A Badger Named Charlie

My mother used to tell me this crazy story about my family. I story that even today many think I am making up. It’s the story of a badger named Charlie that my Papa and Grandmother raised as one of the family.

This was in Tehachapi, California in the 1960s when Highway 58 was being built. The highway was the reason my mother’s family came to the Tehachapi Valley. You see, my Papa was a motor grader operator that worked on the creation of the highway. His job was to grade the road base and to grade the sides of the hills. And yes, I do mean those steep grades that you see going up and out from the road.

Well, it was while he was at work one day when he was called over to check out this poor little baby badger that the other men found. Apparently, the man driving a bulldozer counted down a tree and when the tree fell, it crushed the mother badger that was hiding under the roots. She must have thought the tree would protect her baby from all the loud and huge machinery up above.

Since the men on the crew knew that my Grandmother would take in orphaned or injured animals, they called my Papa over. They figured that he would be able to take this little badger home and my grandmother would be able to raise it. Just the thought of a bunch of hardhat-wearing rough men, most of them probably World War II vets like my Papa huddled around this tiny baby badger and worried about its well-being. It only warms your heart just a bit.

Of course, my Papa took the poor dirty, and probably frightened baby badger home with him that night. He placed it in his lunch pail with whatever rags they had on the site to give it some warmth and comfort.

Once home he opened the door to the house and called out to my Grandmother, “Sue I got a little badger that needs some of your attention and tender loving care!”

With that, I can see my grandmother walk on over with my two uncles probably rushing past her, while my mother probably walked over calmly. My papa opens the lunch pail slowly and told my uncles to back up a bit so my grandmother could get in to check the little guy out.

Grandmother asks, “Sam, what happened? Did this poor little thing get orphaned?”

“Yeah, Jack was pushing over a tree and after it fell, he saw this mother crushed by the roots. He got out to check it out and found this little guy under her. Do you think we can raise it? All the guys were hoping you could take care of it.”

“Yes. I believe I can give it some milk and in time start to feed it some of the dog food and table scraps. We just must make sure that when it gets bigger to watch he doesn’t hurt anyone. Those claws are going to get big and sharp.”

With that, they all agreed to help raise this little badger. They would start a schedule of feeding the baby to ensure it was fed regularly. Even the dog got in on the action by cuddling, licking the badger clean, and providing warmth during the night. Somewhere in this process, they started calling the badger Charlie.

As time went on the baby badger quickly got bigger, as well as started getting bigger and sharper claws. It would run around the house and hide under the couch and surprise attack the dog. Then they would start to roll around and play like best friends. My uncles would take the dog and Charlie outside and they would run all over the place.

When my papa would come home after work, Charlie would hide and watch my papa as he walked into the house. Then Charlie would run from his hiding place and wrap his sharp claws around my papa’s leg. He would just hang on just like a small toddler might do. But for whatever reason, Charlie knew that he could only do this to my papa. You see, somehow Charlie knew that only my papa wore tall construction work boots. That his claws would not hurt my papa while doing this.

Sadly, the day came when my grandmother warned everyone off. It was time that Charlie left the house. Not by anyone’s doing, but because that is what badgers do.

My uncles, the dog, and Charlie were out playing in front of the house. Charlie went into the covert at the top of the driveway and wouldn’t come out. Both my uncles tried using food and toys that he would normally go after. But nothing would make him come out. Being the convert was only an 8-inch diameter convert, no one would be able to reach in and grab him either.

My uncles rushed to my grandmother yelling, “Charlie’s in the convert and won’t come out! We tried everything and he won’t come out!”

“Boys, I told you there would be a day like this. It’s just his time to leave home and make his own family.”

With sad faces, they knew she had warned them of this. But first thing the next morning they were ready to run out to the convert and see their badger friend.

The next morning came, and Charlie had left the convert. No signs of what direction he was going. Like my grandmother told them, Charlie was ready to start his own family out in the mountains of Tehachapi.

Years later, while my mother was a beautician, she had a customer that was her neighbor all those years ago. It must have been close to 30 years after Charlie was part of the Brister clan. So, my and this old neighbor started talking about Charlie and the way they played and petted this badger. The neighbor recalled a couple of years after my grandparents had moved, seeing a badger and a couple of baby badgers walking by the end of the driveway. She told my mother that the badger appeared to stop at the end and look down the driveway. It was like Charlie was walking by showing the kids the nice home that he grew up in.

Author: littleslices

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