Little House on the Prairie

Season 1 Episode 10

The Raccoon

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Nov 20, 1974 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The Raccoon
Feeling guilty for accidentally breaking Laura's beloved china doll, Mary brings home a baby raccoon to smooth things over with her sister. Charles is hesitant to allow Laura to keep the animal, but he decides that it would be all right to make a temporary adoption--a choice that he lives to regret.moreless

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  • The surprise ending was well done by the writers.

    I liked that the viewers don't find out that there were two raccoons until the happy ending, when we see Jasper in the barn. New viewers have to wait and wonder what will happen to Jack and Laura, along with the bigger surprise that Jasper never really died. All of the pieces are put together at the end and the characters are all happy. What a beautiful ending!
  • Laura adopts a baby raccoon, who bites her and Jack.

    Laura finds an injured baby raccoon, and the normally sane Pa and Ma Ingalls make the unwise decision to let Laura keep him. One day, the raccoon (Jasper) decides he's had enough of being caged and walked on a leash and bites Laura and Jack; he then runs off into the woods. Pa and Ma know Jack was bitten, but they don't know about Laura's bite. Mary, the only witness, is sworn to secrecy by her sister. That very night a raccoon tears up the hen house (Laura had been giving Jasper eggs every day). Pa shoots the offending animal, only to discover it was rabid. Jack must be quarantined. When Mary finds out that rabies is fatal if contracted, she has a mini-breakdown and tells Pa about Laura's bite. For days the family agonizes over whether the disease will manifest itself or not. Of course, it doesn't, and the series continues for nine more years. Actually, in the end, as Charles prepares to shoot a constantly-barking Jack, a raccoon pops out of the barn and covers its eyes--a trick Laura had taught Jasper. The one in the henhouse wasn't her pet after all. A fine episode centering on strength in times of crisis, and genuinely tense, especially as Charles approaches the barn, 12-guage in hand.moreless
  • A good lesson, even for today.

    As a wildlife rehabilitator, I was glad to see this subject covered the way it was. I was concerned when I first saw Laura getting a "pet" raccoon that the moral would be how cute they are, troublesome, perhaps, but great pets. I need not have worried. As usual, the storyline had a great lesson and this one is - wild animals do not make good pets.

    I will be honest, I could not bring myself to watch this episode until I saw a later one with Jack still in it. I knew then he was not killed, so I went back and watched this then and only then. Jack is such an important family member, I could not have handled watching him die. If I hadn't already spoiled the ending for myself, I would have been a wreck seeing Charles carry his rifle out to kill the family's beloved pet. Even knowing he was going to be okay, I was on the edge of my seat. As always, Pa was right to teach Laura that Jasper needed to be wild and would not be happy in a cage and, as always, he had to do what was best for the family, even when it was tearing him up inside. Another great, moving episode.moreless
  • The Raccoon

    While playing ball out side with her sister Mary, Laura breaks her doll Janet. The next day Mary finds a baby raccoon and brings him home to Laura thinking it will help her not miss her doll so much. Laura names him Jasper and her father reluctantly lets her keep him, until he is big enough to take care of himself. Jasper bites the family dog Jack, and the family begins to fear that the raccoon may be rabid. The family then begins to closely watch the dog for any sign of rabies. Mary then reveals to her parents that the raccoon also had bitten Laura. Later the family realizes that the raccoon isn't rabid and all ends well. Overall good episode of a great show.moreless
  • One of the saddest episodes of Season 1 and that's saying something! When Mary accidently breaks Laura's china doll, she brings her home a baby raccoon as a pet, which causes all types of problems.moreless

    Whilst playing outside, Mary accidently breaks Laura's china doll. Both girls are devastated, particularly when it is realised that the cost of a new head for the doll is way beyond their budget.

    Trying to make her sister feel better, Mary brings home a baby raccoon who is extremely cute. Laura falls instantly in love with the animal and names him 'Jasper'. Charles is worried about keeping a wild animal but tells Laura it can stay temporarily. Delighted, Laura begins to teach him several delightful tricks. The only 'person' not impressed is the family dog, Jack, who barks at the raccoon and chases him as often as possible.

    After a cage is made from which Jasper escapes, Laura is heartbroken, but she doesn't tell her father that Jasper bit both her and the dog in recent days. When an obviously rabid Jasper comes back, Charles has to kill him as the family wait to see if either Jack and Laura have rabies.

    One night, when a tied up Jack is making a ruccus, Charles realises that he is indeed rabid and goes to the barn to shoot him while Caroline and the girls sob in the house. Just as he is about to raise the gun and shoot the dog whilst dealing with his own grief, he sees ... Jasper! He is not rabid at all which means that Charles killed a different raccoon and that neither Laura nor Jack have anything to worry about!

