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Persimmon Jim: The Possum

Chapter 4: A Narrow Escape
by Joseph Wharton Lippincott, 1924

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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 4: A Narrow Escape

When the pigs became quiet, and light no longer showed through the cracks of the floor, Jim came out of his bed and after his usual look around, ambled away from the pen. The other 'possum, after an uncomfortable day, had already gone, but that did not trouble Jim. He had a look at the herd of cows, then, taking another direction, soon reached Goose Creek in the bottom of the pasture at a spot where he knew a log led across the water. This log, however, he now found chopped into kindling-wood and stacked at one side.

It was while thinking about this and what he should do next, that Jim suddenly heard the hunting cry of Banjo; "u u h, uh, u u h," the bay of the hound came down the meadow and echoed in the woods beyond the creek. With it sounded the sharper cry of another dog, " yipe, i i i yipe."
Jim's mane bristled, and the hair stiffened along the whole length of his spine. There was no near-by tree on his side of the water; the hounds were between him and the pigpen. He did not get excited, however.  First he listened until sure that the two were really on his trail, then he scurried along the bank searching for a muskrat hole or other refuge.

Down the meadow raced the big pursuers, their feet pounding loudly on the hard sod. They found where Jim had turned at the edge of the creek and they turned too and went howling after him.  They came, however, to a break in the trail; Jim had wisely doubled back towards the farm. They found his trail going up the dew-soaked meadow and fairly flew after him. Again the trail ended; Jim had turned back and then run at right angles towards the creek. Banjo, swinging in circles, found the new direction and went thundering down the meadow at full speed.

The trail now came back to the creek at the point where the old log had lain.  There was 'possum scent in both directions.  Banjo turned to the right, the other hound to the left; presently Banjo decided that the other hound must have the right direction, so turned back to join him; but at the same time the other came to join Banjo. They met in confusion and fussed about uncertainly until all the trails were stale, then at last a bright idea came to Banjo. He waded into the creek and swam across.

Hopefully he ran along the other bank.  Yes, here was Jim's trail again; the old 'possum had actually swum over and turned into a cow path through the long grass.  Banjo bayed joyfully and ran on; but he was alone, the other hound being afraid to enter the creek beyond his depth. Banjo wisely tried to overtake the 'possum before he could reach the wood, so stretched his long legs to the limit and gained very fast.

Jim, his fur water soaked and heavy, was going along desperately at the fastest pace he knew-the 'possum shuffle. He heard Banjo coming and did his best with his short legs and clumsy feet that were really built for climbing trees and grasping limbs.

It was an unequal race but Jim never lost heart. He saw the trees ahead; he heard Banjo's view cry; he shuffled and shuffled and suddenly found himself facing a tree trunk. Up this he climbed with his last breath, digging his toe nails into the bark and pulling himself up with heart-breaking effort. He knew that Banjo would leap and seize him if he could. Slap came the big hound against the trunk, his teeth clicking together as they met over Jim's long tail.

But the teeth slipped on so small an object; the hound fell back and at his next leap failed by an inch. Jim was beyond his reach! For a time Banjo bayed furiously and even sank his teeth into the tree, while the other hound, feeling entirely out of the fun, howled dismally from the pasture. It was on account of this other hound, a newcomer, whom Banjo had picked up at Ben Slown's, that he had come hunting so, thoroughly disgusted at being deserted by his timid companion, he now turned back himself and after a long drink at the creek, swam across and, regardless of the other dog's joy at seeing him again and desire to continue hunting, made his dignified way to his kennel and refused to be led away again.  Ben Slown's hound therefore had nothing better to do than to slink home alone.

Meanwhile, Jim, afraid that Banjo would come back, perhaps with his master, as had happened on some other occasions, climbed down and shuffled through the underbrush to another wood. There, to leave a difficult trail for any enemy to follow, he climbed two trees before cautiously slipping to one he knew contained a comfortable hollow.  Hungry, wet, tired out and already stiff in the shoulders, he somehow clambered into the hole and fell asleep as soon as he touched the hard bed. The angry cries of a fierce little screech owl he had disturbed in this its present home, scarcely made any impression, and daylight found him with the owl perched comfortably on his furry back, both of them now entirely contented and fast asleep for the day.

...continue to Chapter 5: A Fight In The Woods