Cleansing Bear

So back in ’97 I was a white-water rafting guide on a river in NC. The Nantahala if you are interested. But one of my first trips as a guide I took a Swedish family down the river. Their English was decent but not completely fluent. My Swedish was non-existent. But we all had fun and I still know how to say (but not spell) the phrase “forward paddle” in Swedish. The reason I bring this up is that there was a long dialog between myself and the patriarch of the family about a “small bear” that washes its food. I was so thrown for a loop that I had no idea what he meant. At some point he mentioned that this “bear” wears a mask. After a little more dialog and pantomime I came to the conclusion that he was referring to a raccoon.
I didn’t give it much thought after that day but yesterday in a piece of trivia I saw that many European cultures call raccoons something like “cleansing bears” and my neurons fired (aka lit the light bulb) and brought me back in time to that day. It all made sense.
Another piece of trivia. Raccoon is an Anglicized version of an Algonquian word that means something like “one who scrubs with hands”. Just remember that the next time you are camping and a “cleansing bear” rummages through your stuff.

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