Chapter Six of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “To Market, To Market”

Note to Readers– This is Chapter Six 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 beginning and previous chapters. Follow the Blog now to be informed of every new post and update.


Pieces of glass flew everywhere as the window at first shattered and then seemed to explode from the force of a heavy, grey granite rock hurled from outside, startling everyone and causing all the bunnies to scurry in fright beneath the table to shelter from flying bits of glass.

Thump-a! . . . Bump-a! . . . Thump-a! . . . .

The rock hurtled, careened and bounced across the cabin’s wooden floor, finally coming to rest against the far wall.

Wearing boots and not wanting any of the others’ bare feet to be cut on broken shards of glass, I motioned Little Red Bear and everyone away. Carefully stepping around the larger glass splinters, smaller pieces crunched and crackled beneath my feet as I made my way across the room.

Reaching the rock, I carefully picked it up to find a message, painted in bold red letters on the flat bottom.

I held it up for Little Red Bear to see.

“LOOK OUTSIDE”

Little Red Bear quickly tossed me a broom from the corner.  I hurried to sweep up the shattered window glass pieces from seemingly everywhere, anxious to see who or what was to be found outside.

Had the weasels ganged up and overwhelmed Albuquerque while guarding the rabbits? Holding him hostage?  Worse?  Had the coyotes run wild and taken potential story characters? What had been done that they wanted us to see?  Thoughts raced thru my mind while hurriedly sweeping glass.

Before I could finish, another rock came sailing in thru the now open window space, striking the far wall and falling down in a loud “CLUMP” on the floor.  I walked over to find another message awaiting . . .

“WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG?”

I worked even faster to clear the remaining few pieces of glass from the floor and tops of tables.  

Emptying the last dust pan filled with broken glass into the trash can, I joined Little Red Bear, already slumped and frowning, at the broken window.

A short distance from the cabin, the smallest ostrich, the one whose protest sign Little Red Bear had ripped apart earlier in the day, stood with his tongue sticking out atop an upturned wooden rain barrel, forcefully waving a freshly painted new sign while wagging his head in an unhinged, wibbly-wobbly, deranged back and forth manner, taunting Little Red Bear.

RED BEAR IS SO UGLY HIS MOTHER

HAD TO BORROW A BABY

TO TAKE TO CHURCH ON SUNDAYS!

Then, aware that we had each seen the new sign, the ostrich flipped around, shaking his backside and tail feathers at us while displaying the reverse side of the sign.

AND HE SMELLS BAD!

“Sticks and stones, Red,” I reminded, trying to comfort and gently moving him back away from the window and sign message. “Sticks and stones.”

“My Mother never borrowed nobody’s baby — or cub — to take to church,” Little Red Bear grumbled in protest. “That little ostrich is just makin’ up stuff. To be hurtful. That’s not nice.”

“No, it’s not nice, Red. Don’t let it get to you. Just remember – ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”

“I suppose,” Little Red Bear replied, rather dejectedly, “but right now I’d like to take a few sticks and stones to that guy’s bones.”

“You know that wouldn’t solve anything and just serve to make matters worse. Just let it go and be the bigger man.  Err, bear. Be the bigger bear. You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, yeah. Maybe the next sign will be about you, and then you can be the bigger man.”

“Well, Red,” I replied, patting and ruffling the hair on his shoulder. “There’s always tomorrow. Hold on to that thought if it cheers you up. We never know what the morning will bring around here right now, so we’ll see. Maybe they’ll do that for you.”

We both laughed.

“But in the meantime,” I continued, “we have a window to patch and guests to make comfortable for the night. It’s time to get bunnies in blankets.”

“Bunnies in Blankets! Oh, that sounds good.  Let me get this here window covered and I’ll get some started and made up real quick for us!”

“No, no, Red.  Not those Bunnies in Blankets.  Henrietta’s baby bunnies — I need to round up some comforters and blankets for them to go to bed and keep them warm tonight. It’s getting late. Do you always think about food?”

“Well, not always.”

“But maybe?”

“Well — maybe.”

We both laughed again.  Little Red Bear patched the broken window with some large sections of cardboard for the night, while I prepared bedding areas for Henrietta and her family of bunnies.

“Why did they have to bring my Mother into it?” Little Red Bear called over from the window. “She’d come straighten ‘em all out in a hurry if she knew about what they’d said.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Yeah,” I agreed, still laughing. “She would reset their clocks all right.  There would be nothing left but a pile of feathers by the time your mother finished with them all if she knew what they’d been saying about her cute little baby bear.”

“Watch the ‘baby’ stuff,” Little Red Bear corrected, laughing himself at the thought of his mother dealing with the ostriches. “There would be feathers flying for sure! Don’t those ostriches know not to ever anger a mother bear?”

