RACCOON’S INVENTION • by Tygan Shelton

In the days when the land was new and all animals were family, the Sun Queen gathered her children together and announced a contest: whoever created the most useful invention would see their work displayed all over the world.

Everyone separated to work on their ideas. But Raccoon decided that she would sneak up on the others and see what they were planning before coming up with her own. So she quietly crept close enough to hear Cougar.

Cougar said: “I will make leaves to cover the ground in a quilt that is beautiful and soft.”

Raccoon noted this, then crawled over to Coyote.

Coyote said: “I will make mud to form bricks and houses.”

Raccoon remembered this too, and stole away to spy on Hawk.

Hawk said: “I will make rivers that can transport people quickly and keep meat cold.”

After she heard this, Raccoon decided that she had enough ideas. So she returned home and prepared until the day came for all the animals to present their creations.

Before Cougar, Coyote, or Hawk had a chance to present, Raccoon walked up to the Sun Queen with a basket. “And what have you brought me, Raccoon?”

Raccoon opened the basket to reveal a cold substance as white as stars and as fine as sand. “My queen, I have created snow. It can cover the ground in a quilt that is beautiful and soft. It can be formed into bricks and houses. It can keep meat cold and, with skis or sleds, transport people quickly.”

The Sun Queen laughed. “What a clever invention! How could anything be more useful than that?”

But Cougar, Coyote, and Hawk were right behind Raccoon, and they were furious. “Those were our ideas! Raccoon must have stolen them!” Then they quickly explained their own creations.

When they were done, the Sun Queen held up her hand. “Raccoon’s work is as useful as all three of yours together. But I see that each of your inventions inspired hers. So I will divide the prize between all of you. In the spring, Hawk’s rivers will flow fast. In the summer, people will build houses with Coyote’s mud. In the fall, Cougar’s leaves will blanket the earth. And in the winter, Raccoon’s snow will perform all these functions.”

Raccoon clapped her hands together in pride, but stopped as the Sun Queen turned to her, face stern. “You have proven your cleverness, Raccoon, but you have also proven to be a thief. So now you will wear the mask of a thief. It will help you hide from those who chase you, but no one will trust you again.”

And since that day, Raccoon has worn her mask. She is often hunted by the three animals she cheated, but she is just as often clever enough to get away.

Tygan Shelton writes in Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife and two children. He enjoys snow in theory but seldom in practice.

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