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Original Issue


When I was 18, I overestimated manhood. I threw away a Schwinn bicycle, 145 comic books and a raccoon coat, the coat because I wore it to a football game and, although a spaniel made eyes at me, my date began to itch wildly in the second quarter, so I had to sit alone in the end zone. I was warm, but the wrong kind of warm.

I now have a 10-speed on order, and my wife, who was not my date, got me an Uncle Scrooge comic book for my most recent birthday. She thought I was upset because it cost $12, but I was upset because I knew the ending.

My wife has announced plans to get me a raccoon coat for Christmas, and whereas I did not mind paying $12 for a comic book I had read and thrown away, I figure raccoon coats must have increased tremendously in price since I paid $100 for my first one, purchased at an estate sale with the guarantee that the old gentleman passed away in his sleep, not at a football game.

Raccoons are nocturnal carnivores, arboreal in habit. They do not grow on trees, rather they are chased up trees, then shot, and unless you are an experienced marksman, a coat you built from scratch could have some unbelievable buttonholes.

A friend who hunts raccoons says it is terrifically difficult to be a successful weekend coon hunter; besides, trained coon dogs cost upward of $100. He says that visiting a furrier is much easier than trapping a raccoon.

Lou Gribin is my furrier, mine in the sense that I walk by his store (Fine Furs, Inc., 518 South Boston, Tulsa) every day on the way to work. I told Mr. Gribin that my wife is considering a raccoon coat for my Christmas, and I am considering its price. He said there is no substitute for wisdom. Call him Lou.

A full-length man's raccoon coat was spread at my feet. Lou said reverently, "This is a third-generation coat. It has been at Harvard. It has been at Yale. I believe it has been at Dartmouth. It cost more than a thousand dollars 45 years ago."

A raccoon coat is made of pelts. A quality mink pelt can cost approximately $45, and a good raccoon pelt can be worth from $15 to $20. Lou said that a new full-length raccoon coat for six feet, one inch of dynamite like myself can require 25 to 30 pelts.

"Gimme a pencil, Lou."

"Forget pencils."

A good raccoon coat appears to be made of one skin; there is a continuity of pattern. A new three-quarter-length woman's coat begins at about $750. A used one goes for $350 or $400 depending on color and condition. A coat can vary in color from tan to almost silver. The darker shades are preferred. A coat of superior quality contains little of the raccoon's stomach, because the fur there is thinner and will become worn.

I asked Lou if he was selling many raccoon coats. "Raccoon is back. Try it on," he said. I did. There was no urge to sneeze, but rather an overwhelming desire to carry Lou off the field on my shoulders.

He said, "About a thousand dollars."

I told Lou that I would be back when my team could live up to this coat. "Try the pockets, anyway."

There were no original baseball trading cards inside.