Bunny

How you twitch your little nose
How you nibble at your carrot
How your fur is thick and soft
You must be so proud to wear it

How you jump about so fast
How your ears are sleek and shiny
How you cuddle up so sweetly
Bunny, I’m so glad you’re miney

(I’ve never seen an actual bunny that looks like this, but it was too funny not to include.)

albino angora rabbit

Image via Wikipedia

Fastest in the West

Who is the fastest in the wild, wild west? The jackrabbit is fast, but he can be outrun by the cougar. The cougar is speedy, but he can be outrun by the wild mustang. Can anyone outrun the wild mustang? That is what all the animals on the prairie have gathered today to find out.

Down in the front the prairie dogs have set up a family picnic. They aren’t a part of this competition, but they aren’t about to miss out on the fun. Off to the side sit the jackrabbits. There was some talk of their chief challenging the mustangs, but now he’s announced that he is to be one of the judges instead. A wise move. No one has better pick up time than the chief jackrabbit, but he just doesn’t have the stamina for this kind of race. Clustered in the middle are the buffalo. They, too, are only observers, since their forte is strength and not speed, but no prairie gathering would be complete without them. Ranged behind the buffalo are the cougars. They were the most recent challengers to be defeated by the wild mustangs, and as such they also have a representative judging today. Perched in the trees by the train tracks are a few buzzards. They eye the prairie dogs with interest, but everyone has agreed to a truce today. The buzzards are here as judges also, their perspective from the sky being essential. A lone turtle wends his way through the crowds, selling cool water for the sunny day, completely uninterested in the competition except as a way to earn some profit.

It’s almost start time and now the mustangs are arriving. Proud and strong, they shake their manes as they gallop to a halt on the open plain before the spectators. With a loud neigh, the herd leader calls the judges forward. While he talks to them, the crowd begins to mutter. Where is the challenger? So far, no opponent has shown up. The prairie dogs crane their necks to see if anyone is coming. Suddenly the youngest prairie dog squeals. The ground is trembling ever so slightly. Soon the rumbling is evident to the whole gathering. In the distance, the shining train appears, rushing toward them, trailing its black smoke. Several of the smaller animals dash for cover. The buzzards lift up into the sky. Only the cougars’ well timed pacing keeps the buffalo from stampeding. The train squeaks and groans to a halt right in their midst. The crowd slowly quiets down.

The lead mustang is announcing that the race will begin in half an hour. The challenger is the smoking black giant before them. A ripple of excitement passes through the watching animals. Never would any of them have thought to pit the mustang against the machine. It is an unspoken rule on the prairie that every animal stays as far from the train and its tracks as possible. Stay out of the way of progress, it is said, and you will live longer. Some animals are calling the lead mustang a fool for breaking this tradition now. Others are fascinated. The cougars look forward to what must be the certain humiliation of the mustangs. The jackrabbits can not imagine a machine mastering the prairie more fully than a living being. The buzzards find the question interesting if irrelevant. Everyone knows flying is the best and fastest was to get somewhere, but the issue of second best is intriguing. A few of the animals place discreet bets on the outcome.

At last it is time to begin. The race is to be a long the one, all the way to Abilene and back again, more than forty miles all told. The judges will wait by the finish line, all except the buzzard who will shadow the racers to insure that there is no cheating. Everyone is excited as the chief jackrabbit counts down to the start.

3…2…1…Go!

With a graceful leap, the mustang is off, moving quickly from trot to full gallop. Very soon he is out of sight. The train begins much more slowly. It chugs to life and the wheels turn sluggishly until it gets its great weight in motion. Chug, chug, chug, faster and faster it moves. Chug, chug, chug, faster and faster. Soon it’s speed is tremendous. Tirelessly it gains on the mustang. Overhead, the buzzard is the only observer now, watching as the train catches up with the galloping mustang and then smoothly moves past. The mustang increases his speed a little, but he cannot catch up with the train.

The train arrives in Abilene a good hour before the mustang, but here is its disadvantage. In order to turn around and go back, the great engine must be moved to a special turntable track and be slowly turned around. This process takes time. The buzzard watches as the train waits on its human inventors to switch it around. In the mean time, the mustang has arrived in Abilene and is immediately turning for home. He barely breaks a stride as his hooves thunder around in a circle. He is half way back to the finish line before the train leaves Abilene. It has a full load of coal now, though, and its speed is unbelievable. Steadily, it closes the gap.

By the time the two contestants are in sight of the waiting spectators, the train has nearly caught up with the mustang. The chug of its engine can be heard as its wheels turn effortlessly. Still just a half length ahead of the train, the mustang increases his speed. Flecks of sweat fly off his whipping mane, and his sides heave with the tremendous effort. The two are flying toward the finish line. All the judges watch with intense concentration. The prairie dogs have dropped their food and are staring with open mouths. The buzzards fly forward for a closer look.

The train and the mustang are neck and neck as they cross the finish line. The train squeals to a halt, sending sparks along the tracks, as the mustang stops by the water trough, breathing hard and trembling with fatigue.

The judges have consulted and now they are coming forward with the results, and the winner is…

The winner is….

What do you think? Who wins the race?

