Papa and the Shark

I learned how to swim really well when I was 7 years old…and I LOVED IT ! Sometimes in the swimming pool, sometimes at the beach, but I would spend hours and hours enjoying swimming. My favorite place to swim was at a beach called the “Army/Navy” beach, when we lived in Puerto Rico. (That’s an island in the Caribbean Sea. Look it up on a map.)

It was at that beach that I also learned how to snorkel. The is a way to swim around on top of the water with your face looking down. I would wear a mask so I could see under water just like I can in the open air every day. I could keep looking down without raising my head up to breath because I also wore a snorkel. (That’s like a long tube you put into your mouth that sticks up out of the water through which you can breath). I also wore flippers on my feet that would allow me to paddle very fast and move me through the water.

I really loved to snorkel. When swimming in shallow water I could touch the bottom with my hands where I would run them under the sand looking for sand dollars (These are round creatures in a hard shell that live just under the sand.)

Sometimes I would gather up many sand dollars, put them in a bucket back on the beach and take them home. (Until one day when the sand dollars I took home all died and they began to stink and my mom told me I couldn’t bring any more of them home.)

There are so many beautiful and exciting things to see under the water! There are all kinds of fish, each with different shapes and colors. There are many different kinds of crabs that crawl around on the bottom. Sometimes I could even see little tiny sea horses too.

One of the more interesting kind of creature looked and felt just like rocks! They are called coral and they can form hard rock-like structures under water.

And then there was different kinds of plants that grow under water with different shapes and colors.

So you can see why I liked swimming at the beach so much and snorkeling too. It was a whole different world down there. Every time I would go I would have a hard time making myself quit swimming and go back to the beach, and then home again. But there was one time I didn’t have any trouble at all getting out of the water. It was the day I came face to face with a ten foot long shark !

I was swimming and snorkeling along just like I always did, but I lost track of time and the direction in which I was going. I just kept swimming and swimming, looking down and around at all the beautiful and interesting creatures. Suddenly I noticed that the bottom was getting farther and farther away from me. That meant that I was moving away from the beach instead of toward it! About that time I looked up ahead of me and there right in front was a great big metal net with iron bars blocking my way.

But what was one the other side of the net is what really caught my attention. There, not more than twenty feet in front of me was a ten foot long hammerhead shark !

Boy, did I turn around and swim as fast as I could to the beach !

I got out of the water and told my mom and dad about the big shark, but I was so out of breath and excited I could hardly talk. But they told me not to worry because that was what they had put the net in the water for. It was to keep all the sharks and barracudas away from the people swimming.

Well, I can tell you, I still loved to swim and snorkel, and I still went to the beach and did all the fun things I always did. But it took me quite awhile before I would let myself swim out close to the shark net again. In fact, I’m not sure I ever did after that.

Oh where, oh where is my lost hound?

Has anybody seen my hound?
He’s small and black and white and brown.
He’s generally sitting ’round
Begging pats without a sound
Oh where, oh where is my lost hound?

It’s been an awful day for me.
I lost my glasses, scraped my knee,
I ran my car into a tree.
And now I’m sore and I can’t see.
Oh where, oh where can my hound be?

I’ve looked in closets, under rugs.
I’ve asked my family, gotten shrugs.
I feel quite awful; I need hugs.
My cuddly hound helps more than drugs.
Oh hound, oh hound, I need your snugs.

It’s true he always wants to play.
And sometimes likes to run away.
It’s hard for sweet hounds to obey
But this was not the time to stray
Oh why today, hound, why today?

I miss him so, it hurts my head
I guess I’ll go lie on my bed
Wait, what is that beneath the spread?
My hound, he’s here! He hasn’t fled!
Forget, forget hound what I said.

Hammy the Hamster

This is actually a story my husband invented. I was going to make him write it up, but he was a little busy getting his new book out this week. Still, it’s one of my kids’ favorites, so naturally it has to be immortalized here. There isn’t much to it, but just insert your kids’ names and use your dopiest possible voice when you say, “Oops! I forgot!” and preschoolers are going to love it.

Once upon a time there were two kids named Ellie and Scott who really wanted a pet.  Every day they would ask their dad to buy them a dog or a cat or even a fish, but he never did.  Then one day, while the kids were playing in the forest when they found a stray animal.  It wasn’t a dog or a cat; it was a giant hamster.  Now, a  hamster should be a small furry creature, like a mouse with a very short tail.  But this was a giant hamster, so while he was till furry and still had a stubby tail, he was roughly twice as big as Ellie and Scott’s dad.  The kids were delighted.  They named their new pet Hammy and took him home to dinner.

