"the running of the raccoons"
by waukee journal-star staff
It appears that the small town of Waukee, Iowa has an answer to the annual Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Two cyclists and one rather surprised raccoon took part in what is sure to become an annual “Running of the Raccoons” on the normally quiet roads just outside of Waukee last Wednesday.
Spectators riding in the relative safety of their SUV’s were treated to a spectacular run as a raccoon was released onto the road to run with the riders. Just as in Pamplona’s annual run, injuries among the participants are common. This first annual Waukee run featured a particularly dangerous collision between the raccoon and Kim West, a rider from nearby Des Moines, Iowa.
David Baxter, of Galesburg, Illinois, traveled over 200 miles to participate in the event and explained, “The raccoon came from the left side of the road and tried to cut diagonally across our path. We were cruising along at 18 to 20 miles per hour, so that little guy must have been going just as fast. He was about the size of a rugby ball and I slowed down just in time to see the raccoon take out Kim’s front wheel.”
According to Baxter, West immediately fell hard to the pavement. The collision barely altered the raccoon’s path and he continued across the road and into the farm field on the other side. “He was really solid for such a little animal.” remarked West much later.
West, who was riding without a helmet, was bleeding heavily from his head and Baxter quickly stopped to help. “Kim was curled up in a ball in the middle of the road and making sobbing noises saying, ‘No, no, oh no.’ over and over again.” commented Baxter. “His voice started to get softer and softer and I thought he was losing consciousness. There was so much blood and hair mixed together on Kim’s head that I couldn’t tell how serious it was and if I was looking at actual brains underneath all that mess. I could see his jersey was torn on the left shoulder and I wondered if he had broken some bones along with cracking his skull open.”
Baxter had just completed CPR training a month earlier but quickly decided that there would be no mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, at least not without giving West a chance to work things out on his own first. Instead, Baxter stopped an approaching SUV and asked the occupants to call 911 while he returned to West, who was by this time shifting from quiet sobs to louder cussing while trying to sit up.
West eventually moved off of the road under his own power and sat in the grass while four or five onlookers handed him paper towels and wet wipes to sop up the blood. His sense of humor returned as well. “I knew Kim would be okay the moment he made a joke about buying a coonskin cap for Ragbrai.” commented Baxter. “When an Amish woman who lived nearby asked if there was anything she could do, Kim kind of rudely said ‘No, I’m fine.’ but then caught himself and apologized for not being very polite. I said, ‘We sure could use some pie.’ but felt bad about that stereotype later, especially since we didn’t get any pie.”
Emergency help initially had trouble finding the scene of the accident due to its remoteness, but when they did arrive there were two squad cars and three different sets of EMT’s. When asked why he was riding without a helmet, West quickly fired back, “Because if I was wearing a helmet it would be cracked in two and I’d have to go buy a new one. Do you know how upset that would make me? My helmet is safe at home where it belongs.” West also demanded that the police start an immediate hunt for the raccoon, claiming that it was huge, had horns, and intentionally tried to gore him.
After West signed waivers showing that he refused to be transported to a hospital, a bystander with a large vehicle offered to give West and Baxter a ride back into Des Moines. During the trip home, West alternated between explaining to the driver that he never crashes and telling stories of amazing crashes he has had in the past. When the driver pointed out the apparent contradiction, West cleared it up by explaining, “No, I never crash. Really. This just never happens to me.”
Upon reaching the West home, the two riders were able to clean up, order pizza, and make a trip to Walgreen’s to buy bandages and antibiotic ointment, while a phone call to Dr. Kelby Bethards confirmed the choice of supplies. West then took some pain medication and settled in for a fitful night’s sleep. West would need to be at his best the next day because he was scheduled to speak to a driver’s education class about sharing the roads with cyclists.
In retrospect, Waukee’s first annual Running of the Raccoons certainly provided thrills, chills, and spills on par with its sister event, the Running of the Bulls. The Waukee event provides a less expensive option for the family on a budget and you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t forget to bring your bikes.