Why Jimmy Skunk
by Thornton W.
Jimmy Skunk, as everybody knows, wears a
striped suit, a suit of black and white. There
was a time, long, long ago, when all the Skunk
family wore black. Very handsome their coats
were, too, a beautiful glossy black. They were
very, very proud of them, and took the greatest
care of them, brushing them carefully ever so
many times a day.
There was a Jimmy Skunk then, just as there
is now, and he was head of all the Skunk family.
Now, this Jimmy Skunk was very proud, and
thought himself very much of a gentleman. He
was very independent, and cared for no one.
Like a great many other independent people, he
did not always consider the rights of others. Indeed,
it was hinted in the wood and on the Green
Meadows that not all of Jimmy Skunk’s doings
would bear the light of day. It was openly said
that he was altogether too fond of prowling about
at night, but no one could prove that he was
responsible for mischief done in the night, for no
one saw him. You see his coat was so black
that in the darkness of the night it was not visible
Now, about this time of which I am telling
you, Mrs. Ruffed Grouse made a nest at the foot
of the Great Pine, and in it she laid fifteen beautiful
buff eggs. Mrs. Grouse was very happy, very
happy indeed, and all the little meadow folks who
knew of her happiness were happy, too, for they
all loved shy, demure, little Mrs. Grouse. Every
morning when Peter Rabbit trotted down the
Lone Little Path through the wood past the Great
Pine he would stop for a few minutes to chat
with Mrs. Grouse. Happy Jack Squirrel would
bring her the news every afternoon. The Merry
Little Breezes of Old Mother West Wind would
run up a dozen times a day to see how she was
One morning Peter Rabbit, coming down the
Lone Little Path for his usual morning call, found
a terrible state of affairs. Poor little Mrs. Grouse
was heartbroken. All about the foot of the Great
Pine lay the empty shells of their beautiful eggs.
They had been broken and scattered this way and
“How did it happen?” asked Peter Rabbit.
“I don’t know,” sobbed poor little Mrs. Grouse.
“In the night when I was fast asleep something
pounced upon me. I managed to get away and
fly up in the top of the Great Pine. In the morning
I found all my eggs broken, just as you see
Peter Rabbit looked the ground over very carefully.
He hunted around behind the Great Pine,
he looked under the bushes, he studied the ground
with a very wise air. Then he hopped off down
the Lone Little Path to the Green Meadows. He
stopped at the house of Johnny Chuck.
“What makes your eyes so big and round?”
asked Johnny Chuck. Peter Rabbit came very
close so as to whisper in Johnny Chuck’s ear, and
told him all that he had seen. Together they went
to Jimmy Skunk’s house. Jimmy Skunk was in
bed. He was very sleepy and very cross when he
came to the door. Peter Rabbit told him what
he had seen.
“Too bad! Too bad!” said Jimmy Skunk, and
“Won’t you join us in trying to find out who
did it?” asked Johnny Chuck.
Jimmy Skunk said he would be delighted to
come, but that he had some other business that
morning and he would join them in the afternoon.
Peter Rabbit and Johnny Chuck went on. Pretty
soon they met the Merry Little Breezes and told
them the dreadful story.
“What shall we do?” asked Johnny Chuck.
“We’ll hurry over, and tell Old Dame Nature,”
cried the Merry Little Breezes, “and ask her
what to do.”
So away flew the Merry Little Breezes to Old
Dame Nature and told her all the dreadful story.
Old Dame Nature listened very attentively. Then
she sent the Merry Little Breezes to all the little
meadow folks to tell everyone to be at the Great
Pine that afternoon. Now, whatever Old Dame
Nature commanded, all the little meadow folks
were obliged to do. They did not dare to disobey
Promptly at 4 o’clock that afternoon all the
little meadow folks were gathered around the
foot of the Great Pine. Brokenhearted little Mrs.
Ruffed Grouse sat beside her empty nest, with
all the broken shells about her.