Kakahi

Kakahi the dolphin was not like the other dolphins. He did not enjoy swimming with the crowd, splashing in the waves, and having water fights with the other dolphins. He would much rather be exploring the ocean floor, looking for interesting rocks and shells and making new discoveries. The other dolphins thought Kakahi was quite boring because he didn’t want to play but would go on and on about silly little things he found. Kakahi thought the other dolphins were quite boring because they didn’t know anything about the creatures that lived at the bottom of the ocean but only wanted to do the same silly games day after day. Needless to say, Kakahi spent a lot of time alone.

One day, when Kakahi was swimming along the ocean floor, hunting for rare animal specimens, he saw something glowing red a little ways ahead. Curious as always, he swam forward to investigate. He noticed that the water around him was getting warmer and warmer the closer he got to the glow. It wasn’t until the water was uncomfortably hot that he noticed that the glow was slowly inching toward him. There was only one thing it could be: lava! Kakahi was terrified. He backed away as the lava slowly rose toward him. The water was getting warmer all the time. Suddenly, Kakahi realized something. Escaping lava was probably the beginning of a bigger eruption. If an underwater volcano erupted, all the animals in the area would be in danger. Kakahi had to go warn the other dolphins. They were playing up at the surface and wouldn’t have any idea of their danger until it was too late. Beginning to panic, Kakahi turned and swam upward as fast as he could.

It took him a little while to find the other dolphins. He didn’t know where all their favorite places were to play, since he never played with them. Finally, though, he saw some spraying in the distance and headed toward it. When he reached the other dolphins, he was quite tired, but he tried his best to explain quickly.

“Down, on the ocean floor, lava!” he panted. “There’s lava. It’s rising. We have to get far away. Fast.”

The other dolphins just stared. “Kakahi,” said one. “We don’t care about your ocean floor discoveries. They’re boring.”

“No!,” said Kakahi. “It’s lava. Lava! Like a volcano. We’re in danger.”

The word volcano got their attention. A few of the dolphins began to look nervous, but most of the others didn’t believe him.

“There’s no volcano around here! You probably saw some kind of glowing eel or something and thought it was lava.”

“I know what glowing eels look like!” said Kakahi. “I have eight of them in my collection. This is lava. The water is getting hot.”

They were still unconvinced.

“Come yourselves, then,” said Kakahi. “I’ll show you. But we have to be quick. There may not be much time.”

Some of the dolphins still didn’t want to come and look. They didn’t know Kakahi very well and just thought he was a weirdo doing some weirdo thing again. But most of the dolphins were concerned enough to at least check it out. They followed Kakahi down toward the bottom of the ocean. It didn’t take long before the water was noticeably warmer. The dolphins swam a little faster. Pretty soon they could see the glow of the lava. The whole group stopped and stared for a minute. Then they turned together and began to swim away.

No one laughed at Kakahi any more. They began to ask him questions about how fast he thought it was rising.

“We need to head east,” said one of the older dolphins. “There is a sheltered cove near an island that I know. It’s quite far away. It should be far enough to be safe.”

The dolphins all agreed and began to swim east. They swam very fast. They could all feel the water warming and a tremor beginning far below. The farther they went and the faster they swam, the more Kakahi began to fall behind. He was not used to swimming so quickly. Because he didn’t play games with the other dolphins, he didn’t have as much practice jumping among the waves, and he was often knocked back. He began to get very tired. The other dolphins tried to encourage him, but he was just not as quick and strong as they were.

They were just out of range when they all heard a tremendous explosion behind them. A giant wave welled up and swept across the ocean toward them. The other dolphins knew just what to do and rode to the top of the wave and back down as it rushed past, but Kakahi was so exhausted that he could barely stay afloat. The wave grabbed at him and carried him at top speed toward the island in the distance. He was sure it would slam him onto the beach, but there was nothing he could do. Just when he had about given up hope, he felt something come up underneath him. Several of the strongest dolphins had fought their way over to him and were lifting him up with their own noses. With them to guide him, Kakahi was just barely able to drift sideways and down away from the main force of the wave. The other dolphins joined them, and they all watched as the tremendous tidal wave crashed over the island. For a moment, everything was chaotic and then it was strangely quiet. Without speaking, the dolphins swam into the cove where the water was littered with tree branches but otherwise calm. They had made it. They were safe.

The dolphins stayed a long time living near that island, and things were quite different. Many of the dolphins now took time to go exploring on the ocean floor with Kakahi, learning about the things in their world and keeping watch for dangers. Kakahi, in his turn, often went and played with the other dolphins, practicing to become a strong swimmer and jumper and finding that it was much more fun than he had thought.

Super Duck

There are plenty of heroes who are smarter, quite a few who are stronger, countless more who are faster, but there are none who are braver than mighty Super Duck. Super Duck has two unique abilities: he can balance anything on his super strong bill and he can unlock any lock with his agile tail feathers. He can also fly, of course, but that is nothing special. All ducks can fly.

Super Duck was a relatively unknown superhero until his famous encounter with the infamous Dr. Barbecue. There had been a rumor going around that Dr. Barbecue, the so-called “scientific chef,” was plotting something big. When animals began to disappear, more than one superhero was on the hunt for Dr. Barbecue. Super Duck was just the first to find him.

