Picture of single persimmon on a branch - backlit

Persimmon Jim: The Possum

Chapter 1: Persimmon Jim
by Joseph Wharton Lippincott, 1924


Picture of branch with persimmons
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Persimmon Jim: The Possum  Intro    |    Preface    |    Ch. 1    |    Ch. 2    |    Ch. 3    |    Ch. 4    |    Ch. 5    |    Ch. 6    |    Ch. 7    |
                                              Ch. 8    |   
Ch. 9    |    Ch. 10    |    Ch. 11    |    Ch. 12    |    Ch. 13    |    Ch. 14    |    Ch. 15  |

Chapter 1: Persimmon Jim

FARMERS who lived along the banks of Goose Creek near the Pine Barrens could tell many tales of an old opossum they called" Persimmon Jim." Whenever a chicken was found missing it was he who was blamed, or when some night prowling animal fooled the hunters and their dogs, it was he who was made the hero of the story.

On Goose Creek the pine woods and gloomy cedar swamps shut in the fields.  The little chicken farms were rather lonely places, and there was not a great deal of outside news to discuss at meal times or in the cold evenings before the fire. So the interesting stories of this old warrior 'possum who could not be caught or driven away, became an entertaining feature of home gatherings.

This was a chicken-raising country, therefore any animal that might eat chicken was an enemy to alL He had to be destroyed.
Yes, Persimmon] im must go; but how to make him go was the question. Many a boy, full of confidence, set traps and worried over the problem, for the one who could say he had caught this uncannily clever creature could see himself at once a hero. But] im lived on.

The 'possum had reason to know that the hand of everyone was against him. Still, something kept him always in the neighborhood. Was it that the big fellow really loved the little valley? He had been raised there and certainly he knew much more about it than the farmers who, under the laws of mankind, owned the ground and wanted to oust this wild creature from his home.

Sam Collins was one of these farmers. He raised fine white leghorn hens, but he also had the only herd of cows in the Goose Creek Valley and sold milk to his neighbors.

Sam Collins was a wise and a hard worker, but Ed Johnson, -the colored man who took care of Sam's five hundred hens, knew even more than he did about farming. Ed Johnson had a gun; he also owned' a long-legged black and white mongrel that was supposed to hunt 'coons and 'possums. Needless to say, therefore, Johnson became the greatest enemy of Persimmon Jim and of all others of the so-called" varmints" on Goose Creek.

The story of Jim really started at the point where a newcomer in that district a, farmer named Ben Slown, told his nextdoor neighbor, who happened to be Sam Collins, of the loss of four half-grown pullets, and learned for the first time of the existence of the 'possum whose kind he thought he had left behind when he moved from his former place in the center of the Pine Barrens. Then and there Jim acquired another dangerous enemy. Farmer Slown did not stop to consider whether something else might have been the thief; the one word" 'possum" from Sam Collins . was enough for him. He vowed vengeance.

Anyone hunting for Persimmon Jim on this warm day in May, might guess that he would be hidden in some dark hole or in a hollow tree far in the swamp, where he could think over his sins and tremble if he heard anything approaching. He might look for him in the old stone drains around the fields, but never in the hay-10ft of Ben Slown's barn. Yet there is where he was, curled up comfortably in a pocket he made for himself by boring down into the hay. Not even a dog could find him there. Yes, Jim was a wise old fellow and perhaps even a match for Ed Johnson.

Jim of course knew something about mankind. When quite young he and his sisters and brothers had been caught in a trap with their mother. The little ones, scarcely larger than mice, could have escaped, but they would not leave the old 'possum and so were found and taken to a farmer's house for pets.

Jim and one of his little sisters were later given away to a neighbor and were then kept in a big attic room where Jim, who remained as wild as ever, hid himself in a new place every day. Often he could not be found at all. And so, sharp little fellow that he was, he learned something about the hiding game which helped him later.

His sister became tame, but he disliked being handled and fought against it with all his might. Always he was watching for a chance to escape, and one night he found the attic window open and climbed out on the roof. Here he could see the fields and the trees close at hand, but could not get down to them, and so had to spend the following day in hiding behind the chimney while search was made for him all over the house.

When night came he was still free but almOst thirsty and hungry enough to return, to the attic. However, he once more explored the roof and, after a time, found the lightning-rod. On this the little fellow managed to climb down to the ground, using his tail as a brake. With the pleasant feel of cool grass under his tired feet, he wandered off in a lonely way to the farmer's garden, stuffed himself with strawberries and crawled underneath a pile of boards for the day. Thus began his adventures.

This farm, with the big attic and the strawberry patch, was the one which years later was bought by Farmer Ben Slown, who did not know that with it came a 'possum.

...continue to Chapter 2: 'Possum Time

(Note: This chapter ran from pages 15-21 in the original book)