“Good thing for them she’s not around then,” I added while spreading the blankets and comforters on the floor for the bunnies.  Henrietta gently tucked each one in with a bunny kiss on the forehead.

“Maybe,” Little Red Bear answered. One could tell that he was still entertaining thoughts of flying ostrich feathers in his mind though, by the half grin on his face.  Then he unexpectedly burst into a fit of hearty and loud laughter.

“Wouldn’t those ostriches be sad to find out that after all of their efforts to make us mad and hurt our feelings, we were still inside here laughing and not crying into our pillows?” Little Red Bear managed to get out, between laughs.

Henrietta’s baby bunnies, snuggled in their blankets, were all giggling too, because laughter is contagious, after all. Henrietta shushed them, of course, while chuckling to herself.

“Yeah well, that’s what it’s all about, right?” I responded. “Not letting them get to us or ruin our day? It’s up to each of us whether we choose to be happy or give over control of our thoughts and happiness to others.  And with you laughing so loud right there beside the broken window, I’m guessing the ostriches might know.”

The prospect of the ostriches being aware that they had not affected him seemed to delight Little Red Bear still more, and he laughed even louder.

In a little while, with the window patched and bunnies nuzzled and settled in, Little Red Bear and I headed upstairs, deciding to call it a night after what had been another long and trying day.

We all awoke the next morning to find the sun peeking up over the treetops. Soon it was shining brightly, warming us on Honey Hill and burning off the night’s fog in Hoppers Holler below; with clear, cheerful blue skies overhead.  A beautiful Sunday morning.

Heralding spring, dandelions were popping up thru what open ground was left unoccupied by the encampment surrounding the cabin. Pink and white dogwood trees were in bloom, scattered thru the woods over the hillsides. The delightful sounds of birds singing, chirping, whistling and warbling filled the air.

There were many birds singing, in fact. The trees were chock full of them, all having come to see for themselves what all the uproar was about in the neighborhood. The encampment of wildlife had grown larger and even more spread out over the hillside as late-comers had continued to arrive all thru the night. Apparently, word of the ostrich protest and goings-on was still spreading over the mountains and thru the hollers.

This morning’s light revealed the construction of a rather large treehouse in the grove of trees on the hill slope out back. Raccoons can be just as busy as beavers when they set their minds to a task. Uncomfortable in their hastily constructed lean-to shelters with so many of Farmer Turner’s contentious hounds encamped nearby, Cooter’s raccoon platoon had constructed an imposing treehouse structure overnight, complete with a swing for the young-uns.

Speaking of the beavers, they completed and already rented out their second and third lodges, with new work begun on a fourth and fifth, with “For Rent” signs of course. Construction is booming it appears.

After spotting what the raccoons had accomplished overnight with their magnificent treehouse, the beavers, considering themselves to be highly skilled carpenters and builders not to be outdone, decided to try their paws at treehouse construction, as well.

Of course, the beavers needed to also construct a nice ladder in order to reach it, not having the natural ability to climb trees as do the raccoons.  A good number of trees would remain upright in the woods if beavers could climb, and not have to chew and fell trees in order to secure out-of-reach twigs and branches for food.  But they don’t, so they do, so to speak.

Little Red Bear and I both agreed the beavers’ treehouse resembled more of a traditional beaver lodge with a second story added than a true treehouse, but if you have a winning design why change it, I suppose.  And we certainly cannot argue with their success, having already rented the new unit out before work was even completed.

Securing the ostrich’s permission to cross the picket line, a family of enterprising chipmunks set up a Farmer’s Market on our front porch and yard. With the help of some beaver carpenters they had quickly assembled stands displaying and selling a large selection of various acorns, nuts, seeds, grains, berries, fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, earthworms, bugs, corn, juice, milk and eggs. A veritable little “Nature’s Wildlife Grocery Store” for the campers.

Critters have been filing in steadily to replenish supplies and to do their grocery shopping. Chipmunks are renowned for their food-storing habits and to their credit recognized a ready market for their warehouse of stores and supplies, but I didn’t ask them where they obtained the fresh produce, milk and eggs. Sometimes it is just better not to know. But with all of Farmer Turner’s hounds camping out back, I have a sneaking suspicion where at least some items may have come from.

Dealing with enough issues right now though as it is, and we were running out of food to distribute to everyone anyway. The chipmunks and their market were a welcome sight, to be honest. I will cover whatever is missing from the neighboring farmers after all this blows over. Though, it may get costly if this Ostrich Crisis goes on much longer.

I suppose the ostriches realized too, that it was best for all of us if the assembled friendly and so far, merely curious crowd of onlookers remained that way, and did not turn into an out-of-control hungry mob, so allowed the chipmunks to cross the picket line and set up shop.