One of the kidnapped animals was a good friend of Super Duck, Terrance Turkey. T.T. lived right next door to Super Duck, and he was famous for his broccoli and onion soup. Super Duck had been smelling that soup several times a week for years, and he was sick of it. In the end, though, that distinctive smell is what enabled Super Duck to find Dr. Barbecue’s lair. When T.T. was taken, he was right in the middle of testing his latest batch of soup. A great bowl of the stuff splashed all over him in his struggle. When Super Duck came on the scene later, he saw immediately what had happened. After that, all he had to do was follow that oniony smell all the way to Dr. Barbecue.

As it turned out, however, the soup was all a part of Dr. Barbecue’s evil plan. Super Duck had followed his nose to an old warehouse downtown. He was still sniffing around outside the back door when a cage dropped from above and neatly trapped him inside. Before he could do anything, three huge henchman came out of the door and carried the cage inside. Super Duck could see two other cages, covered in cloth and sitting on a giant table. He wondered who was inside. Before he had a chance to get too curious, though, a small man with a black goatee and a chef’s apron turned around. He was smiling and sharpening a knife.

“Now I have you,” laughed the evil Dr. Barbecue. “You are the final piece I needed for my culinary masterpiece. This will be a dish like no other. I will be called the bravest chef in history,for I will do what no one else has yet dared. You have heard, perhaps, of the famous Turducken?”

Super Duck gasped. Of course he had heard of Turducken, that most evil of culinary wickedness, a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken and slowly roasted. The very name was a horror. Until now it had only been a theory, outlined in nasty cookbooks but never yet actually performed.

Super Duck no longer wondered who occupied the other two cells. He only hoped that the turkey and the chicken were still alive.

Dr. Barbecue ordered his henchmen to leave and lock the door so that no one would learn his secret recipe. He cackled to himself as he lit the enormous oven. Super Duck wasted no time once the villain’s back was turned. With his agile tail feathers, Super Duck quickly picked the lock to his cage. When Dr. Barbecue turned back around, Super Duck was sitting calmly in the cage, looking completely innocent. Dr. Barbecue turned back to the stove to prepare the bread stuffing that would go inside the chicken. Shuddering to himself, Super Duck crept out of his cage and hurried to the next cage. Slipping under the sheet that covered it, he came face to face with Terrance Turkey. T.T. was huddled in a corner trembling, but when he saw Super Duck he let out a little squawk.

“SHHH!” whispered Super Duck. “We must be quick.” In a flash, Super Duck had the lock on T.T.’s cage open. T.T. was used to Super Duck’s skills, so he silently followed him out of the cage. The two tiptoed over to the last cage. Inside sat a plump chicken. She was so relieved to see Super Duck come to save her that she totally lost her head.

“Oooohh! Super Duck!,” she squawked at the top of her voice. “Thank heaven you are here! Did you hear what that horrible man said? Oh please don’t let him make me into a Turducken, oh please!”

Of course, all that squawking immediately brought Dr. Barbecue. Super Duck was hard pressed to get the chicken’s cage unlocked before Dr. Barbecue was trying to grab him. Fortunately, T.T. gave a great gobble and began to run toward the door. That caught Dr. Barbecue’s attention, and he looked away just long enough for Super Duck to free the babbling chicken. He pushed her off the table and jumped after her just in time to avoid Dr. Barbecue’s clutching hands.

Unfortunately, T.T. had just discovered that the door was locked.

“Super Duck, what are we going to do?” yelled T.T. “There’s no other door.”

Super Duck quickly looked around. High on the far wall was a small window. It would be a tight squeeze for T.T., but it was their only hope. “The window!” he yelled, and all three birds made a break for it. Dr. Barbecue was right in their way, a giant net in his hands. Super Duck waited until he was just about within reach of the net and then he flew up into Dr. Barbecue’s face, flapping his wings all around the villain’s head. While Dr. Barbecue yelled and swatted, T.T. and the chicken dashed straight through his legs and toward the window. Super Duck snapped up the net in his bill and wrapped it once or twice around Dr. Barbecue’s head. That should give us just enough time, he thought.

Over at the window, the chicken was wailing that she couldn’t fly and she’d never be able to reach. Super Duck landed next to her. “Quiet!” he said. “I have a plan.”

With his super strong bill, super Duck lifted up the very heavy turkey. T.T. stretched out his neck. It made a perfect bridge to the window sill. The chicken slowly climbed up and out. They could hear her yelling for the police outside. Super Duck could see that Dr. Barbecue was getting free from the net. With a mighty heave, he flipped T.T. into the air. T.T. clambered through the window. He nearly got stuck halfway, but he managed to squeeze himself through just as Super Duck came flying up behind him.

The three birds were free, and already the police were arriving in answer to the chicken’s calls. Super Duck showed them the door, and the police got inside just in time to see Dr. Barbecue attempting his escape through the same window the birds had used. They arrested him immediately, and from that day on, Super Duck was one of the most famous super heroes of all.

Yellow

This is a story about a yellow dog.

You wouldn’t have know he was yellow just to look at him.  His fur wasn’t yellow, or even buff or tan or golden or any of the other colors people sometimes call yellow.  His fur was brown and black.  But inside, he was as yellow as he could be.