    This one is a REAL tearjerker. A superb performance by Michael Landon as he contemplates the fact that his beloved daughter may have rabies and that he will have to destroy the family pet. Great work. Great episode!moreless
Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls/Wilder

Melissa Sue Anderson

Melissa Sue Anderson

Mary Amelia Ingalls/Kendall (1974 - 1981)

Kevin Hagen

Kevin Hagen

Dr. Hiram Baker

Richard Bull

Richard Bull

Nels Oleson

Charlotte Stewart

Charlotte Stewart

Miss Eva Beadle/Mrs. Simms (1974 - 1978)

Michael Landon

Michael Landon

Charles Ingalls (1974 - 1982)

Robert Hoffman (III)

Robert Hoffman (III)

Sandy Kennedy

Guest Star

Alison Arngrim

Alison Arngrim

Nellie Oleson

Recurring Role

Jonathan Gilbert

Jonathan Gilbert

Willie Oleson

Recurring Role

Tracie Savage

Tracie Savage

Christy Kennedy

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • After Jasper bites Laura and gets out of the cage Jack starts barking at Jasper, and Laura says "Jasper, leave Jack alone", but it shows that Jack was trying to hurt Jasper, so it should have been "Jack leave Jasper alone".

    • At the beginning of this episode you can see that Mary and Laura were out of their characters a bit. It shows Mary wanting to play ball and Laura playing with a doll. Laura is not into dolls as much and Mary is a book worm she never wants to play ball.

    • Notice the scene where Mary is crying hysterically as she admits to Charles that Jasper bit Laura. The camera is zoomed in closely on Mary's face. Back when it was filmed, they planned on adding shots of Charles' face later, but Michael Landon became very ill with meningitis and was hospitalized. The episode was left incomplete, and Landon was not well enough to film anything else for it, so they just kept the close-up shots of Mary. Melissa Sue Anderson, the actress who played her, has said that this was one of her first really "meaty" roles on the show, and it gave her a chance to show that she could act.

    • The rabid raccoon that wreaked havoc around the Ingalls farm was much fatter than Jasper. It's a bit of a stretch that nobody in the Ingalls family made the connection that they were two different raccoons. It's not as if they were identical--quite the opposite, actually. There was one point where Charles knelt down and released the fat raccoon into the woods from a sack, and then he came home to find a much thinner Jasper in the barn with Laura.

    • Neither Caroline nor Charles bat an eye as they watch Laura hold Jasper the raccoon like a baby, after Mary brings it home for the first time. Don't raccoons tend to carry deadly diseases? And wouldn't pioneer people like the Ingallses--especially intelligent, conscientious parents like Charles and Caroline--be aware of that?

    • At the beginning of this episode, Mary gives her father attitude about the raccoon issue, which is extremely rare for her character. She almost never talked to Pa this way before, no matter what was going on.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Caroline: (about Laura's chance of having rabies) Doc Baker, does she?
      Doc Baker: It's too early to tell.
      Charles: How long until we find out?
      Doc Baker: Watch the dog. A dog runs its course within a week to ten days. The incubation period for a girl Laura's age could be anywhere from three weeks to a month. If the dog doesn't develop rabies, chances are Laura won't.
      Caroline: And if she, um.....if worse comes to worse.....what kind of treatment would you give her? (long silence, Charles puts his hand on her shoulder)
      Charles: There is no treatment.

    • Doc Baker: (examining Laura's raccoon bite) Four days ago, you said?
      Charles: That's right, Doc.
      Doc Baker: Well, then, we'd better begin treatment immediately. One gumball, to be taken internally.
      Laura: Thank you! Then I don't have to take any medicine?
      Doc Baker: For a little bite like that? No. Just rest in bed for a couple of days. That's my prescription--Doc Baker's magic formula!

    • Charles: (about not letting the kids keep the raccoon) You think I was wrong?
      Caroline: No, I thought what you said was very sensible.
      Charles: But you would just assume that I wouldn't be so sensible about this?
      Caroline: It's just that Laura's been missing her doll so much.....
      Charles: (pauses, smiles) All right. I can't have my women thinking I'm the meanest in Hero Township. But she's only gonna keep him for a little while.

    • Mary: (about the raccoon) Oh, but Pa, look how gentle he is! I wouldn't have brought him home for Laura if he was wild.
      Charles: Mary, he's gentle now because he's a baby. You wait and see--that animal will grow to be as big as a dog, and nowhere near as reliable. A raccoon like that could really hurt somebody.
      Laura: Well, if he grew up with us, he'd be tame.
      Charles: Half-Pint, if that raccoon was tame, he'd be the first tame raccoon I've ever seen, and I've seen quite a lot. Now, you heard what I said--take him outside and play with him for a little while, then set him loose.
      Mary: But Pa, he's just a baby!
      Laura: Yeah, like Carrie! You wouldn't leave Carrie all alone in the woods, would you?

    • Caroline: (about Laura, whose doll was shattered to pieces) She is an unhappy girl.
      Charles: Well, I'm afraid she's going to be just as unhappy tomorrow. There's no way I'm gonna be able to put this thing together. The big pieces are easy, but some of them are just as small as pieces of dust.
      Caroline: Mary feels just as bad. She threw the ball.
      Charles: It was just an accident.
      Caroline: Charles, do you think we could afford to....
      Charles: I'm sorry, Caroline. It's just--it's the winter money. There's never enough.
      Caroline: I know that.
      Charles: (takes her hand) You know I wish I could.
      Caroline: Of course I do.

  • NOTES (2)

    • When this episode was filmed, Melissa Gilbert (Laura) thought it would be her favorite one, since she got to work with a real live baby raccoon for several scenes. However, when the two-part episode The Lord is My Shepherd aired later that season, that ended up being her all-time favorite.

    • Filming Locations: Filmed at Big Sky Ranch, Simi Valley and Paramount Studios, Hollywood, California.