You can guess what happened.  Their mom took one look at that enormous hamster and said, “No way!”  She sent them straight back into the forest to put Hammy back where they found him.  Ellie and Scott were disappointed, but they decided that they would visit Hammy every day in the forest and train him to behave and teach him tricks so that he could show their mom what a good pet he would be.

From the very first day, they could see that they were going to have trouble.  Hamsters will eat almost anything, and Hammy was a giant hamster.  That meant that as often as not, what he wanted to eat was Ellie and Scott.  They carefully explained to him that hamsters should not eat kids and that they couldn’t play with him any more if he kept trying to eat them. Then they taught Hammy how to play tag.

Playing tag with Hammy was super fun.  You could duck right under his legs and out of reach before you got tagged.  But, when it was Ellie’s turn to be “it,” Hammy snatched her right up and started to chew on her arm.  Scott stamped his foot and yelled as loudly as he could, “No, Hammy!  No eating Ellie!”

And Hammy said, “Oops!  I forgot!” and dropped Ellie back to the ground.

They gave up on tag and started playing hide and seek.  Hammy was too big to be good at hiding, but he was a great seeker…at least until he found Scott.  Then he snatched Scott right up and started munching on his leg.  Ellie jumped out of her hiding spot and screamed, “No, Hammy!  No eating Scott!”

And Hammy said, “Oops!  I forgot!” and dropped Scott back to the ground.

Instead of getting better, Hammy’s forgetfulness got worse and worse every day.  One day, while they were all playing Prince and Princess, Ellie turned around and couldn’t see Scott.  Then she saw a foot sticking out of Hammy’s mouth.

“Hammy!  Is that Scott’s foot?” she yelled.

Hammy just shrugged.  From inside Hammy’s mouth, Scott shouted, “Hammy!  No eating me!” and he boxed Hammy’s teeth very hard.

Hammy spit Scott out and said, “Oops!  I forgot!”

That was when Ellie and Scott knew they could never take Hammy home as a pet.  They still wanted to play with him in the forest, though, because he was so much fun.   They thought and thought about what they could do until Ellie had a great idea.  They ran home and got to work with some paint.

And after that day, anytime they wanted to go play with Hammy, Ellie and Scott always wore the same white shirts with bright red letters that said, “No eating me!”

Better Off, Part 2

If you missed the first part, it’s here.

For two days Sammy lay burning with fever.  Once or twice he woke up and thought, “I need a doctor.”  But he was too sick to get out of bed, even to make a hot cup of tea.

On the night of the second day, Francesca was walking by Wallow Cove, when she met Reggie coming out of his burrow towards her.  He was frowning with worry.

“Francesca, have you seen Sammy lately?” he asked.

“No,” said she, “but that’s not unusual.”

“I know,” replied Reggie, “but there is no smoke coming up from his chimney.  And there hasn’t been since the day of the ice skating.  I’m afraid something’s wrong.”

Together they hurried down to Sammy’s door and rang the bell.  There was no reply.  They rang again, and Reggie knocked loudly.  But still no one answered.

“Should we try to go in?” asked Francesca.

Reggie paused.  Sammy had not wanted company lately, but then…he had never let his fire go out before.

“Let’s try,” he said finally.

They tried the handle and found the door open.  Cautiously creeping inside, they heard a strange sound.  Following it into the bedroom, they found Sammy tossing and turning as he slept.

“He’s sick!” cried Reggie, springing to the bedside.  “Run get Doctor Greatpaws before it’s too late.”

Francesca ran off, and Reggie started to work.  He covered up Sammy and built up the fire.  He brought a cool cloth for his forehead and boiled water for tea.  He was just bringing in an extra blanket, when Doctor Greatpaws the bear hurried into the room.  Francesca and Reggie waited anxiously in the kitchen for nearly an hour, and finally the kind Doctor came out with good news.

”You found him in time,” he announced with a grave smile.  “He will recover, but will need lots of care.”

“I’ll stay with him,” promised Reggie.  “Just tell me what to do.”

So for two long weeks, Reggie stayed with Sammy, nursing him and feeding him, and reading him stories.  Francesca and Wally and Joshua all stopped by to bring special treats and play games by the fire.

