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- Sleepy-Time Tales: The Tale of Fatty Coon - 3/9 -


his mouth. And all the time Fatty was being dragged along through the water. He began to be frightened. And for the first time he noticed that there was a slender line which stretched from his mouth straight across the pool. As he looked along the line Fatty saw a man at the other end of it--a man, standing on the other side of the brook! And he was pulling Fatty toward him as fast as he could.

Do you wonder that Fatty Coon was frightened? He jumped back--as well as he could, in the water--and tried to swim away. His mouth hurt; but he plunged and pulled just the same, and jerked his head and squirmed and wriggled and twisted. And just as Fatty had almost given up hope of getting free, the gay-colored bug, or fly, or whatever it was, flew out of his mouth and took the line with it. At least, that was what Fatty Coon thought. And he swam quickly to the bank and scampered into the bushes.

Now, this was what really happened. Farmer Green had come up the brook to catch trout. On the end of his fish-line he had tied a make-believe fly, with a hook hidden under its red and yellow wings. He had stolen along the brook very quietly, so that he wouldn't frighten the fish. And he had made so little noise that Fatty Coon never heard him at all. Farmer Green had not seen Fatty, crouched as he was among the stones. And when Fatty reached out and grabbed the make-believe fly Farmer Green was even more surprised at what happened than Fatty himself. If the fish-hook hadn't worked loose from Fatty's mouth Farmer Green would have caught the queerest fish anybody ever caught, almost.

Something seemed to amuse Farmer Green, as he watched Fatty dive into the bushes; and he laughed loud and long. But Fatty Coon didn't laugh at all. His mouth was too sore; and he was too frightened. But he was very, very glad that the strange bug had flown away.

VI

FATTY AND THE GREEN CORN

It was mid-summer when Fatty Coon had what he then believed to be the finest time in all his life. And later, when he was older, he still thought that nothing had ever happened to him that was quite so enjoyable as that surprise his mother gave him when he was a young coon.

Of course it was something to eat--the surprise. You must have guessed that, knowing Fatty Coon as you do.

"Come, children!" Mrs. Coon said. "Come with me! I'm going to give you a treat--something specially nice."

"Is it something to eat?" Fatty asked, as they started off in the direction of Farmer Green's fields.

"Yes--and the best thing you ever tasted," Mrs. Coon said.

Fatty was greatly excited. His little bright eyes turned green in the moonlight. He wondered what the surprise would be. And, as usual, he was very hungry. He walked close beside his mother, for he wanted to be the first to taste the surprise. You would think that he would have wanted his two sisters to taste it first, and his brother Blackie, too. But you must not forget that Fatty was greedy. And greedy people are not thoughtful of others.

When Mrs. Coon turned out of the lane and crawled through the fence, Fatty squeezed between the rails very nimbly, for him.

"Here we are!" said his mother.

Fatty looked about him. They stood in a field grown high with tall stalks of some sort, which turned to green, ribbon-like leaves half way up from the ground. Fatty grunted. He was very impolite, you see.

"Well--what is there to eat that's so fine?" he asked. "This stuff isn't good. It's like eating reeds." He had already bitten into one of the stalks.

"What do you call that?" Mrs. Coon asked. She showed Fatty a long roll of green that grew out of one of the stalks.

"That's something like a cattail," said Fatty. "It isn't good to eat."

"Have you ever tried one?" asked his mother.

"N--no," Patty said. "But Freddie Bluejay told me they weren't good."

"He did, did he?" Mrs. Coon said nothing more. She stood up on her hind legs and pulled one of the tall stalks down until she could reach that long, green thing that grew there. In a jiffy she had torn it from its stalk. And then she stripped the green covering off it. "Try that!" said Mrs. Coon with a smile.

Of course it was Fatty who tasted it first. He took a good mouthful of the white kernels, and he was overjoyed. Such sweetness! Such delicious, milky juice! It was a moment that Fatty never forgot.

Fatty began tearing down the stalks for himself and he never said another word until at last he simply had to stop eating just to catch his breath.

"What's its name, Mother?" he inquired.

