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Persimmon Jim: The Possum

Chapter 9
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 9: Jim's Little Companion

AFTER the yellow dog had gone, Jim and the lIttle 'possum sat for some time looking at each other. To Jim the young one seemed like a part of the mother. It had her scent as well as its own. He had often seen them together. The young one on the other hand was terribly lonely, having three days before lost the mother and since then seen nothing of her-his only friend. The wise little thing began to see that Jim meant no harm and was indeed almost friendly. It recognized him as one of its kind, closer to the mother than anything it had found in the woods. Also it remembered, in a vague way, having seen him before. It therefore sniffed in an experimental manner, as a friendly overture.

Jim regarded this movement suspiciously; he moved away a few inches; the young one, emboldened, followed him. Jim then climbed down the pole, the young one coming after him. When he reached the fence the little fellow was still just behind working for all he was worth to keep pace; a pathetic little creature it was too, almost starved from three days of fasting. Just what won old Jim over, it is hard to say, but certain it is that he went against all the customs of the males of his race and virtually adopted the motherless little thing.

Jim was an unusual 'possum anyway, and the young one probably to some extent took the place of its mother. When the youngster grew tired, he waited for it to catch up and after some mild objection even allowed it to climb onto his strong back and cling there in his long fur for the remainder of the trip to Ben Slown's garbage dump. At the smell and sight of food the little one scrambled off and literally fell onto a piece of bread which he put down his throat in two gulps and nearly died choking over.  One thing after another followed the bread until his sides had swelled out to the round proportions of a ball. Yet even then he held onto a piece of fat and dragged it about with him as if afraid to leave real food behind.

Jim stayed there watching him. Strange thoughts must have gone through that long head of his. Perhaps he knew that he would never again see the little lady 'possum who had meant so much to him, or perhaps he hoped that through the little one he might somehow find her. The youngster could not tell him what had happened to her, and he never found out. She and the other young ones had gone forever. Such things often happened in the lives of the wild creatures.

When Jim started back to the woods, the young one immediately climbed on his back as if now quite used to it. Again Jim hesitated and looked around as if half decided to object, but he went on and climbed with his son still clinging to him, into the hollow of his favorite oak. There the two slept together peacefully all day, not even hearing the caws of Jim Crow, or Gray Squirrel's bark from a neighboring tree.

Late in the evening the young one became restless and promenaded all over Jim. He was hungry again. His mother had always fed him at this time and he missed her. At last, however, Jim decided it was time to climb out and hunt food, so once more the youngster trustingly clung to his back and went wandering across the meadow to Ben Slown's place.

This time the garbage was being guarded by Gray Cat who growled as usual at the approach of the 'possums, little knowing the hatred for him and his kind that had sprung up in the heart of old Jim. Jim made straight for the cat and sent him back, spluttering and yowling. As long as there was any sign of his enemy, the 'possum kept guard instead of joining the little one at the evening meal. And once more the youngster stuffed himself almost to bursting.

That night Jim went into the orchard and along the edge of the vegetable garden.  He found a ripe plum on the ground and with some trouble caught a mouse near an old stump, thereby giving the young one on his back a good bounce or two which it seemed to enjoy. The little fellow climbed down to share the mouse but Jim, not possessing the mother instinct, had already eaten it. So off they started again and in a roundabout way reached Goose Creek and followed its nearest bank until opposite the hollow oak.

A coon had been there ahead of them and had gone into the woods towards the oak. This annoyed Jim. He sniffed about examining the trail, and approached the oak with caution which he certainly would not have shown had the young one not been on his mind. Sure enough, the coon was in the den and evidently determined to stay there for the day, since he looked down at the 'possums from the entrance and then turned back to settle himself comfortably.

Jim's fur began to tingle along his spine, for this was a young coon he knew he could whip in a dispute over a den; but now things were different from the old days; he had acquired a burden. It was up to him to take care of it. So he turned away and quietly wandered to the hickory stump; but here too he found a lodger. Striped Coat's mate had appropriated it with her six black and white kittens. No use arguing with her.

Once more Jim moved off and, retracing his steps, carried his son to the cave among the ferns. Here he found his old bed remade to suit another wood pussy who was evidently still afield. It was tainted with the odor of musk but not really bad, so Jim climbed in and arranged himself to face any intruder. When the skunk, a pretty black fellow with two narrow white stripes down his back, came galloping home in a hurry on account of lateness, Jim's wide open mouth met him and stopped him as if he had come up against a closed door. He was an imprudent skunk, but what could he do where possession by a big 'possum is more than nine-tenths of the law? With a chirp of anger he turned away and went galloping along the trail to find another bed.  It was a new experience to him, for few animals cared to take a skunk's bed, but then few had a burden like Jim's. This was in the month of July when the weather was warm, so the full grown skunk easily found another comfortable place, though one not so well hidden.

Jim, with the little one lying warmly against his body, slept through that day without once stirring. Jim's right ear was ready to receive any message of danger, but so well did he know the ordinary noises of the woods that nothing except the unusual could disturb him.



...continue to Chapter 10: 'Simmon Time