On the fourth day of Reggie’s stay, Sammy was able to sit up in bed.  While drinking his tea, he remembered the winterberries.  Where had he left the basket?

“Reggie,” he asked, “did you find a basket of winterberries?”

“No,” replied Reggie.

“I was out picking them the day I got sick.  Maybe I left the basket outside.”

“I’ll go look,” said Reggie, springing up instantly.  In a moment he was back with the basket of still-frozen berries.   “Would you like me to make you some winterberry tea?”

Sammy looked doubtful.  “Are you sure you know how to crush them right?  Maybe you should just bring them in here and I’ll…No.”  He stopped himself.  “Thank you.  I think we will be better off if you do it.”

And Reggie did.

Maybe he could have steeped the berries a little longer, but Francesca and Joshua dropped in bursting with neighborhood news; and looking around at his chattering friends over the rim of his mug, Sammy thought it was the best cup of tea he had tasted in all his life.

Better Off, Part 1

The second (and last…for now) of the Bean Creek Chronicles, which was written for my nephew on his first Christmas. I’m doing this one in two parts because it’s a bit on the long side. Enjoy!

One especially slow, sleepy day in high summer, the sun shone so brightly that even the buzzing of the bees sounded sluggish, and all the neighbors along Bean Creek could be found sitting in the shade, sipping lemonade, or drowsily dozing in the sun.

All, that is, except one.

Sammy Bushytail was busy picking berries. Ignoring the sun beating on his back, he quickly filled his basket with the plump, juicy fruit. Then he scurried home to spread the berries on a blanket in the sun. As his little paws flew, his mind drifted far away, dreaming of crisp berry cobbler and crunchy toast with sticky jam. He was so wrapped up in his delicious daydreams that he was on his third trip home with a full fruit basket before Reggie got his attention.

Reggie Snuffles was relaxing in the shade of Wallow Cove, occasionally rolling over with a satisfying squish in the sticky mud. He wasn’t surprised at all to see his best friend Sammy concentrating so hard on work.

“Whatcha doin,’ Sammy?” he asked, scratching his snout comfortably on a nearby stump.

“Berry drying day,” said Sammy shortly, shifting the bulging basket and steadily plodding on.

“Want some help?” offered Reggie, glancing at the steep hill and his friend’s already tired face.

That stopped Sammy suddenly. It was a tempting offer, but…Reggie was not known to be a very careful worker, even if he was Sammy’s best friend. What if he bungled with the basket and spoiled all Sammy’s work? He eyed the hill, looming large in the sunlight.

“I suppose,” he accepted slowly, stealing a shuddering glance at Reggie’s muddy sides.

Reggie sidled forward and accepted the basket Sammy was reluctantly unstrapping.

“Just be careful, okay?”

Reggie started toward the hill slowly, then began trotting faster and faster…determined to be really helpful, even in the hot sun.

Sammy watched him carefully. Just as he reached the top with a bump and a jolt, a bunch of berries bounced out of the basket. Reggie didn’t notice, but Sammy sprinted up the hill to recover his loss. He caught up with Reggie at home just as he was dumping the sweet fruit onto the blanket.

“No, no, no, no!” shouted Sammy in horror.

Startled, Reggie dropped the basket.

“You’ll smash them like that! Look, give me the basket. You’ll ruin the berries. See how many you lost on the way! Thanks for your help, but you don’t know how to do this. I’m better off on my own.”

Reggie stared at Sammy in shock. “Sorry…I just wanted to help. You don’t…” He started to say something else, but swallowed it, turned and trudged sadly back to Wallow Cove.

Summer slowly fell away into autumn, and Sammy could be seen every day, always busy gathering roots and berries or grinding acorn flour from the remains of last year’s crop and always alone.

Then, one crisp, clear day, the neighbors along Bean Creek all got up before the sun. It was Acorn Harvesting Day! The last day before the frost was always the best day for acorns, and after the frost it would be too late. With so much to do in one day, everyone got involved. Mr. and Mrs. Flitter and their five children were flying toward the woods, with even baby Fiona flapping sleepily behind. Those who had no children to help them banded together to bring in the harvest.

Reggie was just locking his door when he heard his friends, Francesca and Wally and Joshua coming up the lane.

