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Allegany State Park is, as area campers know, one of the jewels of New York’s park system. It’s flora and fauna and breathtaking vistas have enthralled many visitors. Yet Allegany is likewise known for certain four-legged inhabitants whose antics have become legendary. The following are the facts.

A light summer breeze rustled the tree branches under an azure sky as my wife, Liz, and I packed our time-worn Starcraft camper. Our children – Timmy, Eddy and Kristin – excitedly stowed their gear for another excursion to the forest. Anticipation for a wonderful weekend was high.

The boys, veteran campers, were anxious to initiate (and probably scare) their little sister in the wonders of “the wild.” For Mom and Dad, it was a welcomed escape from the well-known race that the rats were winning.

In the back of my mind was the mouth-watering vision of enjoying a post-dinner campfire with a heaping helping of a longtime addiction, fresh pound cake. As we rattled out of the driveway, my only question was: “Are you sure we have the pound cake?” With affirmation, we were off.

We arrived at our site after a spirited “count the cows” game, with each team reacting with glee as a cemetery along the road wiped out the opponents’ count. As the mundane task of setting up camp fell to Mom and Dad, the children explored the periphery of the site. “Maybe we’ll see a bear!” the boys yelled, as Kristin shied away and ran to help us.

Securing the site, we headed for Quaker Lake and an enjoyable afternoon of swimming and canoeing. That evening, our dinner of hot dogs and burgers seemed like a feast as I prepared for my “piece de resistance.” Then disaster struck. The pound cake was missing!

I immediately zeroed in on the usual suspects. I conducted an investigation that would have made Sgt. Joe Friday of “Dragnet” proud. Timmy and Eddy were advised that they did not have the right to remain silent! Yet the two suspects refused to break. They tearfully and steadfastly denied that they had spirited away the coveted pound cake and sinfully enjoyed every last crumb.

My perfect day had been ruined. “To bed with no campfire!” I decreed. The pleading and sobs had no impact upon Sgt. Friday as the boys dragged themselves into exile for the night. Mom just stared at Sgt. Friday and slowly shook her head. As the darkness increased, it began to rain, as if even the angels were sympathizing with the convicted.

Considering the case closed, Sgt. Friday retired to bed. However, nature called at 3 a.m. and I sought a tree among the raindrops. My sleepy ablution in the quiet forest was frighteningly shattered by loud crashes and movements from the branches above. As I stood dumbfounded in the dark, something crashed through and landed at my feet.

An examination revealed the remnants of my obsession, the pound cake, reposed on the forest floor, plastic wrapping torn, and huge pieces missing. I instantly realized that I was the victim of the infamous burglars of the forest. Tim and Ed were innocent!

Somewhere in the branches above, the bushy, striped-tailed, masked culprits hid, after successfully pulling off another caper. The tables had been turned. Sgt. Friday was the victim of the Allegany raccoons. As I picked up the soggy remains of the pound cake, I swear that I heard the burglars, bellies full, laughing hysterically.

Tim Ellis lives in Hamburg.