People (and dogs) who are yellow on the inside have no courage.  When they are faced with things that scare them, they don’t stand up to them.  They turn and run.  In short, they are cowards.

The thing about being yellow on the inside, instead of on the outside, is that no one knows you are yellow just by looking at you.  They may not know even after spending some time with you.  It’s not until something very difficult comes along and they are counting on you to do your part that your yellow insides make themselves known.

That was the case with Howard the dog.  He was an Australian shepherd, fairly big and healthy, with dark shaggy fur.  Nothing about his looks would have given away his yellowness.  The family that took him home as a puppy thought he looked like a trustworthy and dependable dog.  He was, after all, bred to take care of helpless sheep.  For a long time everything went well.  Howard got bigger and stronger and more noble-looking with each passing week.  He ran and played like any puppy, but he never tried to leave the yard or broke any other rules the family had given him.  The family said that he was a very good and responsible dog.  The did not suspect that the real reason Howard never stepped out of bounds was that he was afraid.  He was afraid that bigger dogs might pick on him if he left the yard.  He was afraid that strange people might be mean.  He was afraid of making the family angry and losing his comfortable pillow and special canned dog food.  Still, as long as no one knew this was why Howard was such a model dog, everything was fine.

Inevitably, though, some of the yellow began to poke through.  One time some thieves tried to break into the house.  They busted open a window and crawled through, setting off a loud alarm.  The alarm scared the thieves away, but everyone wondered why they didn’t hear Howard barking.  Then they found him, cowering under the bed int eh back bedroom.  He was shaking and whimpering.  The family laughed it off and said he was just a little puppy.  Then he grew up.  One day when the youngest boy was out giving Howard a walk, a big dog came running toward them, barking.  Instead of defending his young master, Howard turned and ran for home as fast as his little legs could move, pulling his young master behind him.  The family laughed about the story again, but this time they did not say that he was just a puppy, and the little boy, whose arm was very sore from being pulled so hard, refused to take Howard for any more walks.  Not long after that, the neighbor cat came over the fence and chased Howard under the picnic table.  When the family came home, there was the cat, sitting calmly on the table, giving itself a bath, while Howard trembled in fear and shame underneath.  That was when the family knew what Howard really was.  The didn’t call him yellow to his face, but they didn’t have to.  Everyone knew it, Harold most of all.

And so the years went by, and Harold continued to be as yellow and cowardly as could be.  He spent his days sleeping on the couch and starting up in surprise every time the doorbell rang.  The neighbor cat visited more and more often, and it got so that Howard hardly dared go out in his own backyard.  The family laughed at Harold and shook their heads, but they put up with him because they felt sorry for him.  Harold was thoroughly ashamed of himself.  As time went on, he felt more and more ashamed.  He wished he could be a braver dog, but everything was just too scary.

Then one day the family took Harold on a picnic to the park.  He spent the day hiding under the picnic table because there were so many other dogs around.  It wasn’t too bad, actually, laying on the soft grass and being fed scraps of lunch.  After a while the little girl’s teddy bear tumbled down next to him, so he even had a sort of company.  But he could also hear the family making fun of him, and he knew that he was ridiculous.

That night, there was a shriek from the kids’ bedroom.  Harold shot under the bed.  From his hiding place, he could hear the little girl crying that she couldn’t find her teddy bear.  The whole family got in on the search, but of course, no one could find it.  The little girl sobbed.  Harold’s heart sunk.  He knew exactly where the teddy bear was.  He knew the little girl would never find it.  That night he lay on the end of the bed, while the little girl tossed and turned and sniffled in her sleep.  She was used to cuddling her teddy in the night, and she couldn’t sleep well without him.  Harold felt terrible.  All that long, long night he lay and thought miserably about how cowardly he was.  If he were a braver dog, he could go right back to that park and get that teddy bear.  Then he would be a hero.  But Harold knew he could never do anything like that.  It was so dark outside and there were so many dogs and cats and other scary things in the night.  No, he could never ever do it.  Still, the thought wouldn’t go away.  It kept buzzing around his brain like a little mosquito that wouldn’t leave him alone.

The next morning, the little girl was still terribly sad.  She cried and cried and wouldn’t eat her breakfast and made her mother search the whole house again.  She sat at the table and drew pictures of teddy and asked her father to put them up around the neighborhood.  When Harold saw the little picture of the girl hugging her teddy, he knew he just had to do something.  He was horribly, horribly afraid, but he just couldn’t live with himself any more if he didn’t help the little girl.  So that afternoon, when Harold was put out in the yard, he broke his first ever rule.  He dug under the fence and left the yard.  He was trembling violently as soon as he got on the other side, but he thought of the little girl and he forced himself to start off down the street toward the park.

At the corner, he ran into a strange dog who barked at him.  Without thinking, Harold turned around and was halfway home before he could stop himself.  He stood panting for a long, long time on the sidewalk, trying to talk himself into going back toward that dog.  He thought of the little girl tossing and turning all night long, but then he thought of the dog’s big teeth.  It was like he was frozen.  Then he saw the neighbor cat come out of her house.  She came to sit at the end of her driveway and laughed at him.  He knew he had to go on.

