Note to Readers– This is Chapter Four of a continuing Weekly Serial Story freely shared only here for followers of my Writing Blog. If you missed the beginning, you can catch up HERE for the first three chapters.
Still shaken by my Ghostly Cloud dream the night before and feeling as though I had gone ten rounds in the ring with a boxing kangaroo, I tried to put the picketing ostriches out of my mind and headed back inside the cabin, where Little Red Bear was already busily preparing breakfast.
“I will take care of breakfast this morning, Jim,” he called over from the kitchen. “You just set yourself down there at the table and rest your bones. I don’t know what in the world you did last night but you sure look the worse for wear.”
He kindly brought a cup of breakfast tea over and placed a stack of morning newspapers in front of me.
“Some things in “Squirrelly World” you might find interesting this morning. They even came out with a special edition. And I’m going to close the window for a spell, if you don’t mind. Don’t want to listen to all that goofy ostrich chanting during breakfast. Bad for digestion. I’ll get to it as soon as I finish cooking over here.”
Boycott Bear Stories!
No Ostriches, No Stories!
What do we want? Ostriches!
When do we want them? Now!
“Yeah, Red. Shut ‘em down. I don’t want to listen to all that racket right now, either.”
Little Red Bear is fat, stupid and rude.
And we don’t like his attitude!
What’d you say? They didn’t hear.
Shout it LOUDER, there’s nothing to fear!
Little Red Bear is fat, stupid and rude.
And we don’t like his attitude!
“Sounds like they’re sticking with the classics this morning, Red. Hope whoever came up with these chants for the ostriches gets royalties every time they shout them out.”
“You don’t get royalties on your writing stuff, do you Jim?”’
“Nah. Never enough to buy a sandwich with.”
Hey, hey, ho! That smelly bear has got to go!
Hey, hey, ho! That flightless comment was really low!
Hey, hey, ho! Come join us picketing to and fro!
Hey, hey, ho! That writer guy shouldn’t write no mo’!
Not waiting for Little Red Bear to get to it, I closed the window myself. Looking out over the front yard area and hillside, it seemed birds and animals were arriving from every direction.
“I got the window, Red.”
Limping back to the table, I reached for the morning’s copy of “Squirrelly World.” Little Red Bear’s ominous tone a few moments before had gotten my attention and made me curious. Picking up the newspaper the bold headline on the front page immediately captured my attention – “Lynch Mobs Gathering!”
It appears that the question of why the crowds outside the cabin continue to grow larger and larger had been answered – the squirrels and “Squirrelly World” had been busy chatting it up and spreading news about the ostriches and their irrational protest everywhere.
“I’m sure it’s just “Squirrelly World” bluster and nonsense, Red,” I called over to Little Red Bear, who was busy stirring another batch of waffle batter in the kitchen while the first batch warmed in the oven. “But just in case, do you know where all of our ropes are?”
“Yep. Already gathered them all in from the shed and locked ‘em up inside the cabin before you came down this morning,” Little Red Bear replied while still stirring, surprisingly calm given the headline. “Just in case.”
Of course, I suppose it is probably pretty hard to get too upset over anything with the scent of Blueberry Oatmeal Waffles in your nose.
“Sounds like you have it all under control then, Red.”
“I’m sure there’s nothing to it. Just “Squirrelly World” doing what they do again.”
“I agree. But like I always say – ‘Why take a chance?’ There’s just some things you don’t want to be wrong about in life, Jim. And getting lynched is one of ’em. Ropes – locked up.”
Following along with the events and so you understand why neither Little Red Bear nor I are too overly concerned about the lynching headline, it would be best for you to know that there are two primary news outlets here in Little Red Bear’s backwoods neighborhood.
The first, respected as being mostly factual and unbiased, is the “Owl Hoots & Toots”, a newspaper put out by a pair of owl brothers, great grey owls who also double as private investigators, private “owl’s” eyes, Artemis and Atticus.
It is without question the most reliable source of overnight news and developments, providing factual information of newsworthy events and happenings in an unbiased manner. And the most accurate fishing reports and prospects on local streams and lakes, normally the section Little Red Bear reads first each morning.
