Essentially Ashland: By Lance K. Pugh

I awoke early Christmas morning full of hope for the future for us all, though the fact that my dog, Spooky, was howling, barking and spinning in circles like a whirling dervish gave me some pause for concern. He bounced around the living room like a deer on steroids, rising to the occasion propelled by stiff legs and ears that threatened to helicopter him up the stairs and well into the attic.

I peeked outside to see what might be affecting him so, but was only greeted by a smock of snow from the night before. I brought forth some mighty commands for quiet and self-control, but he only spun faster as his eyes glowed like hot red coals from some satanic ritual.

I then quickly dressed and headed out the door, for whatever was the cause his twirling descent into the land of mad dogs; it most surely was on or about the house, not sleeping soundly in my slipper.

I probably should have completely opened the door before dashing outside, but, to be truthful, not all of me made it out to the porch. In my eagerness to see to the commotion, I struck my forehead with the yet opening portal, made of metal, no less.

The next thing I knew I was sleeping in my tent, pitched on a patio in my ancestral home in San Diego, dressed in my frontier outfit, fake coon-skin cap and with my hands wrapped around "¦you guessed it, a Davy Crockett pop-gun. I was camped out to protect the house from attack and heard noises before they were even made.

It was the day after Christmas and I was loaded for bear, though none dared approach my tent-like fort as I suddenly heard some mirthful chuckles and little sweet squeaks. I slowly drew open the flaps to the tent and squinted into the early morning light. What I saw delighted me and also prompted me to hide the cap, for it was a small riot of raccoons on their backs rolling some giggling mice around using their paws to balance and enthrall their tiny passengers.

I was so eager to join the festivities that I slipped on an avocado that I had packed away as a form of pemmican, causing me to hit the concrete head first and, as they say, that was that.

The next thing I knew I was slowly awaking to a view of the ceiling, with my legs flopped outside the door and into the cold. Spooky had changed demeanor and was now standing guard over me as he lathered me with a tongue-full of love and concern.

I staggered to a stand and went into the kitchen for a tall, cold glass of water, only to be greeted by three pairs of raccoon eyes locked on to me from just outside the window. I did not avert the gaze, rather I quickly gathered resolve to ascertain the nature of the ring-tailed assemblage.

I raised myself on my toes and pressed my nose to the window, only to get a scurrying surprise. On the ground, next to "los tres bandidos," stood six mice dressed in miniature mumus, doing the mother of all rodent hulas. They sure looked a lot like the crew that frolicked in front of Davy Crockett's tent, but, hey, I did not even know their names.

Through time some things change and others remain the same. We all grow older, yet only some retain the innocence of youth. It only took me some lumps on the head, visions of Davy Crockett, raccoons and mincing mice to get me to focus on the child within us all.

Lance@journalist.com was last seen was last seen walking his dog, Spooky, who was wearing a fake raccoon cap and eating dog biscuits made in the shape "smouses."