Reddy Fox, Peter Rabbit, Johnny Chuck, Billy
Mink, Little Joe Otter, Jerry Muskrat, Hooty the
Owl, Bobby Coon, Sammy Jay, Blacky the Crow,
Grandfather Frog, Mr. Toad, Spotty the Turtle,
the Merry Little Breezes, all were there. Last of
all came Jimmy Skunk. Very handsome he looked
in his shining black coat, and very sorry he appeared
that such a dreadful thing should have
happened. He told Mrs. Grouse how badly he
felt, and he loudly demanded that the culprit
should be run down without delay and severely
Old Dame Nature has the most smiling face
in the world, but this time it was very, very
grave indeed. First she asked little Mrs. Grouse
to tell her story all over again that all might hear.
Then each in turn was asked to tell where he
had been the night before. Johnny Chuck, Happy
Jack Squirrel, Striped Chipmunk, Sammy Jay,
and Blacky the Crow had gone to bed when Mr.
Sun went down behind the Purple Hills. Jerry
Muskrat, Billy Mink, Little Joe Otter, Grandfather
Frog, and Spotty the Turtle had been
down in Farmer Brown’s corn-field. Hooty the
Owl had been hunting in the lower end of the
Green Meadows. Peter Rabbit had been down in
the Berry Patch. Mr. Toad had been under the
big piece of bark which he called a house. Old
Dame Nature called on Jimmy Skunk last of all.
Jimmy protested that he had been very, very tired
and had gone to bed very early indeed, and had
slept the whole night through.
Then Old Dame Nature asked Peter Rabbit
what he had found among the shells that morning.
Peter Rabbit hopped out and laid three long
black hairs before Old Dame Nature. “These,”
said Peter Rabbit, “are what I found among the
Then Old Dame Nature called Johnny Chuck.
“Tell us, Johnny Chuck,” said she, “what you
saw when you called at Jimmy Skunk’s house this
“I saw Jimmy Skunk,” said Johnny Chuck, “and
Jimmy seemed very, very sleepy. It seemed to
me that his whiskers were yellow.”
“That will do,” said Old Dame Nature, and she
called Old Mother West Wind.
“What time did you come down on the Green
Meadows this morning?” asked Old Dame Nature.
“Just at the break of day,” said Old Mother
West Wind, “as Mr. Sun was coming up from
behind the Purple Hills.”
“And whom did you see so early in the morning?”
asked old Dame Nature.
“I saw Bobby Coon going home from old Farmer
Brown’s corn-field,” said Old Mother West Wind.
“I saw Hooty the Owl coming back from the
lower end of the Green Meadows. I saw Peter
Rabbit down in the berry patch. Last of all, I
saw something like a black shadow coming down
the Lone Little Path toward the house of Jimmy
Everyone was looking very hard at Jimmy
Skunk. Jimmy began to look very unhappy and
“Who wears a black coat?” asked Dame Nature.
“Jimmy Skunk!” shouted all the little meadow
“What might make whiskers yellow?” asked
Old Dame Nature.
No one seemed to know at first. Then Peter
Rabbit spoke up. “It might be the yolk of an
egg,” said Peter Rabbit.
“Who are likely to be sleepy on a bright sunny
morning?” asked Old Dame Nature.
“People who have been out all night,” said
Johnny Chuck, who himself always goes to bed
with the sun.
“Jimmy Skunk,” said Old Dame Nature, and
her voice was very stern, very stern indeed, and
her face was very grave. “Jimmy Skunk, I
accuse you of having broken and eaten the eggs
of Mrs. Grouse. What have you to say for yourself?”
Jimmy Skunk hung his head. He hadn’t a word
to say. He just wanted to sneak away by himself.
“Jimmy Skunk,” said Old Dame Nature,
“because your handsome black coat, of which you
are so proud, has made it possible for you to move
about in the night without being seen, and because
we can no longer trust you upon your honor,
henceforth you and your descendants shall wear
a striped coat which is the sign that you cannot
be trusted. Your coat hereafter shall be black
and white, that will always be visible.”
And this is why to this day Jimmy Skunk
wears a striped suit of black and white.