And then there is the other publication – “Squirrelly World”.
To be brutally honest – “Squirrelly World” is a gossip rag. A scandal sheet tabloid prone to featuring scandalous and sensational news in the backwoods, full of idle gossip, rumours, innuendo and chit-chat. Who was seen wagging their tail at who, which celebrity Nuthatch was seen escorting a cute Chickadee into their nest late at night, which doe batted her long eyelashes at a strange young buck, etc.
A newspaper, to use the term loosely, given to blowing events, real or rumoured, totally out of proportion and context to boost subscribers and ad revenues. Squirrels are insatiable in their quest for deep stockpiles and can never have enough nuts, it would seem.
The only reliable and generally trusted news reporter on the staff of “Squirrelly World” is Rusty the Fairydiddle, a red squirrel with a keen nose for news. Word in the woods is that Rusty is being recruited by Artemis and Atticus to jump ship and join the “Owl Hoots & Toots”.
That would be a good career move for both Rusty and the owls, removing his stigma of working for a gossipy tabloid to serving a true news organization of reputation and merit, while at the same time providing access to a broader area of news coverage and readership for the owls thru his established squirrel channels. But, like most things, it’s merely hearsay and conjecture until it happens.
With regard to the ostrich protest, each newspaper seems to have taken a different slant with the story – the “Owl Hoots & Toots” most accurately relaying the facts in small back page articles; while the squirrels, in their customary fashion in “Squirrelly World”, have sensationalized the story each day in bold, front page banner headlines. Additionally, they have editorially expanded the ostriches’ issues to all birds, flightless or not, while also hurling (what we feel) baseless and unsubstantiated accusations and allegations in the direction of Little Red Bear.
There is a growing clamor in the woodland today as critters seem to be taking different sides on the issue. Crows are being exceptionally raucous and disorderly in the treetops. A noisy cluster of blackbirds is assembling in a group of red oak trees in the distance, with more steadily arriving, traveling in giant clouds and swarms as they do.
And it would seem there is one rather confused looking turkey buzzard pacing back and forth along the roadside, first looking up towards our cabin and then looking over to the picketing ostriches, wagging his bald red head back and forth apparently trying to make up his mind of which side to join and unsure of how to proceed, understandably unaccustomed as vultures are to being caught up and involved with issues of the living, of course.
Or, there’s a chance that he simply showed up early to be first in line after the lynching, I suppose. Hopefully the former.
As one might expect then from the headlines and crowds, as the day progressed tensions continued to escalate in the Ozarks Ostrich Crisis.
Large and intimidating as they are, the ostriches, in addition to picketing and chanting protest slogans, are now preventing our story characters from entering scheduled writing sessions, not allowing them to cross the picket line to come to work, and calling them “flabby grabby scabbies”.
Some feelings are being hurt because of that, but more worrisome perhaps has been the reaction and involvement of the local packs of coyotes and weasels.
Little Red Bear and I were concerned that the ostriches’ initial chanting, protests and discontent might spread to marginalized fringe groups, and there seem to be none more marginalized and disparaged than weasels and coyotes here in these parts, who in the interest of full disclosure – do not occupy a high standing in Little Red Bear’s view or stories.
So, they already have an ax to grind with Red and have predictably settled on the side of the obstreperous ostriches, joining in the picketing and protesting. The coyotes are creating a maddening racket and disruption with their howling. I am wondering how long we can keep the windows closed heading into summer, and what the cost might be to air-condition the place, if even possible to reasonably do that with a log cabin?
Groups of both coyotes and weasels have been going around trying to coerce other critters to enlist support for the picketers and join their side. Fortunately, most bystanders can escape into trees and avoid the blustering bullies.
Sadly, one intrepid “Squirrelly World” reporter may not have been so fortunate, having been carried away by a coyote under the pretense of an ‘exclusive private interview’ and not having been seen since. His editor is worried about the interview story being late for tomorrow’s deadline.
Prospective story characters still applying for jobs are finding it challenging to keep their place in line as well, with angry weasels and coyotes menacingly patrolling the path. Especially the slow and smaller critters. Frankly, I’m concerned about some of the turtles and porcupines, but then again, they are turtles and porcupines with their own defenses, after all. So, it will probably be all right. Hoping.
