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'Sandy Claws'

December 19, 2010

Special thanks to Laura-Susan Thomas for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit childrensillustrators.com/illustrator.cgi/LSseismiccow.

December 19, 2010

Mom and Joanne spent the day stringing strings of popcorn and cranberries. Now that the tree was in place, Dad strung the lights. Joanne placed the streamers as high as her 4-year old arms could reach. Dillon put the decorations on the middle of the tree. Dillon and Joanne stood in awe as Dad plugged in the lights.

"Oh! Ah!" they gasped..

Mom carefully placed a plate of cookies and a glass of milk on the table.

"Now we must get to bed," said Mom. "Santa must not find anyone awake in this house."

Dillon was eight and still hoped there was some truth to the story of Santa's sleigh circling the world, leaving presents at every house.

"Aw, Mom," protested Dillon."How can Santa get to every house in the world in just one night?"

"Don't you believe there is a real Santa Claus?" asked Joanne.

Soon the lights on the Christmas tree were the only light seen in this lonely house in the country. At midnight, a tinkle of bells sounded in the distance. A rustle of paper and a puff of smoke from the still-warm fireplace preceded a 'whoosh' as a stout bearded old man in a red suit appeared in a cloud of soot. He ate one cookie, drank some milk and disappeared up the chimney. In his wake there was drifting ash and a heap of colorful presents under the tree.

A few minutes later, a raccoon, disguised in his bandit mask, crept into the room through an open window. He ate the rest of the cookies and licked the crumbs from the plate. He pulled the tasty strings of popcorn and cranberries from the tree. Then he dragged packages out the window and across the sandy yard to his den under the Mesquite tree. He made many trips back through the window to get all of the boxes and bags from beneath the tree. He dragged the strings of popcorn and cranberry decorations across the sand. He was a very busy raccoon that night.

Under the roots, curled together, fast asleep, were three young raccoons.

As the rising sun flooded the house with light, Dillon and Joanne crashed down the stairs.

"He ate the cookies and drank the milk," Joanne announced.

"But where are the presents?" Dillon questioned.

There was nothing under the tree except ash.

"What happened?" Joanne asked, close to tears.

"Someone came in and took all the presents. Mo-ther!" Dillon wailed.

Mother and Dad, still half asleep, clumped down the steps. When they saw the clutter, Mother gasped,

"We‚ve been robbed!"

Dad, acting like a detective, looked at the tiny prints in the ash on the floor. He followed them to the window. He saw more footprints in the sand outside the window. Walking very softly, he followed the prints to the mesquite tree. He carefully poked around until he found the living quarters of the raccoon family. Quietly he peered into the den. The little folks were gleefully opening the brightly colored packages and tossing bits of ribbon and scraps of paper in all directions. Mother raccoon a was chomping happily on the cranberries and popcorn, carefully spitting out bits of thread.

Dad had to be careful because racoons are wild animals and can be dangerous. So he got a noise maker and gathered up popcorn and walnuts for the raccoons and put them in a shiny bag. When he blew the horn and shook the bag, the racoons stopped and watched as Dad threw the goodies away from their den. The racoons ran outside and proceeded to gobble up their new feast.

"Sorry guys," Dad murmured as he gathered up the ruins of the packages and carried them home to Dillon and Joanne.

As he distributed the boxes to his family, he said, "Someone wanted to share in your Christmas. Now kids, you have to believe in Santa," He pointed to the prints in the sand. "You've been visited by both Santa Claus and Sandy Claws."

Special thanks to Laura-Susan Thomas for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit childrensillustrators.com/LSseismiccow

For more Kids' Reading Room, visit latimes.com/kids.

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