The Raccoon and the Honey Tree

A Native American Tale

The Raccoon had been asleep all day in the snug hollow of a
tree. The dusk was coming on when he awoke, stretched
himself once or twice, and jumping down from the top of the
tall, dead stump in which he made his home, set out to look
for his supper.

In the midst of the woods there was a lake, and all along the
lake shore there rang out the alarm cries of the water people
as the Raccoon came nearer and nearer.

First the Swan gave a scream of warning. The Crane repeated
the cry, and from the very middle of the lake the Loon,
swimming low, took it up and echoed it back over the still

The Raccoon sped merrily on, and finding no unwary bird that
he could seize he picked up a few mussel-shells from the
beach, cracked them neatly and ate the sweet meat.

A little further on, as he was leaping hither and thither through
the long, tangled meadow grass, he landed with all four feet
on a family of Skunks---father, mother and twelve little ones,
who were curled up sound asleep in a oft bed of broken dry

"Huh!" exclaimed the father Skunk. "What do you mean by
this, eh?" And he stood looking at him defiantly.

"Oh, excuse me, excuse me," begged the Raccoon. "I am very
sorry. I did not mean to do it! I was just running along and I
did not see you at all."

"Better be careful where you step next time," grumbled the
Skunk, and the Raccoon was glad to hurry on.

Running up a tall tree he came upon two red Squirrels in one
nest, but before he could get his paws upon one of them they
were scolding angrily from the topmost branch.

"Come down, friends!" called the Raccoon. "What are you
doing up there? Why, I wouldn't harm you for anything!"

"Ugh, you can't fool us," chattered the Squirrels, and the
Raccoon went on.

Deep in the woods, at last, he found a great hollow tree which
attracted him by a peculiar sweet smell. He sniffed and
sniffed, and went round and round till he saw something
trickling down a narrow crevice. He tasted it and it was
deliciously sweet.

He ran up the tree and down again, and at last found an
opening into which he could thrust his paw. He brought it out
covered with honey!

Now the Raccoon was happy. He ate and scooped, and
scooped and ate the golden, trickling honey with both
forepaws till his pretty, pointed face was daubed all over.

Suddenly he tried to get a paw into his ear. Something hurt
him terribly just then, and the next minute his sensitive nose
was frightfully stung. He rubbed his face with both sticky
paws. The sharp stings came thicker and faster, and he wildly
clawed the air. At last he forgot to hold on to the branch any
longer, and with a screech he tumbled to the ground.

There he rolled and rolled on the dead leaves till he was
covered with leaves from head to foot, for they stuck to his
fine, sticky fur, and most of all they covered his eyes and his
striped face. Mad with fright and pain he dashed through the
forest calling to some one of his own kind to come to his aid.

The moon was now bright, and many of the woods people
were abroad. A second Raccoon heard the call and went to
meet it. But when he saw a frightful object plastered with dry
leaves racing madly toward him he turned and ran for his life,
for he did not know what this thing might be.

The Raccoon who had been stealing the honey ran after him
as fast as he could, hoping to overtake and beg the other to
help him get rid of his leaves.

So they ran and they ran out of the woods on to the shining
white beach around the lake. Here a Fox met them, but after
one look at the queer object which was chasing the frightened
Raccoon he too turned and ran at his best speed.

Presently a young Bear came loping out of the wood and sat
up on his haunches to see them go by. But when he got a good
look at the Raccoon who was plastered with dead leaves, he
scrambled up a tree to be out of the way.

By this time the poor Raccoon was so frantic that he scarcely
knew what he was doing. He ran up the tree after the Bear
and got hold of his tail.

"Woo, woo!" snarled the Bear, and the raccoon let go. He was
tired out and dreadfully ashamed. He did now what he ought
to have done at the very first---he jumped into the lake and
washed off most of the leaves. Then he got back to his hollow
tree and curled himself up and licked and licked his soft fur till
he had licked himself clean, and then he went to sleep.


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