Back in the old days, when hardy pioneers lived in log cabins built from logs they had hewn themselves from trees they had painstakingly assembled from toothpicks, people used to love to tell the story of How the Raccoon Got His Mask. They hated like anything to hear it, but they loved to tell it. And this is how it went:

The raccoon was the most elegant creature in the forest, and he used to strut along the bank of the creek all day, first one way and then the other, but never both at once, saying, “Look at me, I’m hardly elegant at all.” He said that because he was fishing for compliments. So one day the vole, who in those days was eight feet tall, came along and said, “I agree that you are hardly elegant at all. And do you know why that is?”

“No,” answered the raccoon, who was more than a little annoyed that the vole had agreed with him instead of paying him the compliment he had expected.

“It is because you are not wearing a tiara,” the vole explained. “Everyone who is truly elegant wears a tiara.”

“Wouldn’t I look a bit silly with a tiara?” asked the raccoon.

“Or cufflinks,” the vole added. “Cufflinks are very elegant, especially if you have cuffs.”

“I don’t have cuffs,” the raccoon said.

“You know what else is elegant?” the vole continued. “Proposition 47 in Book I of Euclid. That is a seriously elegant demonstration.”

“But can I wear it?” asked the raccoon.

“Well, I have seen the figure silkscreened on a T-shirt,” the vole responded. “But then one must admit that T-shirts with printed figures on them are not very elegant, and where does that leave us?”

“Where indeed?” the raccoon agreed.

“I think it leaves us back at the tiara,” said the vole; and, bidding the raccoon good day, he lumbered off into the forest, accidentally knocking over a few saplings as he went.

The raccoon still thought he would look perfectly ridiculous with a tiara. But later that day, he happened to pass the opossum’s annual spring-cleaning yard sale, and on the front table was a rather dashing black mask, and the opossum only wanted a quarter for it, so the raccoon figured, hey, why not? And that, dear, children, is the story of How the Raccoon Got His Mask.


  1. John M says:

    And here I thought it was because the teenaged raccoons loved football, and kept putting black shadows around their eyes – ignoring their mother’s advice that their faces would freeze that way if if they kept doing it…

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