This time when Harold got to the corner, he braced himself against the barking and kept on going.  The dog came right to him and started sniffing.  Harold was terrified, but he made himself stay where he was.  Finally, the dog wandered away.  Harold was okay!  Feeling much better about himself, Harold kept 0n toward the park.  It was a long trip, but finally he made it.  Sure enough, there under the picnic table was the teddy bear.  Grabbing it triumphantly in his mouth, Harold turned toward home.

And saw a giant dog approaching.  It was growling, and there was no mistaking it’s intent.  It wanted that teddy bear.  Harold slunk back under the table.  The strange dog paced around the table, growling.  Harold knew that he was going to have to get past it in order to get home.  He didn’t see any way to make it home alive.  Maybe if he just gave the teddy bear to the dog, it would let him go free.  Immediately, he was ashamed of the cowardly thought.  He had come so far.  He couldn’t go back empty-handed now.  That was when he felt a little growl in his own throat.  He was so surprised that he almost dropped the teddy bear.  Instead he tried it again, louder this time.  The other dog backed up a step.  Encouraged, Harold growled louder and stepped out from under the picnic table.  Suddenly he realized that he was just as big as that other dog.  He growled even louder.  The other dog backed away.  Victorious, Harold trotted toward home.  He passed lots of dogs on the way, but he didn’t even look at them.

It was almost night when Harold slipped back under the fence and scratched at the back door.  The family was so happy to see him.  And when the little girl saw what he was holding in his mouth, she burst into tears and hugged him so hard that he thought he would burst.  Harold had never felt so proud in all his life.  He wasn’t a yellow dog any more.

And he never would be again.

In the Belly of the Gator

Once there was an alligator who would eat anything, and everything he ate made him grow bigger.  He ate birds and fish, lizards and mice, and he grew a bit bigger.  He ate squirrels and raccoons and puppies, and he grew bigger still.  He ate goats and deer and ponies, and he grew quite big indeed.  Before long, he was eating full grown horses and cows and once even a llama that happened by.  By this time he was absolutely enormous.  He was so enormous that when young Sam Sutherford, just ten years old, wandered into the swamp, that giant alligator swallowed him whole.

It is not at all pleasant to be swallowed up by a giant alligator, but it is much better than being chewed up by a giant alligator.  Let me explain.  If a giant alligator takes a bite out of you with his giant teeth, there will be blood and pain, and you will soon die.  But if a giant alligator takes one giant gulp and swallows you whole, then you will be very uncomfortably squeezed going down his giant throat and you will find his giant stomach a very dark, smelly, and oddly rocky place to be, but on the whole it is still much better than being dead.

When young Sam found himself swallowed by the giant alligator, he was of course terrified.  He thought that he would soon be dead.  But after a while, he realized that nothing was happening to him so he perked up a bit and looked around.  There wasn’t too much room in that stomach, but Sam did notice several smallish rocks sitting around.  He thought that was extremely odd, but he chose one as a seat and sat down to figure out what to do next.  At first, he tried to beat on the walls of the stomach with his fists, but that did nothing.  Then he tried throwing the rocks at the walls, hoping to break through.  That didn’t do much, either, though it did make the alligator rumble with anger.  Shortly after that, a few more rocks came hurtling into the stomach, having been swallowed by the alligator.  Sam ducked out of the way just in time.  That was when he remembered that alligators swallow rocks to help digest their food.  The giant alligator must have thought that banging he felt was just an upset stomach.  Sam sat down to think some more.

In the end, he realized there wasn’t much more he could do.  He decided to wait and hope that someday, someone would come alligator hunting and rescue him.  And that is what he did.  He passed the time by stacking the rocks into castles and cities, he slept curled up in a circle of stones, and when he was very hungry, he built a little fire and roasted a bit of whatever animal the alligator had swallowed that day.  The fires always caused the alligator to swallow more rocks, but in no time at all, Sam was very good at dodging out of the way of incoming stones. It wasn’t exactly a comfortable life, but Sam found that he could get by.

Outside of the stomach, things were not going well at all.  The giant alligator had a constant stomach ache, and that made him very, very grouchy.  He was sure that what he needed was more food to grow bigger, and since no animal was stupid enough to wander into his swamp any more, he decided to venture out and visit some nearby farms.  He poached sheep and cows and the occasional horse.  He knocked down rock walls to get to the animals and burst through fences for no reason at all other than his extreme grouchiness.  He began to get a reputation.  Once people knew that there was a humongous (he’d grown too big by now to just be giant) mean alligator on the loose, they were determined to get rid of him at all cost.  Soon some of the local farmers formed a hunting party, and they called in the famous alligator hunter, Joe-Joe Geronimo.

Joe-Joe walked around with two giant machetes tucked into his belt, and he was known to have killed more than fifty alligators.  He got the men together and outlined a plan.  The next day, they all headed into the swamp to track down the humongous alligator.  He wasn’t hard to find.  Humongous alligators can’t exactly hide.  When they found him, though, their troubles began.  Several of the men shot at him with their guns, but the alligator was so big and tough by now that the bullets just skipped off his hide.  That was why Joe-Joe had set up his plan.  While the men with guns distracted the alligator, Joe-Joe and a few helpers circled around and prepared their ropes.  Then in the blink of an eye, they leapt out from behind the trees and tied the alligator up.  It took all those men pulling on the ropes to hold that humongous alligator still for even a moment.  But a moment was all that Joe-Joe needed.  He jumped onto the alligator’s humongous head, whipped out his machetes, and plunged them right into the alligators neck.  The alligator was instantly dead, and all the men cheered.

