The next night Mother Lotor climbed to a branch below the hollow and called her young ones. Three of them went to her and liked the excitement of feeling the breeze against their fur and looking out in all directions into the night. Later the other two came out, and before many nights went by they would go down and up. They liked to play outside, and went into the hollow only to sleep during the day.
Perhaps Father Lotor knew what was happening at the home tree, for one evening about that time he went to the pond and called to his family. When Mother Lotor heard his quavering voice, she led the five little Lotors to the pond. There stood Father Lotor, and near him was the picnic dinner he had brought them.
It was a hen. The old raccoon had found it on a low branch of a tree near the henyard at Holiday Farm. The other hens always went into the henhouse to spend the night on the perches there, but this hen had the habit of staying outside and sleeping on a branch. The raccoon was strong and skillful, and he twisted her neck as quickly as a man could have done if he had wanted it for a chicken soup.
Father Lotor pulled out the feathers too, about as well as a man could have done that. Next he washed the hen in the pond. He squeezed it with his hands and he pounded it with his feet. Mother Lotor washed it too, just as he had done. Then she tore off some shreds of the meat and gave them to the five little Lotors. They liked their picnic dinner as well as you like chicken sandwiches. They did something to their morsels that you would not do with sandwiches. They washed them at the edge of the pond before they ate them.
That was the first time that the little Lotors ever went to a picnic with their father and mother. But it was not the last time. Indeed, every night now the family of seven hunted together or near enough to call to one another.
The fourth night out was an unhappy one for Cubby Lotor. The evening started very pleasantly with a blueberry picnic on the hill where all the Lotors went together. It was the first time Cubby had tasted berries, and he ate the sweet ripe fruit busily until he found a rather large insect that jumped by means of long hind legs. Then he wandered off on a grasshopper hunt.
After a time he went down to Holiday Stream and played along the bank until he came to an old log that made a bridge across the brook. Cubby did not really need a bridge. He liked to wade in the water and could already swim very well. But all raccoons like old logs, so it was natural for Cubby to creep along this one. There, in the air, just over the middle of the log, dangled a bit of bright tin that glistened in the moonlight. All raccoons like to play with little shiny things, so naturally Cubby reached out one hand to tap the bit of tin. Just then the hard jaws of a cruel trap snapped and caught three of Cubby's fingers in a grip of pain. He was frightened and hurt, and he cried pitifully as he tried to pull himself free.
His wail of terror reached his mother's ear and she ran—oh, how she ran! She felt his poor hand quivering in the trap, and she did very quickly the only thing she could to save him. Her sharp teeth made three swift cuts and Cubby was free, all but the ends of the three fingers which the trap still held.
The next day the farmer from Holiday Farm happened to pass near the log by the stream. He saw the trap and a frown came in his face. When he noticed what was in the trap his frown grew deeper. He took the trap to the pond and threw it into the deepest water. Then he made a sign—NO STEEL TRAPS ALLOWED HERE—and nailed it to a tree near the log.
"I had two pet coons once," he told the boys who were spending the summer at Holiday Farm, "and I liked them. No hunter is going to trap these animals on my place if I can help it. I keep a watchdog that will scare them out of the cornfield. I built a henhouse they cannot enter. If the coons will keep out of my cornfield and the henhouse, they are welcome on the rest of the farm."
Cubby Lotor's accident did not prevent him from going to the next family picnic, though his paw was still sore. That was the night the Lotors started for the seashore.
The sea was only a few miles from Holiday Farm, but it took them a week or more to reach it. There were so many interesting things on the way that they did not hurry. As they followed the crooked stream, they had plenty of water in which to wash their food.
Early every morning they hunted for places where they might nap during the day. The weather was warm and they did not try to sleep together. Each found a crow's nest or a hollow in a tree or some such bed, or slept curled up in a crotch between two branches.
Every night they had a different sort of picnic. Once they found a bee-tree where wild bees had stored honey. They were very happy, for they liked honey. Cubby and his brothers and sisters had never tasted anything so sweet in their lives. Luckily for them, raccoon fur is so thick that bees cannot reach through it with their stings.
The corn picnic was one of the best ones. Father Lotor found the cornfield first, and he called. When the others heard his quavering signal, it did not take them long to join him. The juicy corn tasted so good that they could hardly wait to finish one ear before they began to husk another. They would have spoiled many ears in a short time if a dog had not heard them and chased them away from the cornfield.
One night they came to a large summer camp where some of the garbage pails were not covered. They helped themselves to pieces of sandwiches, cake and blueberry pie and cookies, and took them to the stream and washed them before eating them. The edge of the stream was muddy at that place, and the bits of cake and pie were rather queer by the time they had been squeezed and kneaded in the water. But the raccoons did not mind. They all seemed to wish to wash their food. Whatever happened to it while it was being washed pleased them well enough.
After they reached the seashore, they hunted clams when the tide was low. This was such fun that the Lotors dug and ate a great many.
They spent the autumn weeks wandering along the coast and up and down the neighboring streams. All this time their greatest pleasure was in hunting food and eating it. This was fortunate for them, for before cold weather comes raccoons should be fat—very fat indeed.
A raccoon should eat enough to grow very fat before winter comes.
If they had lived in the South they could have found some food in the winter, but these raccoons were northerners and their hunting grounds would be covered with snow for many weeks.
They came to a little cave one night in November. Some boys who had played there the summer before had left a wooden box in one corner. The Lotors crept into the box. They did not bother to gather dry leaves for bedding. The bare boards were good enough. Their fur was so soft and thick they needed neither mattress nor blankets. It snowed the next day and the weather grew colder and colder. The Lotors did not even know it was cold. They were asleep.
During the winter there were times when the weather was not very cold. At such times the Lotors wakened and walked at night. They left their flat-footed tracks in the snow. But they found little to eat and they were drowsy, so they went back to their box and slept again.