Joshua, as always, was leaping ahead, and landed with a thud right next to Reggie.
“Ready to go, Reggie?” he asked with typical enthusiasm.

“Yes,” said Reggie, smiling. It was impossible not to smile at Joshua, no matter how early in the morning it was.

“Shouldn’t we stop by to see if Sammy will join us?” asked Francesca, having arrived more sedately with Wally.

Reggie looked doubtful. He hadn’t seen much of Sammy lately, except at a distance. But after a minute, his loyalty won out.
“Yeah…let’s go see if he’s there.”

The friendly little group trudged off to Sammy’s tree. They knocked and knocked, but he didn’t answer. Just when the turned to the gate to leave, they saw Sammy headed home with a load of acorns.

“You were up early, Sammy!” said Wally.

“No time to waste,” replied Sammy briefly.

“Wanna work with us today?” asked Reggie. “It’s always faster with more people.”

Sammy looked uncomfortable. He had missed his friends very much…but on the other hand, there was no way to work together without showing them his secret hiding place, and he hated to let anyone in there. Besides, he told himself, more people will just mean more time goofing off. I don’t have time for that.

“Thank you,” he finally forced out, “but I already have a good start. I’m better off on my own today.”

The friends were a little surprised, but they all nodded and, bidding Sammy good-bye, hurried off to get to work.

Later that evening, when they had stuffed everyone’s pantries with perfect acorns, the band of friends sat outside, laughing, chatting, and watching the giant sun melt away into tomorrow.

But Sammy, whose secret hole was much larger, was scurrying back and forth to the forest late into the night. His little lantern could be seen bobbing along long after the moon had risen.

Autumn was quickly covered by winter, and no sooner had all the harvest been brought in than the snow fell thick on the houses along Bean Creek. One especially chilly day, the neighbors went outside and found the creek completely icy solid. The children all squealed with delight, and everyone bundled into scarves and hats and coats and gloves, and then scurried to the creek to slip and slide on the ice

Meanwhile, Sammy was snug in his little tree house. He cradled a cup of warm cocoa and planned his day. Hadn’t he just noticed a tiny patch of winterberries poking through the snow under the old cedars? He would mix up some fresh nut bread and while it was rising, he would just nip up there and gather some. They would make a lovely tea once they had been properly crushed. With the prospect of warm nut bread and winterberry tea for his afternoon snack, he sprang up to start, but had only gotten as far as tying on his baker’s apron when the front door-bell rang.

Reggie, wrapped in a ridiculous brown coat and wearing fuzzy orange ear muffs, was grinning with glee.
“Come skate with us, Sammy! The ice is perfect!”

Sammy smiled at his funny-looking friend. He looked so happy. It was awfully tempting, the shining sun, the shimmering ice, the shouting people. But then he remembered the winterberries. Playing now would mean someone else might pick them first.

“Thanks, but I’m busy today,” Sammy replied. “I’ve got a lot of baking to do.”

“Oh, come on, come play now,” begged Reggie. “We haven’t seen very much of you lately. And after we’ve skated we’ll all come help you with your work.”

“Oh, no, I don’t think so,” said Sammy, with a wise nod, thinking that there weren’t very many berries if they were divided up. “Too many cooks only spoil all the baking. I’m better off on my own.”

So Reggie returned to the friends at the creek side, and Sammy turned back to his nut bread.

As soon as he had carefully covered the dish of dough with a towel, Sammy slipped on his overcoat and scurried outside with his basket. He quickly found the patch of winterberries and set to work digging them out of the snow. It was very cold, and soon his paws felt numb. But he worked quickly and had soon collected all the berries. Just as he turned to leave, however, he noticed another patch a little further into the cedar woods.
He glanced at his basket. There was still room. So he moved on. Halfway through digging up the second patch, he was shivering uncontrollably, but he was so busy with his work that he didn’t even notice. The second patch was much bigger, and when he finally finished, the sun had moved well past midday. Time to be getting home.

Sammy started to pick up his basket, but it wouldn’t budge. “That’s funny,” he said to himself. “I didn’t think it was that full!” Then he realized that he couldn’t feel his paws at all! His whiskers were crusted with snow and his ears ached from the biting wind. Clumsily clutching his basket he staggered toward home, his frozen feet stumbling over the icy path. After what seemed like a fortnight, he opened his front door with a sigh and collapsed onto a chair by the stove.

