About 15 years ago, I was elected to the city council of Washington, Arkansas. During my tenure there, I worked with a fellow councilman named Thurston, who was around 85 years old at the time. He has since passed away, but I shall never forget a story he told, because it had a perfectly unfolding surprise ending. To the best of my recollection, the story went this way. I’ll try to tell it in Thurston’s voice:
“When we were boys here in Washington, my brother and I used to make our spending money by selling animal hides to a company up in St. Louis. We would trap or shoot game, or beg hides from other hunters, scrape them and cure them and send them up there in a box with a notebook paper list of contents. We made four or five dollars for each box of possum, rabbit and squirrel hides. Also, Mrs. Black that ran the restaurant gave us a quarter for any edible meat we would take her. She was always wanting us to bring her a coon, but we never had been able to oblige.
“Well, one night in the wee-small hours, Daddy got up because the dogs were raising cane down yonder by the branch and he come stomping through the house saying that if any of us were going to get any sleep, he would have to go shoot whatever it was the dogs had treed down there. He grabbed his double-barrel .20-gauge and took off down the hill. Directly, we heard blam, blam then a pause, then another blam. He came back with the dogs behind him, carrying a dead animal we couldn’t make out in the dark. He throwed it into the box on the back porch and told us we could have the coon for the hide when we skinned it out in the morning.
“Strange as it may seem, my brother and I had never even seen a coon. There just weren’t any around Washington in those days. So we were excited that we would have some coon meat to take to Mrs. Black and a coon hide to send to St. Louis.
“At daylight, my brother and I skinned the animal, took the meat to Mrs. Black, who was really happy to get coon meat—she gave us 50 cents for it. When the hide was cured we packaged it up with a couple of possum skins, a couple of rabbit skins and a squirrel skin, made our list and sent the package off. Several days later, Mrs. Black saw us in town and she said that her customers loved the coon and that if we got any more she would pay us well for them.
“The next week, we got a letter and the best check ever from St. Louis. The letter said that we were right about all the other skins we sent but wrong about the coon skin. That was not a coon hide, they wrote, but a fox skin. We never told Mrs. Black.”