Brownsville, Kentucky, 1869
Elijah Watson petted the big raccoon snuggled up against him on the porch.
He liked to sit out there most of the day while his big sister cleaned and cooked inside.
When someone went by, on horse, or just walking, he always waved and smiled at them. Most folks in Brownsville ignored his odd behavior. There were some however, who went out of their way to be kind to him.
Mr. Buell at the General Store always had a piece of hard candy for Elijah. It was common knowledge he wasn’t right in the head, but he was considered harmless by the townspeople.
According to the town elders, Elijah was six years-old when he saw his parents murdered by two Confederate soldiers who thought they were hiding a slave. They didn’t even notice the frail little boy huddled in the corner as they light the furniture on fire.
A neighbor who saw the smoke quickly gathered up the townspeople and organized a bucket brigade to keep the fire from spreading. It was Elijah’s sister Sarah who raced into the home and rescued him.
That was the last time he spoke. Months after the horrific event Elijah wandered away from their temporary tent home one night. He went into the forest and roamed around unafraid of animals.
At one point he discovered a raccoon caught in a trap. The cruel steel teeth were sunk into the raccoon’s rear leg. It was lying there exhausted from struggling. Without hesitation, Elijah summoned up all of his strength and pulled the trap open.
The startled raccoon managed to hobble away, but not before it sat there and looked Elijah in the eyes. A silent communication passed between them.
When Sarah found him the next day he was still wandering around aimlessly in the forest. After that Sarah kept a closer eye on him. One day she came out to the porch of their recently rebuilt home, and found him sitting next to a huge raccoon.
Her first instinct was that it may be rabid, out in the day like this, but the longer she looked it became apparent it was enjoying being petted by Elijah. She watched the unusual scene with interest for over an hour before it left.
When she questioned Elijah about his new friend he smiled. She hadn’t seen him smile since their parent’s violent deaths. She smiled back at him.
Since that day, the raccoon would come by at different times and snuggle up next to Elijah for a few hours on the porch. Folks got use to the odd sight after a while. One evening when Elijah went outside to get some firewood his raccoon friend showed up with six other raccoons.
On closer inspection Elijah could tell five of them were smaller and younger, and the other was nearly his friend’s size. It was his family. A delighted Elijah sat down on a log and took turns petting them as each one approached him.
After petting each of them they hurried off into the darkness. The biggest one, his friend, sat and looked at him for a while. He came up and brushed against Elijah like a big cat. Then he scampered away.
Meanwhile, Sarah was wondering what happened to him, and stepped out onto the porch calling his name. He appeared with some split wood a moment later, and grinned at her in that loopy way of his.
As fate would have it, the two men who killed Elijah and Sarah’s parents came though town one day. They tied up their horses and went into the saloon. Hours later the two men came out of the saloon staggering and drunk as lords.
They managed to make it to the boarding house across from where Elijah was sitting and petting the raccoon. One of them spotted him and started laughing. That brought the other back out and they stumbled across the dirt road to where he sat.
“Oh Lordy! Look at the Coon Boy!” one of them laughed.
They saw a frail young man and easy prey. Inside the house, Sarah heard the commotion on the porch and grabbed her rifle and ran out the front door. The startled men backed up as she leveled the shotgun’s twin barrels at them.
She didn’t recognize who they were because she wasn’t in the house when her parents were murdered, but a grim glimmer in Elijah’s eyes told a different story. He knew who they were.
Threatening all kinds of retribution, the two drunks made their way back to the boarding house and to their bedrooms.
Despite Sarah’s pleading, Elijah wanted to stay outside longer. She finally gave up and went inside. He waited patiently. When the raccoon showed up he petted it, and asked, “Will you kill them for me?”
The next day the boarding house maid found the two bloody bodies in their beds. They were torn to pieces by wild animals the Sheriff said, after examining the corpses.
“Gotta tell you boys, I ain’t never seen these kinds of wounds. Looks like a bunch of varmits ganged up on ’em.”
Sarah couldn’t believe her ears when Elijah asked for more milk that morning at breakfast. The rest of her life she made sure to tell everyone about the miracle.
As It Stands, one persons revenge can be another’s miracle.