Coon hunting on moonlight nights has always been considered great sport in the deep South. But in an Arlington suburb?

When Cathy Johnson found a family of five baby raccoons nesting in her chimney, her first impulse was to let nature take its course and allow them to stay put until they were big enough for the mother to take them away. But chimney cleaners cautioned that if they became too large and were too low in the chimney, it might be impossible for the mother to get them out. In which event they would surely die.

So, Cathy's husband, Woody, an FBI agent, enlisted the aid of his neighbor, Bruce Dale, a photographer for National Geographic, in getting the animals out of the chimney. David Kennerlu, photographer for the White House during the Ford administration, went along to witness the event.

A raccoon, in case you haven't been on a coon hunt lately, has a face like a fox. a black patch around each eye gives a cunning, mischievous look. With the appealing little animals in hand, Dale, who has a penchant for bringing home the homeless, be they man or beast, proceeded to do just that.

Joyce Dale, over the years has learned not to be surprised at anything. Nevertheless even she was not prepared to house a family of raccoons. A quick call to a neighbor produced a cage which eased the situation temporarily.

The following night Mama Raccoon appeared at the Johnson front door in a tearing rage. The accusing glare on her face demanded to know what had been done with her babies. Cathy fearing to risk Mama's obvious wrath, slammed shut the windows, battened down the hatches, and retired to her room with a headache.

Meanwhile across the quiet North Arlington street at the Dale domicile, all was far from well. The baby coons, unhappy over being so rudely removed from their comfortable chimney quarters, showed their chagrin by refusing to eat.

Another neihbor, Thelma Sinamon, living on nearby Inglewood and considered an expert on animal fere, was hastily summoned for an emergency consultation.

Her opnion was that remnants of fried chicken left over from a family picnic would do quite nicely. Unfortunately, the babies did not concur. The furry, foxy little animals viewed it with disdain, and settled back as if to indicate that only their mother could supply.

Baby raccoons are fairly helpless at first. When they, cry, they sound like human babies. Such a situation is, to put it mildly, not soothing to the nerves. Joyce, in desperation, suggested they be let go. Eldest son Gregg pro-claimed such a course inhumane and said emphatically no.

So the vigil began.

Call it animal instinct; call it maternal instinct; call it what you will, but Mama Raccoon, frustrated in her attempt to get results at the Johnson's, made her way up the street to the Dales and found her babies.

She snarled and pawed at the wire barrier. Unable to break through, she let out a string of "expletives deleted" that shattered the usually calm street, and then stormed off.

It fell to the Dale's youngest son, Christopher, to come up with a solution to the problem. Screen the babies off in the back of the cage. Leave the front of the cage open, but with a trap door device which would snap shut when the unsuspecting mama returned.

It worked.

It was, in Joyce's words, the most joyful reunion ever witnessed.the babies regained their appetites. They pounced on mama and were all over her, nusing frantically.

The Dales and Johnsons, accompanied by David Kennerly, took their lodgers to Great Falls and released them. Mama, happy to be in her natural habitat, promptly ran up a tree. The babies, not sure what was up, tentatively tested a few twigs. And the cage, to which they had become accustomed, was left there temporarily to see them through the period of adjustment.