The day starts early, the alarm clock has gone off before the break of day. Its dark out, the moon has already set over the horizon and the sun has not yet started to show any light to the east. Everyone has had coffee and something quick to eat, and are in a hurry to get to their stands before the horizon to the east starts to show any light. Hoss is a little more casual about hunting and isn't really in a hurry, but everyone is leaving, so he does too. Its still very dark and Hoss is picking his way along the trail. Its a trail that he has traveled many, many times and has no trouble following it in the dark. Hoss leaves the pine island the camp is on and crosses over to another on his way to his stand. Now he is at the cypress head that his stand is in. The trail has now ended as he crosses into the cypress. Its still very dark, but Hoss doesn't want to reach into his pouch for a flash light, he would have to put his gun down, and its wet, no place to put it. He just put the stand out the day before and is sure he can find it in the dark by walking down the game trail as it eases along the cypress.
As Hoss eases along the game trail he is getting close to the stand. Suddenly he notices a commotion in the water on the game trail in front of him. He stops. Its too dark to see what it is, but he thinks its a baby gator or maybe an otter swimming away from him. As the motion in the water moves away Hoss takes a few steps and stops and waits. The motion moves a little more, so does Hoss, then he stops and waits. This goes on until Hoss is at his stand. His stand is leaning on one of the bigger cypress trees. It has a big base about two feet in diameter at the bottom, then it quickly thins to about 6 or 8 inches, very typical of cypress trees in the Big Cypress Swamp. Hoss climbs his stand and settles in for the break of day. It is a still morning, cool but very comfortable. As the sunrise begins, the sky and the surrounding area starts out dark and gradually gets lighter and lighter. Now it is light enough to see his sights and Hoss is scanning the surrounding area. A light breeze has started as the sun breaks on the horizon.
As the morning goes on, leaves are falling in the breeze, Hoss is brushing them off his shoulders and lap as the morning goes on. This time of year the cypress trees are still losing leaves, a late autumn. Hoss is listening for game, the grunt of a hog, or splashing in the water as a deer or hog approaches. Hoss hears the normal swamp birds, insects and an occasional light splashing in the cypress close behind him, but can't see directly behind him and its too small of a noise to be game, so he ignores it. The sun is starting to get high above the horizon, the sun now shining directly on Hoss. Hoss is still occasionally brushing leaves and small twigs off of himself, but he doesn't realize that the breeze has died away. Now he hears a small scraping sound directly above him. He tips his head back and just about a foot away, this is what he sees.
Whoa! Hoss is startled, he quickly ducks and climbs down his stand. Now raccoons are normally pretty wary, but this one has approached very close and is hanging on the tree nose down. Hoss now realizes that the baby alligator, that morning was actually this raccoon. The coon had climbed the tree in the dark to get away from Hoss and as Hoss climbed his stand, the coon climbed higher. All morning long this coon was trying to get past Hoss, climbing here and there, knocking off leaves and twigs all morning, but not finding a way past Hoss. This coon was at its limit of frustration, quite possible it had a family to feed and protect and was late getting back. Any how, now it was coming down, Hoss or no Hoss.
Hoss stood at the base of his stand and backed up a few steps. The coon climbs on down, carefully avoiding touching the stand as it went. When it reached the ground, it quickly swam away from Hoss. Hoss was glad to see it go. Racoons occasionally are rabid in Florida and when they are, they can be very aggessive. It would be very unlikely that a coon this remote would be rabid, but you never know. Hoss was glad it went on its way. Hoss climbed back on the stand and finished his morning hunt. No longer "sharing" his tree.
This story told by Hoss and retold by Steve as remembered. October 22, 2000, Modified Aug 8, 2001