But he had been gone so long the fire had gone out, so after a moment’s rest, Sammy dragged himself up to rebuild the fire. As the fire crackled to life, Sammy could feel the life seeping back into his paws.

“Better put the bread on,” he said to himself, with a sneeze.
But by the time he had the bread neatly rolled into buttered pans, he had sneezed seven times and could feel his head beginning to ache.

“I’ll just lay down for a minute while the bread bakes,” he thought, as sneeze number eight shook his body.

So he climbed into bed and fell quickly to sleep, tossing and turning he began to burn with fever. He didn’t wake up until late in the evening. A smell of burning was filling the house. Still hot with his fever he crawled to the kitchen. “My bread is ruined,” he groaned as he lifted it out and turned off the oven. But he had no strength to clean up the mess. Slowly he creeped back to bed and collapsed in a heap.

Holy Cow!

Cowboys & Indians. That was one of my 2 favorite games to play when I was a little boy. Here is a picture of me (at the front of the horse) with my mom and 2 cousins. This was taken when we were visiting my cousins on their farm in western Oklahoma:

I had a couple of sets of cowboy clothes, but my most favorite was when I dressed like Hop-A-Long Cassidy. I had so much fun making up different games. Sometimes I would make a whole town out in our yard by placing sticks on the ground to outline the different stores in the town. Then I would ride down the “street” of my “town” on my stick horse and pretend I was the sheriff of the town. Or maybe I would be chasing the bad guys and have a shoot-out on “main street” with my two cap pistols that I always wore.

On one particular occasion my friend and I were playing like were out rounding up some cows and driving them to town to sell. At that time my family and I lived on an Army post in Puerto Rico, and the housing area that we lived in was right next to a huge field that grew grass over 6 feet tall ! In that field were also some real cows just eating the grass.

Well since we were cowboys; and since we were supposed to be rounding up cows to take to town to sell … You guessed it. My friend and I decided we would go after the real cows and see if we could make them go where we wanted them to go.

As soon as we got into the field where the cows were they started to run through the tall, tall grass. And off we went, chasing right after them. Boy what fun we were having! However, the cows were much faster than we were and pretty soon they were so far ahead of us in the grass that we couldn’t even see them anymore.

As you probably know, real cowboys know how to track animals pretty good and we thought we could easily follow these cows…especially since they bent the grass over wherever they went. So off we ran after them as fast as we could.

Now, when you’re running through tall, tall grass as fast as you can, you really can’t see very far ahead. All of a sudden I burst through some of that grass and standing right in front of me was one of those cows with it’s back to me and I almost ran right into its rear end.

About that time the cow lifted its tail way up high and started going to the bathroom right before my face. “YUCK !”, I yelled and jumped backwards just in time for the cow to barely miss me. My friend started laughing so hard he could hardly stand up.

Well, we decided right then that we didn’t want to bring those cows to our “town” as much as we thought we did. Beside, I knew my mom probably didn’t want me to anyway.

The Valley of Magical Lights

Note: I wrote this story for my niece for her first Christmas. That was…gulp…over eight years ago. Something brought it to mind recently, and I thought I’d share it with you all. This was the first story in the Bean Creek Chronicles. It was illustrated by my mother, so if it’s a bit lacking in description, it’s because you’re missing the pictures. I’d love to pass them along, but I don’t have them. Eight years ago was before my scanner. 😦 The idea was to write one for each child in the family. It worked great for my niece and nephew. Then I had my own kids! Needless to say, those other stories never got written. Maybe now I’ll have the inspiration to finish off the Chronicles. In any case, I hope you enjoy these first two installments.

As was their habit on a fine spring morning, Wally Warthopper and Francesca Nibbles sat in front of their holes on the banks of Bean Creek having tea and cookies. Francesca loved to be out and about, and Wally enjoyed nothing better than soaking in the sunshine.

Just as they started on their second cup of tea, the entire Bouncylegs family came hopping down the path towards the forest. Mr. and Mrs. Bouncylegs had thirteen children, so they made quite a parade!

“Where are you going?” asked Wally.

“To see the Shining Valley,” answered Mr. Bouncylegs.

“This is the day of the magical lights,” added Sally Bouncylegs happily.

“It’s all the way on the other side of the forest,” said Georgie, the tiniest grasshopper. He looked a little scared.

“We have to hurry, or we’ll miss the lights,” scolded Mrs. Bouncylegs, shooing Georgie along with the others.

