Rabies Vaccines for Christmas

Day 3/30

I’ve always wanted to tell this story but never had a sermon-worthy spin to put on it. With the controversy over Covid vaccinations and no need for this to end in grace or hope, now seems like the perfect time. Buckle up anti-vaxxers.

My family owned a hardware store in rural Alabama that was closed on Sundays. But all that really meant was anyone who needed $3 worth of plumbing fittings to get their water back on and didn’t want to drive to Auburn would call my home as we were rushing out the door late to church to ask if Dad would open up for them. He almost always would.

So after church Dad and I went up to the store, sold someone something (I don’t remember who or what) then took the scenic route back home. On our way down Co. Rd. 34 we saw a dead raccoon on the side of the road. As we passed we saw three orphaned babies crouching beside her.

We’d probably heard a sermon that morning about the Good Samaritan because when Dad hit the brakes I knew exactly what we were about to do. We were going to rescue three baby raccoons. Only they didn’t want to be saved.

That happens in church sometimes too. This story might have a sermon-worthy spin after all.

So there we were in our Sunday best – me halfway up a Sweetgum sapling, Dad below with a double-lined Piggly Wiggly paper bag held open as wide as it would go, and a poor baby raccoon hanging on to a spindly limb for dear life.

She missed the bag but Dad managed to grab her by the scruff of the neck and I shimmied down the tree to hold the bag open. Both of us got pretty scratched up. That raccoon was way less grateful than the man robbed on the road to Jericho. The other two got away but we managed to make it home triumphantly with a new member of the family who set up residence in our chicken pen with a bowl of Pet Milk.

That night she chewed through the chicken wire and vanished along with our hopes of having a pet raccoon named Rascal.

The next week at church Mom was recounting the story to the local vet who told her 75% of raccoons in Tallapoosa County were rabid. In retrospect that seems exaggerated but even if it’d only been 1%, we were getting shots. Luckily our family doctor also went to church with us so before the benediction our appointments were set.

The nurse walked in with four caulk tube sized syringes, one for each of our four cheeks, and two more human sized ones for our non-throwing arms. Whatever was in those vials was as thick as sorghum and I’ve never been as sore after a shot. Dad turned purple from the backs of his knees to his kidneys.

That was day 0. We returned for shots, thankfully only in the arms, on day 3, 7, 14 and 28. I’m pretty sure I still have some residual immunity so if you ever see an orphaned raccoon on the side of the road you know who to call.

And that’s why you should all get vaccinated.

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