    After the family had their fill, he and the little wifey, along with all the young’uns, sat around the fire all cozy and snug. I can hear them laughing hysterically as Papa told the story of a crazy, retarded (as you put it) human that he passed on the way home. Maybe Pinky Doodle even rolled off Mama’s lap with laughter!
    I truly enjoyed it, Chuck! Thanks for the humor. It’s always good to release endorphins!!

  12. Dear CSG, After reading the comments my readers have posted on this article one might get the idea my sole purpose in life is to make all you dear folks laugh? Actually that wouldn’t be a bad thing would it? I love the response so please keep on laughing and I will keep on writing. Blessings on you all, and thanks dear friend. Chaz

  13. Loved the raccoon imaginings but I’m also too much of a realist to totally forget about your dedicated purpose for being in such an uncomfortable predicament to not ask did you give up on your quest, like a sane person, or discover and photograph what you were there for?
    Blessings on you and yours, especially sweet Nanny!
    Love you unka Chuck, Linda

  14. Mama would’ve loved reading your articles. You were given the gifts of curiosity, daring, determination, whimsical thinking. Combine these with spirituality, and one has Divine inspiration.

  15. Ahhh, dear dear Linda, what with me having a runny nose, very cold toes and ears that froze, I stayed the coarse like any dedicated (read nutty) wildlife photographer. No, the animals were obviously more intelligent than dear old me, therefore being wise, they sought out safe and warm havens, while the idiotic hooman bean froze his buns off in a camera blind waiting for all of them to stop laughing at me. Many blessings on you dear one, Unka Chuck

  16. For all of you that are unaware, Judith Hankes is in fact Dr. Judith Hankes,and she is my baby sister. I called her Pinky Doodle when she was little but be forewarned, she doesn’t like to be called Dr. Pinky Doodle. What with all of that I take her comment as high praise. Thanks sis, and many blessings on you and yours. Chaz

    P.S. To be very honest I must say that mama gifted me with half of her sense of humor, the sick half. C

  17. Dear Chuck, I cannot look at any picture of a raccoon without thinking about “Looney Coon”,Sam Campbell has skewed my perception of the citizens of wild places forever! That said,I guess our imagination works best when we are a bit uncomfortable, if you were happily drinking hot cocoa in the blind,you may not have been able to imagine sharing with the raccoon family! Papa God knows that a bit of discomfort and adversity are needed to keep us on our toes! Bless you Chuck, keep the lessons coming!

  18. What was that Richard? Did you say, “drinking hot cocoa in the blind?” Now why in the world didn’t I think of that? Sam was then and is today an inspiration to how many generations of kids. What a guy! Did I tell you about going to the Boundary Waters of Canada and finding Sam’s Sanctuary Lake? Please stay attuned to this station for more episodes from “MY ZANY LIFE.” Thanks pal, and many blessings, Chaz


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