Wally and Francesca looked at each other. Magical lights!

“That sounds wonderful!” exclaimed Francesca.

Wally just croaked his agreement.

“We should go see them,” she added, jumping up to get her coat and hat.

But Wally didn’t want to leave his comfortable spot on the bank. He thought about how far it must be to the other side of the forest and how much nicer it was to sit still and soak in the sun. “It sounds so far,” he said doubtfully, “and it looks like it might rain.”

But Francesca was tired of being inside after the long winter. And the lights sounded so exciting! She decided to go anyway.

Francesca was traipsing along happily, when a big, fat raindrop hit the top of her head. She hadn’t even noticed the big clouds that had rolled in. Soon it was pouring and she was soaked through. She tried to hide under a leaf, but the water still trickled down her neck. She was wet and cold and miserable. Just then, a giant splash almost knocked Francesca off her feet. She wiped the water from her eyes and saw a mischievous young jackrabbit right in the middle of an enormous puddle. He was dripping water, but didn’t seem to mind it.

“Whatcha doing under there? All the puddles are out here,” asked the jackrabbit with a grin. Francesca didn’t know what to say.

“My name’s Joshua,” said the enthusiastic stranger, thumping again with his back foot and making another huge splash.

“I-I-I’m Francesca,” she stuttered with cold.

“My mama always said the best way to keep warm in a spring rain was to keep hopping right through it,” said Joshua. “Watch this.” And he leaped from his puddle into another nearby puddle, causing a small tidal wave.

Francesca smiled in spite of herself.

“Well…come on,” yelled Joshua, leaping this way and that.

Francesca crept cautiously from under her leaf and stepped lightly in the edge of the nearest puddle.

“No, not like that!” corrected Joshua. “Right in the middle.”

Francesca took a big, deep, long breath…and jumped. SPLASH! She giggled. Joshua was right! This was fun! Pretty soon, she and Joshua were splishing and sploshing their way down the path. Francesca wasn’t cold at all any more. In fact, she almost felt a little disappointed she suddenly felt the sun again. The rain was gone and they were approaching the edge of the forest.

As soon as Francesca could catch her breath, she explained to Joshua about the Shining Valley. He was thrilled at the thought of a whole valley of magical lights, so he quickly agreed to come with her.

Meanwhile, Wally went inside when it started to rain. He built a fire in the fireplace and sat close, toasting marshmallows. He peered out at the nasty rain and was very, very glad that he had stayed at home where everything was warm and dry.

Francesca and Joshua waltzed down the forest path for a ways, enjoying the gentle breeze and the forest noises. They were just beginning to feel dry again and wonder where they could find some lunch, when Joshua stopped short. “Listen,” he hissed, darting a glance at the sky. This time Francesca heard the noise, too. It was a loud, high screeching. A hawk!

Joshua and Francesca dashed together as fast as they could to the base of a nearby tree. Joshua was shaking. Francesca looked every which way for a hole to hide in. Just as the hawk swooped low, she saw an opening! Pushing Joshua ahead of her, she scrambled into the little hole under a root. They could still hear the hawk circling outside. Francesca was so scared that she began to wish she hadn’t come into the forest at all.

The hawk swept by again and again, but at long last the dreadful shrieking started to fade as he moved on, scouring the forest for something else to eat. Francesca looked around her for the first time. The floor of the hole was covered with great big walnuts! It was the perfect lunch. Francesca gnawed open the shells and shared the nuts with Joshua. After they had both eaten, they felt brave enough to leave the little hole and continue on their adventure.

Meanwhile, Wally was settling into his favorite chair with an enormous plate of sandwiches and a big glass of milk. He sighed with contentment as he ate six ham and cheese and four tuna fish sandwiches. “Nothing beats a good lunch,” he said to himself. Then he picked up Fritz the Flycatcher and started to read. Having already read the book several times, he quickly dozed off.

Francesca and Joshua marched along for what seemed like ages. Dusk was just settling in, and they still couldn’t see the end of the forest. Francesca knew that the Shining Valley was right where the forest ended. But they kept walking and walking and walking…and walking. Joshua’s hops were getting a little shorter each time, and Francesca looked sadly down at her aching feet. When she looked up, she groaned. In front of them was a huge hill, looming up out of the dark like a giant.

She stopped. Joshua stopped, too. They were so tired. “How are we ever going to make it all the way up?” groaned Joshua . For a long moment, neither one moved.

