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Persimmon Jim: The Possum

Chapter 8
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 8: Gray Cat Makes A Discovery

GRAY CAT, like all other cats, was a born hunter. He found more interesting game in the woods and fields than in Ben Slown's rat and mouse infested barn and so spent every pleasant night, and a good part of the day besides, in wandering up and down the Valley. In consequence he had a wide acquaintance.

The wild creatures, however, were not friendly, because few knew just where he stood in the matter of friendliness towards them. They seemed to sense that, though different from the dog, Gray Cat had affiliations with man, their great enemy. This made the formidable but wise ones, such as Gray Fox and Coon, shun him. The little grass eaters such as Bun, and the nut eaters such as Groundhackie, feared him because he was a killer. To the birds he was the most dangerous creature in the woods, even the crows giving loud warning of his presence. Therefore, Gray Cat's hunts were lonely indeed, though this fact did not trouble him.

Nevertheless Gray Cat knew a good deal about the woods and the woods people, among them the 'possums whom he regarded with disdain because whenever there might be a dispute over food, they did not assert themselves but preferred, if he was there first, to let him eat his fill and leave for them what he did not want. He was however, a newcomer in Goose Creek Valley and had not encountered old Persimmon Jim since the night when the 'possum had left Ben Slown's hay-loft.

Jim one evening made a trip to the garden back of the farmer's barn and there caught the scent of garbage. He went forward to investigate, sniffing in his cautious manner and watching for danger of any kind. Ben Slown had, it appeared, contracted the habit of spreading the table scraps for the chickens, instead of giving everything to the pigs; so bones of various kinds lay about, and in the middle of the spread crouched Gray Cat chewing away on something especially tough and stringy.

Seeing Jim approaching, Gray Cat at once grew jealous and angry. He growled while still chewing. Jim stopped and waited a moment. This, however, was not enough to satisfy Gray Cat who swallowed what was left of the meat and then advanced menacingly, his ears laid back and a nasty snarl rising into a terror-inspiring scream.  But though the 'possum was evidently surprised, he did not move; so Gray Cat crouched in front of him and tried to stare him down.

Jim bore this for a time, then backed off and made a circle to reach the bones, whereupon Gray Cat charged him and hit him twice on the side of the head with paws on which the claws were thrust out like curved thorns. This would have routed any ordinary 'possum but it infuriated Jim who turned like a shot and pinned Gray Cat by the flank with teeth like needle points. The cat spat and squirmed and then with a wild bounce broke free and ran, the fight of course being all knocked out of him. He was, however, not one to retire gracefully; instead he crouched at a safe distance and made the night hideous with furious yowls directed at Jim.

This racket even annoyed Farmer Slown who at last looked out of his window to see what was happening. He was naturally in a bad humor, especially as he could see nothing in the dark, so he tiptoed downstairs and sent out his dog to take care of the situation. This was the dog, a half bred hound, which had, in company with Banjo, chased Jim earlier in the year.

The cur ran around the house full of excitement and enthusiasm and came across Jim's trail. He barked shrilly and followed. Meanwhile Jim had retired to the line of bean poles in the garden and there waited. The cur rushed on and came upon him. Jim, with back against a vine-covered pole, opened his jaws armed with fifty bright teeth and stood his ground. The cur hesitated an instant then sprang at him and got snapped on the tip of the nose. It was just a warning nip, but how it made him yell! However, he came again and this time nearly lost a piece of an ear. He had enough. Farmer Slown found him next morning whimpering on the doorstep and decided that the old red fox from Oak Ridge must have paid him a visit that night.

But this did not end the fight between Gray Cat and Jim. Gray Cat was not one to forget.

For several days Jim had not seen the little lady 'possum and her family of seven.  He had ranged further than usual in search of her, always returning hopefully to the hickory stump, but she was nowhere to be found in or around the woods. So Jim began to haunt the farms.

It was on one of these trips that he again saw Gray Cat. This time he surprised him in a field in the act of climbing after some thing he had chased up an old pole on which there had once been a "no trespassing" sign. Jim watched him a moment and then felt impelled to move nearer. The furry object on the pole looked familiar. Jim shuffled still nearer and found that a baby 'possum was up there all by itself holding off the attack of the eager cat to whom it looked like a good meal. The breeze brought the scent to Jim and told him it was one of the seven. Instantly his mane and the fur all the way down his back bristled with rage. He trotted forward and rose up against the pole just beneath Gray Cat who was too busy to notice anything.

A growl such as only could come from a throat like Jim's, almost brought Gray Cat flopping down; but his claws held and he was able to spring over the 'possum's head and just avoid the snap of those white teeth.  Then Jim, ignoring his enemy, circled the place looking for the lost mother; around and around, then back to the pole.

A yelp of a dog near by was the first thing to pull him together again. He stopped short and looked for the cur. The yelp came nearer accompanied by crashing of dry brush along the fence row. Instantly Jim climbed up the pole to have a better look and to get off the dangerous ground.  He was beside the little 'possum who, almost frightened stiff, came 'within an inch of falling off the stick. He could not know of course that this was his father.

The little one saw only a great furry beast big enough to eat him at one bite. He was game, however, and opened his jaws to flash his teeth just as he had a moment before at Gray Cat. Jim for a moment looked him over with interest, then straightened around to see what the cur was doing.

The dog, a tall yellow mongrel, was circling, evidently trying to follow the trail left by the baby 'possum. Around he went, while up on the pole the little 'possum and the big old one crouched side by side following him with their little beady eyes.  Fortunately for them Gray Cat tried to sneak away at the wrong moment. The hound caught a glimpse of her and joyfully started in pursuit. Gray Cat ran faster and faster and the dog had the fun of his life until his quarry reached the hen-house and climbed to safety. But in that chase the 'possum scent had been forgotten.

...continue to Chapter 9: Jim's Little Companion