Picture of single persimmon on a branch - backlit

Persimmon Jim: The Possum

Chapter 3: The New Den
by Joseph Wharton Lippincott, 1924

persimmonpudding.com

Picture of branch with persimmons
Diospyros virginiana L. (common persimmon): History, Cultivation, Celebration and Culture, Natural History, BotanyHealth & Nutrition, Culinary Use (recipes), Commercial, Entertainment, News, Links, SourcesHomeContact us!

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 3: The New Den

WHETHER the 'possum travelled in the wood or in the field, with ears, nose and eyes he kept watching the trail in front and behind. Therefore it happened that he heard the pat, pat, pat of some creature approaching in the path, long before its form could be seen in the darkness.  Jim instantly stopped, listened attentively and recognized the sounds as coming from his old enemy Banjo, the hound belonging to Ed Johnson.

With a glance to right and left for the nearest tree, he silently moved a short distance towards it and sat down. He knew that the hound, trotting swiftly along the path alone at that time of night, was on some particular business of his own and not out hunting, so he moved only far enough out of his way to show respect and thus avoid exciting him.

Banjo came swiftly along the path until directly opposite Jim whereupon his keen nose at once caught the 'possum scent in the trail and he instinctively slowed down to a walk in order to investigate. His sniffing told him that the 'possum was old Persimmon Jim and that the trail led from the path towards the tree. The hound stood there for a few moments undecided what to do. It was fun to chase a 'possum, but then the trail always led up a tree or into a hole where he could not follow, and without Ed Johnson to aid him, there was after that no fun in it for him. Therefore, in the absence of special encouragement the idea gave him no thrill, and he finally trotted away, leaving the path again clear for Jim, who understood and immediately returned to unconcernedly resume his journey.

A little further on a black cat appeared like a shadow sneaking towards him, but Jim, recognizing her, kept right on, and she, well knowing that nothing was to be gained by quarrelling with him, leaped out of his way. It was Sam Collins's cat. His house and barn were only a short distance up the path.

Jim heard Sam Collins's cows coughing where they rested in a yard near by.  Already he smelled the pig-pen, the horse stable and even the chicken yard. Ahead was a fence. On this Jim stayed for a long time, listening and sniffing while his little eyes peered through the half darkness at all the familiar things. He knew this farm even better than the owner did, even knowing just how it ought to smell if all was as it should be.

At two o'clock in the night a great stillness enveloped the buildings themselves, where many noisy creatures of the day were soundly sleeping. Soon they would be stirring restlessly and then moving out of their beds or off their perches with the corning of the sunlight, but now was 'possum time.

So Jim climbed off the fence and wandered unmolested around the buildings until he arrived at the pig-pens and picked up there a few food scraps that the pigs could not quite reach through the fence and the chickens had not found. The four fat pigs were lying in a luxurious bed of straw they had rooted together in one corner of the sty.  They would not miss the scraps nor even know that they had had a visitor. Jim, however, took care not to disturb them, lest they become frightened and make a noise that might arouse the farm.

He had found everything peaceful and normal, as expected, quite different indeed from Ben Slown's farm where the work had upset everything and worried him with the racket. So he proposed to spend the day here, under the wooden floor of the pig-pen where he had one of his many cozy dens.

Taking a good look around he slipped under a loose board and felt his way to the bed of pig straw he had left there a month or so earlier in the year. Into this he stepped, only to be met by a deep growl and the strong scent of another opossum.

Jim drew back. Long he crouched there sniffing and trying to find out how formidable this other fellow might be who had taken his bed and now gruffly warned him off. It was, however, pitch dark under the platform, and even the 'possum's bright eyes could not see things there.

He approached again and once more was met with a growl, which changed to a hissing snarl as Jim's nose encountered the other's and their long teeth clicked together.  Three times Jim tried to push the newcomer out of his bed, then gave it up and good-naturedly set about making a new bed of his own.

Finding no straw lying about, he calmly began carrying away the bed from around the other fellow. One bunch of straw after another he pulled out regardless of growls, until he had a fine pile all to himself and his rival lay grimly on the bare ground.

Then Jim worked himself into the middle of the straw and after a growl or two of his own like the rumblings of a grizzly bear, he curled up and went to sleep. Nor did the other 'possum dare after that to disturb him; he preferred to shiver there uncomfortably rather than to face a growl like that.

When morning came the pigs rooted and grunted directly over Jim's head, but troubled him not at all. He had hunted out a safe place, he was not hungry, his new bed was perfect, why should he worry?  Why indeed?

...continue to Chapter 4: A Narrow Escape