“We can’t forget the magical lights,” sighed Francesca at last. “They’ll be worth it. I know they will.”

There was nothing more to say. With a big effort, they both started to climb. Joshua went first and Francesca followed, trying to ignore the bits of gravel that bit into her sore feet. They toiled up, slowly making progress until they were stopped short by a big boulder that had fallen on the path. Francesca wanted to cry. They had come so far! But Joshua wasn’t giving up. He was digging rapidly at one edge of the boulder. Francesca flopped down to wait. In a few minutes, Joshua cried excitedly, “I’m through!”. He had carved out a little tunnel. It was a tight squeeze, but when Francesca emerged, huffing and puffing, from the other side, she saw that the trees had disappeared. Just ahead was the top of the hill. They had made it through the forest. With a loud “Yippee!” she and Joshua surged to the top and began to slip and slide down the other side of the hill.

Meanwhile, Wally woke up from his nap with a stomach ache. Too many sandwiches! He swallowed a big spoonful of medicine with a grimace. The shadows outside his door were starting to get long, so he lit a lamp. He looked outside and thought how glad he was that he was not out in all that blackness. He shut the door on the gloom, pulled the armchair near to the fire and put on a big pot of soup for dinner.

With a giant giggle, Francesca and Joshua landed in a heap at the bottom of the hill. They untangled their arms and legs and ears and tails and sat up to look around. It was so dark, they couldn’t see anything! Francesca stretched out her arm and bumped into Joshua’s head.

“Ouch!” he yelped.

“What are we going to do now?” asked Francesca. “We must be near the Shining Valley, but I can’t even see a speck of light.”

She started to feel a little scared again. Joshua huddled close. It was just too dark to move, and they couldn’t think of what to do next.

Meanwhile, Wally finished off his soup with a big slurp. He felt warm and sleepy. He climbed into his big, soft bed and pulled the covers up around his ears. He felt a little lonely after being by himself all day. “I wish Francesca was here to tell me a story before bed,” he thought to himself, and with a sigh, he slowly drifted off to sleep.

Francesca and Joshua felt very cold. Francesca was just about to suggest that they try to clamber back up the hill and go home, when Joshua whispered, “Did you see that?” Off in the distance, they saw a little flickering light.

In a minute, it was joined by another light, and then another. Before Francesca could say anything, the whole air was full of little lights, dipping and swirling around each other. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. The combined glow from the lights lit up the whole valley. Francesca and Joshua had been in the Shining Valley all along! And under a clump of pines in the middle of the cavorting lights was the Bouncylegs family, standing with a group of other creatures laughing and pointing.

Francesca and Joshua went to join the group, and everyone gazed and gazed at the beautiful flickering lights. They glided and gamboled as if they were dancing. After a moment, Francesca gasped. They were dancing! And all the creatures looking on joined hands and began to dance along with them, whirling and twirling among the sparkling lights. It was one of the happiest moments of Francesca’s life. “I wish Wally could be here to enjoy this, too,” she thought to herself. But just then, Joshua went leaping by with little Georgie Bouncylegs on his back. Francesca laughed at his antics and, joining hands with Sally, skipped off to join the fun.

Rescuing Rosemary

Rosemary Raccoon lived in the forest beside a rocky river.  She was a bit of a recluse, which means that she remained in her home all day and rarely received visitors.  Only at night would she venture out to run and romp and reach for fish in the river.  Her few friends worried about her.

Rita the Rat came by one night to remind Rosemary about the River Race.  “You are fast runner, Rosemary.  You really should race this year.”

“Really?” was Rosemary’s only response.

“Really!” replied Rita.

But Rosemary had an unreasonable fear of appearing ridiculous.  She recalled one time she’d tripped while running and rolled into the river.   “I’d rather stay home and rest,” she said, and rapidly shut her door.

Another day, Ronda Rabbit raced to Rosemary’s house with remarkable news.  “Rambunctious Ramona is here in the forest!  We’re all rushing to the redwood tree to play Rescue the Raven!”

“Really?” said Rosemary.

“Really!” replied Ronda.

But Rosemary had an irrational fear of taking risks.  Rescue the Raven was a game that required you to recklessly climb the highest redwood tree and reach for the red ribbon tied at the top.  “I’d rather stay home and relax,” she said, and rapidly shut her door.