Then they heard a funny noise coming from inside the alligator.  They raised their guns again.  Cautiously, Joe-Joe approached the alligator and cut open it’s belly.  Out climbed a boy, all in rags and sticking terribly like the inside of an alligator.  The men could not believe their eyes.  It was young Sam Sutherford, and he was still alive.  No one who saw it could believe it, so you can imagine how everyone felt who didn’t see it. There was quite a bit of doubting going on back in the city when the men went home.

To this day, no one is quite sure if that story is a legend or the truth, but I can tell you two things.  Joe-Joe Geronimo has a humongous stuffed alligator at his hunting lodge, the biggest trophy he’s ever captured.  And young Sam Sutherford grew up to be an archeologist, camping for weeks on end in the arctic tundra or the deepest desert.  They say he can survive anywhere for as long as he needs to.

The Slowest Elephant on Earth

Edward the elephant was slow.  He was very slow.  He was very, very, very, very, very, very, very slow.  He was so slow that he was regularly passed by snails and tortoises.  He was so slow that he would often only get halfway to where he was going when it would be time to turn around and go home again.   He was so slow that in all the time it has taken me to write these words, he would only have taken one step.  At the most.

Edward’s mother was always trying to make him hurry up.  She wanted him to keep up with the rest of the herd.  The other mothers offered her advice about how to make him go faster.  But nothing she tried worked.  If she nagged him, he just put his head down and kept. moving. slowly.  If she punished him for arriving late, he just took the punishment and kept. moving. slowly.  If she promised him rewards for moving more quickly, he never earned them because he kept. moving. slowly.  Finally, Edward’s mother gave up and let him be.

All of Edward’s friends made fun of him for being so slow.  They made jokes and called him names and did all the mean things friends do when they aren’t really being friends.  Only once did anyone ever actually ask Edward why he moved so slowly.  But he talked so slowly that no one stayed around to listen to the whole answer.  Edward just shrugged and kept. moving. slowly.

It wasn’t easy being slow.  Edward had to find his own place to eat because if he went grazing with the herd all the good leaves would be gone long before he could get to them.  He had to find his own watering hole because he was always the last to arrive and the water was all muddy by the time it was his turn.  And of course, Edward missed out on all the elephant parties because he could never get there before they were over.  Being slow got a bit lonely at times.

The one really good thing about moving so slowly, though, was that Edward had plenty of time to look around him.  And he noticed everything.  He noticed that there were over three hundred shades of green in the trees and grass around him.  He noticed that the birds flew in certain formations depending on the weather that was coming.  He noticed that some elephants always stayed close to the group and others liked to wander off on their own.

Naturally, then, he was the first to notice that the river was drying up.  First he noticed that the level of water was a tiny hair lower each day.  Then he noticed that the air was more dusty than before.  Then he noticed that the leaves were a little more crispy than before.  These changes were so small that no one else had time to notice them at all.

Edward tried to warn the herd leader that the river was drying up and soon there would be no water.  But the herd leader got impatient with how long it took Edward to say things, and he sent him home without listening.  Edward tried to warn his mother and his friends, but they just laughed at the idea that he might know something they did not.  Finally Edward knew he was going to have to take matters into his own hands.

The next day, Edward slowly gathered up a pile of leaves.  It took him all day to get as many as he needed.  The day after that, Edward went to the river and gathered water in jugs to carry on his back.  He was so slow at scooping water that it took him the whole second day just to fill two water jugs.  Finally, on the third day, Edward set off alone to walk upstream and find out what was wrong with the river.  Everyone laughed when they saw Edward preparing for a long journey.  They said he would need three weeks just to get out of their camp. Ignoring them all, Edward moved slowly along.

Every day, Edward walked along the river, looking around him for signs of what had gone wrong.  He traveled many, many days before he saw what he was looking for.  Up in the hills, where the river flowed down out of the mountains, Edward saw a place where a landslide had thrown many tiny rocks into the river.  The river was choked down to a narrow stream coming through that place and every day more pebbles slid down the mess and choked the river more.  It would be an enormous job to clean away all those pebbles and free up the stream.  It would also have to be done very slowly or it would only cause another avalanche that would make things worse.  Fortunately, Edward was used to things taking a very long time to accomplish, and he certainly had no intention of being reckless or quick.

For two weeks, Edward moved those pebbles, one at a time, out of the river.  When he finally finished, the river ran free and clear again and was back up to its normal height.  Edward wondered if anyone back home would notice the difference.   He figured they wouldn’t.  He figured they would never know what he had done and how he had saved them all.  Edward smiled to himself.  He knew, and that was enough.  With his head held high, Edward turned downstream and kept moving slowly toward home.

Buzzette

I love knowing creative moms! Thanks, Kim, for giving me the idea for this one.

Buzzette was a very, very busy bee. She spent her days drinking juice from flowers and carrying the extra back to the hive to use for making honey. In the middle of summer the bees worked hard to make enough honey to last through the winter, and there were so many flowers to visit that Buzzette never stopped from morning to night. No bee worked harder than Buzzette.

