Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes
Page: 59The animals called a great council. They planned to have a dance. It was Rabbit’s business to send out the news. One day as he was passing ’Possum’s house, he stopped to talk.
“Are you going to the council?” he asked.
“Yes, if I can have a special seat,” said ’Possum. “I have such a handsome tail I ought to sit where everyone can see me.”
Rabbit said, “I will see that you have a special seat. And I will send someone to comb your tail for the dance.” ’Possum was very much pleased.
Rabbit at once went to Cricket, who is an expert hair cutter; therefore the Indians call him the barber. He told Cricket to go the next morning and comb [Pg 175] ’Possum’s tail for the dance. He told Cricket just what to do.
In the morning, Cricket went to ’Possum’s house. ’Possum stretched himself out on the floor and went to sleep, while Cricket combed out his tail and wrapped a red string around it to keep it smooth until night. But all the time, as he wound the string around, he was snipping off the hair closely. ’Possum did not know it.
When it was night, ’Possum went to the council and took his special seat. When it was his turn to dance, he loosened the red string from his tail and stepped into the middle of the lodge.
The drummers began to beat the drum. ’Possum began to sing, “See my beautiful tail.”
Every man shouted and ’Possum danced around the circle again, singing, “See what a fine color it has.” They all shouted again, and ’Possum went on dancing, as he sang, “See how it sweeps the ground.”
Then the animals all shouted so that ’Possum wondered what it meant. He looked around. Every man was laughing at him. Then he looked down at his beautiful tail. It was as bare as a lizard’s tail. There was not a hair on it.
He was so astonished and ashamed that he could not say a word. He rolled over on the ground and grinned, just as he does today when taken by surprise.
WHY ’POSSUM HAS A LARGE MOUTH
Choctaw (Bayou Lacomb)
VERY little food there was for Deer one dry season. He became thin and weak. One day he met ’Possum. Deer at once exclaimed, “Why, ’Possum, how fat you are! How do you keep so fat when I cannot find enough to eat?”
’Possum said, “I live on persimmons. They are very large this year, so I have all I want to eat.”
“How do you get the persimmons?” asked Deer. “They grow so high!”