Both curious and disturbing, one of the coyotes even made a picket sign of his own and was carrying it around, deliriously pumping it up and down in the air over his head, trooping along in line behind the ostriches back and forth.
Fashioned after one of the ostrich signs, it read — “COYOTES ARE BIRDS, TOO!”
Which goes a long way towards explaining why coyotes occupy the role they do in Little Red Bear’s adventure stories.
The largest ostrich, presumably the leader, eventually persuaded the coyote to put the sign down; the ostrich appearing somewhat embarrassed by it all himself, as he then tried to ditch the sign and conceal it out of sight by jamming it into a large honeysuckle bush off to the side.
Silliness aside, with coyotes and weasels involved now, things have more than a fair chance of taking a turn for the worse. The coyotes always seem to have a certain edginess about them. And the local weasel situation, while never on friendly terms dating back to an incident a few years ago with Little Red Bear and a friend at the Triennial Swamp Tug, has markedly deteriorated over the past year.
Weasels pretty much had their way for many years in the backwoods and had been decimating the local bunny rabbit population. So much so that Little Red Bear felt inclined to invite bunny families to nest beneath his cabin for protection a couple years ago.
That all changed when the new, self-proclaimed Backwoods Sheriff arrived a little while ago, Albuquerque Red from New Mexico. Albuquerque is a red fox, and both curiously and as one would not expect, a loyal friend and protector of rabbits. The little fox sheriff and the weasels have been at odds ever since. It’s all explained at length in Little Red Bear’s first collection of stories, “The First Holler!” should you wish to catch up on the background and history of it all.
So, hoping things do not get dangerous or truly ugly with the added involvement of the weasels and coyotes now.
“The coyotes had a head start on ‘truly ugly’ the moment they showed up.”
“Red, that’s not nice. Remember our young readers.”
“Well, just stating a fact. They’re ugly. Truly.”
“Red . . . .”
“Kids today know what ugly is. And if they don’t, they just have to picture a coyote in their mind. Or a weasel. Either one. But not together. That’s too much ugly even for me to imagine.”
Well, I think everyone should understand how Little Red Bear feels about coyotes and weasels now. But as I keep explaining to him, coyotes are just another of God’s creatures going about their business as Mother Nature intended. I think they are frequently quite handsome creatures, myself, simply doing what they have been sent here to do.
That being said though, it’s difficult to sway someone to appreciate a creature’s good qualities while that very same critter is busy picketing in front of their home and hurling “fat and ugly” insults at them. So, I understand Little Red Bear’s position on the matter.
I have known Little Red Bear and some of his friends for years, and have always been urging Red to allow me to help him tell the world about his adventures. But never imagined our having to deal with protesting ostriches, coyotes and weasels around our home in the process. Along with the dubious threat of being strung up and lynched, of course.
Do romance novelists have to deal with this kind of stuff? Do jilted lovers bother to picket in protest or simply hustle on along to their next fling? I write animal stories, so honestly have no idea. But there are so many romance writers out there and so few animal story writers, that it would seem to beg the question.
Regardless, time marches on. Along with the ostriches, coyotes and weasels. Maybe they will all come to their senses and tomorrow will bring peace and calm again.
Wait! – Oh! – No!
There goes a weasel chasing my receptionist trying to get into work, a four-year-old rabbit with a nest full of bunnies to feed.
“Hey, you! Stop that! Run, Henrietta! I’m coming!”
To be continued . . . . . . . .
Thanks as always for following along and visiting with us! As a special ‘thank you’, Little Red Bear has included the Pinterest Recipe for those Blueberry Oatmeal Waffles he was making earlier. If you are unfamiliar with Pinterest, simply tap on the image to find the recipe.
Be sure to check in next week as events continue to unfold in the “Ozarks Ostrich Crisis”, a continuing weekly serialized free story available only here on the Writing Blog. See ya then!
And please remember — Kindness does not cost anything and can change someone’s life in a heartbeat. Be the reason someone smiles today! — Jim (and Red!)
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