Buzzette’s only problem was that she didn’t look where she was going. She would get so busy, thinking all the while about where she was going next, and she just wouldn’t notice what was right around her. She would bump off of trees and get lost in the grass. But somehow, in the end, she would always find her way back to the hive.

Until the fateful Sunday when she headed for the violet patch on the other side of the freeway.

She was flying along, thinking of how lovely violet juice is, when suddenly THWAP! She flew headlong into a sheet of glass. Without even noticing it she had gone right through an open car window and now she was trapped in the car. Panicking, she turned around and tried to fly back the way she came. She was half way to freedom when she heard a “Skeeeeeeeeee!” and a hand came up and knocked her down. For a few minutes everything was confusion and yelling and giant stamping feet. Then Buzzette managed to crawl away under the seat. One wing was a little bruised and she was scared out of her mind, but otherwise she was fine. The humans above her in the car seemed to have concluded that she was gone because they settled down again, and for a while everything was quiet.

After a while the car stopped, and there was much scrambling and talking and laughing and banging of doors. Then everything was quiet. Buzzette waited for a moment and then crawled out from her hiding place. The people were gone. For once in her life, Buzzette looked very carefully around her. She spotted the open window. Two minutes later, she was out in the open air and buzzing with relief. She looked around for the violet patch. It wasn’t there!

Buzzette was so confused that she didn’t know what to do. She flew this way and that, looking for the violets, then looking for the hive, then looking for anything at all that she recognized. There was nothing. No apple orchard, no happy little pansy bed, no nothing. Where had the whole world gone?

Now, you and I know that while Buzzette was in the car, the car had driven her miles and miles away from her hive and stopped in a part of the country she had never seen before. But bees do not understand things like cars and miles. All Buzzette knew was that the whole world was different. And also that she was very, very thirsty.

Fortunately for her, there were several dandelions in the grass nearby. Dandelion juice was not her favorite, but she was much too thirsty to be picky just then. She buzzed over and began to drink.

“Hey!” came a voice from behind her. Two big, fat bumblebees came into her view. The biggest one was flying dangerously close. “What do you think you’re doing?” he demanded. “These are our dandelions. You’re not from our hive. You’re not welcome!”

Buzzette stepped back in alarm. Of course, she wasn’t paying attention to where she was, so she stepped right off the edge of the dandelion and tumbled to the ground before she could get her wings to work. The new bees laughed as she quickly flew away.

For a while, Buzzette just flew around thinking about her problem and not paying attention to anything. Then she heard a familiar buzz and noticed a rose bush not far away. Bees were zipping in and out of the roses. It looked like a wonderful party, and Buzzette couldn’t resist going closer to see if anyone she knew was there. No sooner had she landed on a rose bud, however, when the noise around her stopped. She looked in every direction. All the bees were frozen in place, just staring at her. No one said anything. No one drank anything. No one moved. Buzzette instantly knew two things. First, none of these bees were from her hive, and second, she was not welcome on their rose bush. Somehow the silence was even worse than the laughter of the rude bumblebees. Buzzette buzzed off. She wanted nothing more than to get as far from that rose bush as possible.

But that was the problem. Buzzette knew where she didn’t want to be, but she didn’t have any idea where she did want be. The world was so strange that home seemed like something from a dream. Where was it? How could she get there?

The only thing in all that wide open space that she recognized at all was the terrible car that had changed everything. Tired, thirsty, and lonely, Buzzette flew back through the open window and crawled under the scratchy seat. Maybe if she went to sleep for a while, the car would change everything again. After a while, she heard the noises that she knew meant the car was full of people again. She tried not to move. It was a very, very long time before the people left again. Buzzette needed to stretch her wings, so she flew up to the window, wondering if the world was back to normal yet.

Her heart fell. She didn’t see anything that looked familiar. She did see something that looked quite wonderful, though. Stretched out before her were row upon row upon row of daffodils, cheerful and yellow and delicious. Daffodils were Buzzette’s favorite flower. She felt afraid of what she would find, but daffodils were too much to resist. Glancing carefully in every direction, Buzzette flew toward the field of daffodils. She buzzed down inside one delicate cup…and nearly landed right on top of another bee! Buzzette leapt back, careful this time not to fall.

“I’m so sorry!” she said. “I didn’t know this was your flower.”

“It’s all right,” said the strange bee with a smile. “There are so many flowers here that no one worries about whose is whose. Help yourself.”

Buzzette could hardly believe her ears. But the other bee stepped aside to make room, so Buzzette leaned forward and took a long, long drink. “Thank you!” she said.

“Of course!” said the other bee. “I’m Buzzella. What’s your name?”

“Buzzette.”

“You’re not from around here, are you?”

“No, I’m afraid I’ve lost my hive,” Buzzette said, suddenly wanting to cry again.

“That’s very sad,” said Buzzella. “I hope you find it again.” She started to buzz off, then stopped. She looked back at Buzzette’s sad little face. “In the mean time, you can come and stay in our hive. There’s plenty of room for more.”

Buzzette thought she had never been so happy in her life. And maybe she hadn’t. You have to be really really unhappy at least once before you can be as happy as it is possible to be.

