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My Side of the Mountain

by Jean George

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Student Question

How did Jessie Coon James find food for Sam in My Side of the Mountain?

Quick answer:

Sam uses Jessie C. James to uncover food for him in My Side of the Mountain by letting the raccoon dig up mussels for him. As Sam tells us, Jessie can find mussels where three men could not.

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We first meet Jessie Coon James, a young raccoon, in the chapter called "In Which I Find a Real Live Man." Sam and Frightful adopted him, took him home and fed him, and he got fatter. Eventually he accompanied Sam to the stream. Jessie was good at digging up mussels. But Sam soon figured out how to use Jessie's techniques to his advantage. If left alone, the raccoon would dig up mussels, eat them, and then stop digging as soon as he was full. Sam let Jessie dig up the mussels, but then he would take the food away so that Jessie would keep digging. In this way, the raccoon's stash fed Sam first, and then Jessie could eat the rest. Sam wrote a recipe about mussel preparation in his notes.

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Describe how Sam uses Jessie C. James to uncover food for him in My Side of the Mountain.

Sam quickly learns that mussels are a very important source of nutrition out in the wilderness. Not only that, but they're incredibly tasty and quite easy to cook. After just five minutes in boiling water, the meat is ready to be eaten with a dash of acorn paste, garlic, and green apples.

But finding mussels can be quite a long, laborious task. Thankfully, Sam has a resourceful raccoon by the name of Jessie C. James on hand to help him get his hands on a bumper crop of mussels. As Sam tells us, Jessie can find mussels where three men could not. He knows just where to go to dig up the shellfish, and so all Sam has to do is watch and wait.

When Jessie digs up some mussels, Sam waits until the raccoon eats his fill and stops digging. Then, in order to get Jessie digging again, he takes away his remaining mussels until the raccoon finds all that Sam could want. As a reward, Sam lets Jessie have some more mussels. By way of this unique partnership between boy and animal, Sam and his trusty falcon Frightful are able to rely on a regular food supply.

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