By Dr. Jim Ferguson
My wife, Becky, relates a story of a long departed relative who grew up in the Great Depression. This lady understood privation, and as a result saved everything for the proverbial “rainy day.” As the family sorted through her life’s history and estate (collections) they found a box full of tiny pieces of string. The box was labeled, “strings too short to tie.”
Becky is a good steward of God’s blessings. We waste very little, not because we know poverty, but because we feel it’s the right thing to do. Some years ago I ran into a self-described modern-liberal-progressive friend at a recycling center. He looked at me with a puzzled expression and then asked what I was doing there. Perhaps it was Paul’s description of patience (one “fruit of the Spirit” Galations 5:22) that caused me to merely reply, “Conservatives recycle too.” In fact, I was recycling long before it was cool.
Becky is the manager of our home and she maintains that my semi-retirement has not infringed on her space. Her center of operations is her kitchen, and though I visit to help, I would never deign to rearrange – I love rhyming words for emphasis. Recently, my daughter obtained permission to rearrange some drawers in our home that she found teeming with clutter. She found no boxes of “string too short to tie,” but almost. And the good news, The Mistress of the House was pleased with the organizational results.
Recently, a crisis occurred on Thistle Farm. Our latest project is remodeling an out-building and converting it to a hen house for eggs. Becky loves eggs; I don’t. Once on a trip to Europe before medical school, I found myself far from home, sick, and convalescing in a cheap pension in Madrid. The standard fare at the hostelry was gazpacho and egg dishes. At one time or another most of us have associated an illness with a certain food. I survived my “Spanish flu,” and can now tolerate gazpacho, but egg dishes bring back unwelcome memories. I now maintain that eggs should be reserved for cakes or Hollandaise sauce.
But, I digress. Our crisis was a raccoon who was killing our chickens. I have a tender heart and as a result I no longer hunt. I realize this may be a bit hypocritical because I now forage at Kroger. However, as penance I do say a prayer for the animal that gives its life for me.
Raccoons are very resourceful creatures and our “coon” was not to be deterred by an otherwise secure chicken house. Farm living is educational, and as we searched for a raccoon solution we discovered that even the Have-a-Heart trap we purchased to capture and relocate the intruder was not enough. The authorities told us that trapped raccoons should be “exterminated” because they can transmit rabies. The only other option was transporting a trapped raccoon far away to another person’s property.
I’ve written about our dog Jack in other Focus essays. He’s a Mountain Feist and bred to hunt squirrels. I discovered this breeding apparently extends to raccoons as well, when a ruckus erupted in our front yard. Jack had treed the murderous raccoon and a conundrum ensued. Reluctantly, the ex-hunter was brought out of retirement and became the temporary coon hunter to end the chicken killing spree. And that’s where the kitchen drawer enters the story.
Good writing holds the reader in suspense, so hang on Folks. Some have asked me where my stories come from. The famous comedian Will Rogers was asked the same. He replied, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts!”
My problem with hunting is less about ethics than the fact that you often don’t dispatch your prey instantly with one shot. And so it was with the coon who was knocked out of the tree by my shot gun blast only to be attacked by my mutt. All I could hear as I made my way through the dense brush were frenzied yelps and ferocious snarls. I found the two adversaries locked in mortal combat, a veritable blur of roiling, instinctual hatred. I managed to separate the two long enough to send one to its Maker and the other to the makeshift trauma center in the middle of Becky’s kitchen.
With any trauma, the ER staff quickly assesses the patient’s condition and injuries. Jack was bloodied, but not seriously hurt. He had, however, sacrificed a frontal incisor (tooth) to the battle. We sometimes refer to Jack as “Uncle Jack” because his father is his brother. Breeders often violate human laws of consanguinity to propagate favorable traits such as treeing squirrels and barking like a fool so the hunter can harvest the game. Unfortunately, selective breeding also produced Jack’s prominent underbite. Now, he sports a hillbilly dental array as well.
As we worked on our wounded family member in our makeshift ER, I searched for equipment necessary for his evaluation and treatment. Where else could I look, but The Kitchen Drawer?
The saga ended with a prayer for the departed coon and laughter. Our family laughed out loud at Jack’s new look. I won’t show you the other picture Becky and I sent to the family of us wearing the fake teeth I found in Becky’s kitchen drawer.
The moral of this story? Never underestimate the resources of a kitchen drawer and save the fake teeth you find there. You never know when you’ll need them.

If you liked this escapade I have others in my book, “Well…What Did the Doctor Say?” The book is available online at Amazon as well as Barnes&Noble, and is a great Christmas gift!