And Buzzette stayed happy. And she stayed in the daffodil field. She never did find her way back to her old hive. But she did eventually find that she was home.

A Story About a Parrot…Who Can Talk

Once upon a time there was a parrot who could talk like a person. He didn’t just imitate human sounds like some parrots can, but he actually talked and said whatever he wanted to say. This, of course, made him very famous. People would come from miles around to see the talking parrot, and everyone who came paid him a little money to hear him say something funny. It didn’t take long for the talking parrot to get quite rich. He also got quite proud.

He used his money to build himself a big house in the mountains, and next to the house, he had the workmen build a giant statue of himself. The thirty foot statue of a parrot soon became just as famous as the talking parrot himself, so he made more money than ever and was prouder than ever of himself.

Then one day some scientists came to the parrots door. The didn’t want to pay money to hear the parrot talk. They wanted to do the talking. They told the parrot that one of the nearby mountains was a volcano and that it was about to erupt. If it did, it would destroy his house, statue and all. He just laughed because he didn’t believe them. The scientists showed him all their instruments and studies. He didn’t understand what any of it meant, so he still didn’t believe them. Finally, they told him that if he flew to the top of his statue, he’d be able to see the top of the volcano and see the smoke rising. They told him to hurry, since it could explode at any moment.

When the scientists left, the parrot went outside and tried to fly to the top of the statue. He couldn’t. He hadn’t flown in so long that he had forgotten how to do it. Instead, he had to slowly and painfully climb to the top of the statue. It was very hard work, and the parrot wasn’t used to working hard. He huffed and puffed and wished very much that he hadn’t made the statue so tall. Finally, he made it to the top. The first thing he saw when he got there was the smoking volcano. He began to feel very afraid.

The second thing he saw when he got to the top was a nest with a family of parrots living in it. They were as surprised to see him as he was to see them. The parrot soon forgot his surprise, though, when he saw a little bit of lava escape the top of the volcano. He turned to the family and said, “Hurry! The volcano is exploding! We all need to get out of here! Fly to safety!”

The parrot family replied, “Squawk?”

The parrot had forgotten that other parrots didn’t speak people language. He tried again, “Bok-bok!”

The parrot family replied, “Squawk?”

The parrot had forgotten how to speak parrot language! He tried and he tried, but everything came out wrong. The volcano glowed brighter and brighter and the parrot was getting desperate. Finally, he grabbed the littlest baby parrot out of the nest and jumped off the edge of the statue. He fell about halfway down before he finally got his wings to work right and fly. Naturally, the parrot parents followed angrily after him, wanting their baby back. The parrot flew toward the volcano, hoping that the parrot parents would notice how hot it was. It worked. Just when the talking parrot got very tired and turned back for the statue, the daddy parrot saw the lava.

“Squawk!” he said.

When they all got back to the statue, the mommy and daddy parrot gathered up their babies. There was a loud BOOM! and a big cloud of ash and smoke rose into the air. The talking parrot and his new friends flew to safety just in time.

After that, the talking parrot returned to the jungle to live with the other parrots. He learned again how to speak parrot language and he practiced his flying every day. He didn’t ever want to be that helpless again. And to this day, if you are walking in the jungle, you may hear a strange voice saying, “Hello, there!” But you’ll never see anything but some bright tail feathers as they fly away.

Plodding wins the race?

I’m going to keep this brief because quick and to the point is my style. But for all hares everywhere, I really think it is time I spoke out.

That whole big story about the tortoise and the hare? It’s been grossly misinterpreted. I’m not disputing the facts of the story. Oh, no. The tortoise told the facts just like they happened. He doesn’t have enough imagination to lie about it. It happened just like he said. I got out to a quick start, stopped in the shade to take a nap, and slept right through his passing me by and winning the race.

I won’t deny that it was a little embarrassing to lose to a turtle, but I’m pretty much over that. What gets to me is the moral everyone keeps passing along. Plodding wins the race? Seriously? That’s what you want children to remember? What kind of society are you people trying to create? A society of boring little plodders? I don’t say that to belittle tortoises. Seriously, I don’t. If plodding is what you do well, good for you. You probably really will win most races with your steady persistence. But you’ll forgive me if I’m not teaching young hares to imitate you.

I’ll be telling them the true moral of the story. I’ll tell them that nothing, not even winning, feels better than running so fast that your ears fly back. I’ll tell them that being a hare means watching the world fly by and the ground disappear under your powerful hind legs. I’ll tell them that the joy of that kind of speed is exhausting, and they shouldn’t be afraid to rest when they need to. I’ll tell them that if they run fast enough, they’ll have time to take a nap and still finish the race. They may come in second, but they’ll be so rested that they’ll be ready for the next race as soon as they cross the finish line.

Most importantly, I’ll tell them that when you are the best at something, you don’t need to prove it to anyone else. Because that’s what I learned that day, not that I shouldn’t have stopped for a nap, but that I shouldn’t have issued that ridiculous challenge in the first place. I was showing off, plain and simple, hoping to win their respect and admiration. But would those things have made my legs stronger to escape the prowling tiger? Would they have made the thrill of running at heart-bursting speed any more thrilling?

Excellence is its own reward. Tell that to your children when you tell them my story. That will be a lesson well worth learning.