A lively prattle at the base of the ancient oak tree reached Horace’s ears, disturbing his daytime slumber.
“Bbrrruumpph. What’s that incessant commotion down there?” Oversized golden eyes flashed with agitation from under silvery plumes. The regal booming voice echoed through the woods with authority. Thomas and Thelma quavered against their woven home, nestling tighter together.
The latest news from the Possum Clan had spread up and down Rascal Ravine like a prairie brush fire that morning. Everybody had a fantastical version of the story, embellished with his or her own brand of story telling. And so it was with the bristly red tails down on the ground.
“Chitter, chatter, chitter, chatter – all day long. Don’t you red-tails ever have anything important to say?” Thomas scolded from on high with Horace hhhrrrmpphing in the background.
Sammy shot back an insult, his brushy tail shaking a rhythm that matched his warbling. “Winged ones always think they own the airwaves, don’t they?”
“Just get on with it, son. I’m not getting any younger.” Horace’s plumed eyebrows fluttered in expectation.
Now Sammy had his audience hooked. “Well, I just can’t believe you haven’t heard about the goings-on up where the horses live. I heard the news from Rusty first thing . . .”
“Rusty? That thief? You can’t believe him.”
Sammy’s tail twitched. “Now, wait a minute Horace. Rusty may have a bandit patch across his eyes, but that don’t make him a thief. This is a great story. Seems one of the possum young ‘uns had a run in with some of ‘em funny bipeds. Just when Little Percy thought he could sneak into the big metal eatery for a late night meal, he got surprised by a strobin’ light. And you know them critters can’t hardly see in the daylight. His eyes were a-burnin’ and he was all discombobulated. He scurried up into the rafters, tryin’ to get away as fast as he could.”
Sammy’s discourse slowed just long enough for an anxious Thelma to chirp her encouragement. “Ooohh, Sammy. Tell us more, please.”
“Patience, dear lady. This tale’s just getting’ started and it’s a doozey. Now it weren’t long before two humans came to the eatery. They spotted Percy hangin’ from his long scaly tail. One of ‘em took to screamin’ and carryin’ on, nearly frightened the livin’ daylights out of him. The other one grabbed a big pointy stick and poked it into the rafters. Percy held on with all he had, tryin’ his best to hide away, hopin’ they would give up and leave.”
Suddenly, a squeaky voice interrupted. “Don’t forget to tell them about Reggie the Pack Rat. He was a big help to Percy. He scurried all around the granary, his whiskers a-twitchin’, baitin’ those humans into followin’ him around and around in circles. Stuff was flyin’. The human’s two big dogs were bawlin’ their heads off. It was quite a sight. Saw it myself from behind the big manure shovel in the corner.”
“Is that Mortimer I hear way down there?”
The tiny field mouse poked his nose out from under a fallen winter leaf, wary under the gaze of the old barn owl. “Why, yes. Just wanted to make sure Sammy got the story right. I mean, he wasn’t really there, was he?”
“Hey, who you callin’ a liar?” Sammy’s red tail bristled in aggravation.
It wasn’t long before nearly all the residents of Rascal Ravine encircled Horace’s oak tree all clambering for more details about the late night events.
When finally Percy’s father, Phineas appeared, the group grew quiet, anxious to hear the “real” story and news of Percy.
“Well, I know there’s been a lot of talk this morning about Percy’s close encounter up at the metal eatery. Thanks to Percy’s ‘scoop me up, I’m already dead’ mentality, he survived. When that human picked him up on his pitchfork and flung him into the woods, Percy luckily landed on a soft bed of crunchy leaves. He’s a little shook up and sore. But let me tell you, he’s learned his lesson. No more late night snacks in the metal eatery, no Sir, not for Percy or none of the Possum Clan.”
While life in Rascal Ravine returned to normal that next day, tall tales are still told to this day of how, on a cold winter night, Percival Possum outsmarted two dogs, two humans, and a pitch fork.
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