"Corn, my child."

"Well, why doesn't Freddie Bluejay like it?" Fatty asked.

"He's probably very fond of corn," said Mrs. Coon. "And I've no doubt he was afraid that you would eat up this whole field, once you started."

"I'd like to," said Fatty, with a sigh. "I'd like to eat all the corn in the world."

VII

JOHNNIE GREEN IS DISAPPOINTED

It made Fatty Coon feel sad, just to think that there was that field full of corn, and that he could never eat all of it. But Fatty made up his mind that he would do the best he could. He would visit the cornfield every night and feast on those sweet, tender kernels.

The very next night Fatty set out toward Farmer Green's. It was hardly dark. But Fatty could not wait any longer. He could not even wait for his mother and his sisters and his brother. He hurried away alone. And when he came in sight of the cornfield he felt better. He had been the least bit afraid that the corn might be gone. He thought that maybe Farmer Green had picked it, or that some of the forest people had eaten it all. But there it was--a forest of corn, waving and rustling in the moonlight as the breeze touched it. Fatty felt very happy as he slipped through the rail-fence.

I wouldn't dare say how many ears of corn Fatty ate that night. And he would have eaten more, too, if it hadn't been for just one thing. A dog barked. And that spoiled Fatty's fun. For the dog was altogether too near for Fatty to feel safe. He even dropped the ear of corn he was gnawing and hurried toward the woods.

It was lucky for Fatty that he started when he did. For that dog was close behind him in no time. There was only one thing to do: Fatty knew that he must climb a tree at once. So he made for the nearest tree in sight--a big, spreading oak, which stood all alone just beyond the fence. And as Fatty crouched on a limb he felt safe enough, though the dog barked and whined, and leaped against the tree, and made a great fuss.

Fatty looked down at the dog and scolded a little. He was not afraid. But it made him cross to be driven out of the cornfield. And he wished the dog would go away. But the dog--it was Farmer Green's Spot--the dog had no idea of leaving. He stayed right there and barked so loudly that it was not long before Farmer Green and his hired man came in sight. And with them was Johnnie Green and a little, young dog that had just been given to him.

When Farmer Green saw Fatty he seemed disappointed. "He's too young to bother with," he said. "His skin's not worth much. We'll go 'long and see what we can find."

But Johnnie Green stayed behind. He wanted that young coon. And he intended to have him, too. Leaving the young dog to watch Fatty Coon, Johnnie went back to the farmhouse. After a while he appeared again with an axe over his shoulder. And when he began to chop away at the big oak, Fatty Coon felt very uneasy. Whenever Johnnie drove his axe into the tree, both the tree and Fatty shivered together. And Fatty began to wish he had stayed away from the cornfield. But not for long, because Johnnie Green soon gave up the idea of chopping down the big oak. The wood was so hard to cut, and the tree was so big, that Johnnie had not chopped long before he saw that it would take him all night to cut through it. He looked up longingly at Fatty Coon. And Johnnie started to climb the tree himself. But the higher he climbed, the higher Fatty climbed. And Johnnie knew that he could never catch that plump young coon in that way.

At last Johnnie Green started off, calling his dog after him. And then Fatty Coon came down. But he did not go back to the cornfield. He decided that he had had adventures enough for one night. But Fatty had learned something--at least he thought he had. For he made up his mind that once he climbed a tree, no man could reach him. TREES COULD NOT BE CHOPPED DOWN! That was what Fatty believed. Perhaps you will know, later, whether Fatty ever found out that he was mistaken.

VIII

A TERRIBLE FRIGHT

It was the very next night after old dog Spot had treed Fatty Coon in the big oak near the cornfield. They had finished their evening meal at Farmer Green's house. The cows were milked, the horses had been fed, the chickens had all gone to roost. And Farmer Green looked up at the moon, rising from behind Blue Mountain.

"We'll go coon-hunting again to-night," he said to Johnnie and the hired man. "The corn has brought the coons up from the swamp. We'll start as


Sleepy-Time Tales: The Tale of Fatty Coon - 3/9

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