That day, while playing Rescue the Raven, Rita and Ronda repeated their worries about Rosemary.  Rambunctious Ramona overheard.  “A recluse, huh?  Afraid of everything, huh?  Refuses to risk, huh?  I know a reliable cure for that!”

Early in the morning, Rambunctious Ramona arrived at Rosemary’s house with a rake in one hand and rooster under one arm.  She rapidly lit a raging fire right on Rosemary’s roof.  Then she released the rooster by Rosemary’s window.  The rooster crowed riotously.  Rosemary ran to her door.

“Rosemary, hurry!  Your roof is on fire!  Grab the rake!”  yelled Ramona.

Rosemary was terrified, but this was no time to refuse.  Her house would soon be ruined.  She raked and raked until she was red in the face.  The fire raged on.  Rita the Rat raced in with some water.  Then Ronda Rabbit rushed over to help rake.   The fire was reduced, but it was too late.  Rosemary’s house was a wreck.  No one knew how to react.

But Rambunctious Ramona was rolling on the ground, roaring with laughter.

“Ramona!” raged Rita.  “You did this on purpose?”

“Sure did,” replied Ramona.  “With no house, Rosemary can’t be a recluse any more!”

“That was reckless, Ramona!”  cried Ronda.  “Rosemary could have been hurt!”

Ramona just wrinkled her nose and ran away.

“Don’t worry, Rosemary.  We’ll help you repair it,” said Rita and Ronda.

And so they did.  Rita, Ronda, and Rosemary removed all the rubble.  They replaced the walls, rebuilt the rooms, and raised a new roof.  When it was ready, Rosemary requested that all her friends come to rejoice with her.  They all held hands and danced Ring Around the Rosy around Rosemary’s house.

And Rambunctious Ramona watched from afar and had no regrets.

(This was inspired by Alphabe Thursday. Check it out!)
Jenny Matlock

Big Red

In a tiny little farm in the center of the valley lived the meanest baddest big Rhode Island Red rooster ever!  Just before sunrise Big Red started in with his Cock a doodle doo – Cock a doodle doo – Cock a doodle doo .  All throughout the day he strutted around the pen where the chickens were scratching, eating, generally clucking and laying eggs.  He made sure all those chickens knew he was the king of the roost.

Also on the tiny little farm in the center of the valley lived a sweet little girl.  It was Kathy’s job to scatter the grain for food and make sure the chickens had plenty of water.  She had to go into their pen every afternoon to gather their beautiful brown eggs.

This is where the trouble began.  Big Red – thinking he was totally in charge, did not want anyone coming into his territory.  Kathy needed to collect the eggs and there was no other way to get them except by going near Big Red.  He would flutter and hiss and make noises trying to scare her.  Actually she was afraid and did not look forward to going into the pen, but it had to be done.

One particular afternoon, Big Red must have been feeling especially mean and as Kathy came in to take care of the chickens, he started running toward her, jumping to scare her.  What he didn’t realize is that she had the watering hose in her hands.  A feeling of power came over her and she turned the water on full force and began squirting Big Red showering him with water, hollering at him and chasing him all around the chicken pen. The more he ran, the more she chased and sprayed him.  He was one soaked bird!!

From that day on, Big Red never again tried to scare Kathy!

The tadpoles

Once, when I was a little girl, my brother and I brought home some very strange pets.  We had been for a walk with our parents and had seen some big rain puddles with little wriggling creatures inside.  My daddy said that they were tadpoles.  We got a jar and scooped up a bunch of water with little tadpoles in it and carried them back to our house.  Out in the back yard, my daddy dug a big hole and filled it with water from a hose.  Then he laid a wooden plank across the hole, and we put the tadpoles into their new home.  Every morning before school, my brother had to go out and fill the hole with water, so the tadpoles would have plenty of room to swim, and every afternoon when he got home we would stretch ourselves out on the plank and look into the water to see what our new pets were doing.  As the weeks went by, the tadpoles began to change.  First they grew little stumps on their bodies.  Then the stumps grew longer and longer until they looked like arms and legs.  Then their little tails started to shrink away.  Finally, one morning when we went outside, there were no more tadpoles in the water!  Where did they go?  How did we lose our pets?  And then we saw something else, lots of little somethings, a hundred of them, hopping unexpectedly up out of the grass.  Our tadpoles had completed their transformation and now our pets were frogs!