THERE was an old woman lived up Travis in a little log cabin all by herself, Mrs. Schuster. Her husband had died in a cave-in and she got a little money, enough to go on living in the cabin. She chopped her own wood and hauled her own water and once in awhile someone would come to visit, but not very often.
One evening after supper she was at the creek getting a couple of buckets of water to wash up with. It was in the fall. She always left the door open a bit so she wouldn't have to put the buckets down to open it because the knob was difficult and it took two hands to open. So she got back, it couldn't have been more than five or ten minutes, and pushed open the door and there was a porcupine on the table eating up the rest of her supper. Well, Mrs. Schuster went into quite a tizzy trying to shoo that por cupine out of there but porcupines don't normally shoo very easily. They have their defences so well set up they don't think to run away when someone comes up to them. They rather tend to want to get in a corner, curl up, and let whoever it is take a bite of quills if they want to.
Mrs. Schuster got the porcupine off the table all right but then he went under the bed, and poke as she would with the broom, she couldn't get him to budge out of there.
She left the door open then, lit her lamp as it was now dark and went to wash her dishes at the other end of the cabin. It was, as I say, a little cabin, one room, a table in the middle, a bed and a stove at either end, so she couldn't go very far away from the bed without leaving the cabin. But she did up her dishes and banked the fire in the stove.
She went out to the outhouse and came back and looked under the bed but the porcupine hadn't budged. She poked at him again with the broom but he didn't even wiggle. She stood awhile by the stove and wondered what to do but there seemed to be nothing else she could do. So she carefully got into bed, left the door open and tried to sleep.
MRS. SCHUSTER didn't sleep well that night and in the morning she got out of bed very carefully as soon as it was light and the first thing she did was look under the bed and by golly that porcupine was still there. She brought in some wood and fixed herself breakfast, all the time leaving the door open though the sky was clouding up and it was pretty cold.
When she'd eaten most of her breakfast she noticed that it was probably going to snow so she went out to stack some wood she'd cut the day before and when she got back in the cabin, there was the porcupine on the table again. He'd finished her pancakes, had spilled the saltshaker and was licking up the salt he'd spilled. He looked at her briefly, then went back to licking the salt.
She realized with a start that she was glad to see that he was still there and making himself comfortable. She left the door open though because he was a wild creature after all, cleaned off the griddle, set the fire and sat down to knit awhile on a sweater she was making for herself.
Pretty soon the porcupine climbed skillfully down the table-leg and trundled under the bed again and some time later she saw that it was snowing and closed the door.
BY the next day, he was eating out of her hand, everything she ate except meat, though he did like to gnaw on bones. She could scratch him on the face in a few days and it wasn't too long till he climbed into her lap. He'd go out of the house twice a day usually and often would rummage in the woodpile but soon he'd be back in the cabin again. He never hurt her with his quills, keeping them tightly attached, and she learned she could stroke his back and rub his tummy. He stayed with her all that winter an d into the spring but in June when the flowers were blooming, he wandered off and she never saw him again.
She often said afterwards that it was the happiest time in her life since her and Mr. Schuster's honeymoon.
* 'Mrs. Schuster and the Porcupine' and 'Knut Neversetter' are included in 'Lump Gulch Tales' and are used with permission of Jane Wodening.