Newspaper circulations and revenues are up substantially for both the owls and squirrels. And word has come to me that the weasels are still managing to clip unsuspecting visitors now and then for “camping fees” on the outskirts of the area.

It seems everyone is making money off the ongoing Ozarks Ostrich Crisis except those truly involved in the affair – Little Red Bear and the ostriches. And me – the meat in the sandwich caught in the middle as work has come to a screeching halt on new stories. Isn’t that always the way, though?

But thinking about it, somewhere in there may lie the grounds and basis for a future settlement to resolve all of this, perhaps. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem the ostriches have cared much about anything other than disruption of our writing work so far.

It is amazing how far down the wrong bumpy road one poorly chosen little word or comment can send us sometimes. Case in point – Little Red Bear’s ‘flightless’ comments to the ostriches.

Have said it before and will undoubtedly say it again – words are like toothpaste. Once squeezed out, toothpaste is all but impossible to get back inside the tube again. And thoughts and words are the same way – good or bad – and seem to take on a life of their own once let out.

Having been spoken and let loose, words are out running around on their own for all to hear, and then we must deal with the consequences because they cannot be unsaid. There are no ‘Cancel, Clear, Delete’ options on speech. We can be sorry and apologize for the poorly chosen ones right off, but the words are still out there floating around in the air, and hiding in folks’ memories looking to cause trouble at a later time.

Think twice, speak once. Or better yet sometimes, not at all.  My advice everlasting.

And in Little Red Bear’s case, the consequences of an off-hand comment came immediately in the form of picketing ostriches and an abrupt stoppage of work on his stories. Of course, how could any of us have predicted the ostriches’ reaction to being questioned about their useless wings? Ostriches are indeed “flightless”, after all. No secrets there. Little Red Bear was merely seeking information, even if not in the most delicate way, perhaps. Maybe the world is simply getting a little too sensitive, seeming to almost seek out things to be offended by at times.

Regardless, due to poorly-chosen words or over-sensitivity, the ostrich crisis lives on. New onlookers and campers are still arriving every hour, a steady stream of woodland shoppers keeps the chipmunks’ new market hopping, and the picket lines encircle and wind around the cabin.

Getting back to the ostriches, having observed that the encampment of observers had encircled my home, the ostriches decided that their picket line should also. Just so no one missed out on seeing their protests, I suppose. Instead of merely parading with their picket signs back and forth across the front as they had been the first days, they had by Saturday worn a path around the whole cabin, having taken advantage of the packs of coyotes and weasels to lengthen the picket line.

Today’s new development was discovering that a second circle of picketing ostriches, coyotes, and weasels had been added to the non-stop picketing parade around the cabin, marching in counter-clockwise fashion to the clockwise direction of the first, a circle within a circle rotating in opposite directions. Dizzying to watch.

With so many signs marching in different directions, it seemed that no matter where Little Red Bear went inside the cabin, he inevitably found himself at a window when a “LITTLE RED BEAR IS FAT, UGLY, AND SMELLS BAD!” sign paraded past.

Little Red Bear’s restraint to this point, although measured at times, has been admirable. I wonder myself, for the ostriches’ sake – how far do they really want to torment and agitate – a “bear”?

Thinking it might be time to draw the window shades and blinds before things get more out of control. As gentle and good as he is, even Little Red Bear’s tolerance level has limits, as do we all.

With tomorrow being Monday and the start of a new work week, if all goes well a sizable number of the spectators may be packing up and leaving to return to various woodland duties and jobs for the week, perhaps easing the uproar and potentially enabling some meaningful dialogue on the issues with the ostriches tomorrow.

The beaver lodges and the raccoon’s treehouse present an interesting legal quandary. They each constructed them using their own materials, but they are on our property without our permission.  I wonder if the beavers and raccoons would allow me to sub-let the new properties when this is all over? Getting ahead of myself there, probably. This all needs to be resolved first. Peacefully if possible, but with coyotes and weasels involved that’s never a sure thing.

At least, thru the efforts of the enterprising chipmunks and wildlife grocery though, everyone is getting fed now. And that’s always a good thing.

Except, the coyotes and weasels, who have displayed no interest whatsoever in the chipmunk’s market.

That is a worry. Weasels and coyotes are always a worry.  Hungry – doubly so.

But right now, I have to deal with a little piggy who appears as though he’s made one too many trips to the market.  I thought the chipmunks had only set up produce and dairy departments. Apparently there is a section in the back I may have overlooked.

Some critters seem to be enjoying the ostrich protest and events a tad more than others, it would appear. This fellow looks drunk as a skunk.  I had better go outside and get hold of this party animal before Albuquerque the Sheriff pulls him over under suspicion of SWINE – Shopping While Intoxicated Nearly Embalmed.

Gotta go.

To be continued . . . .


Thanks as always for following along and visiting with us! If not doing so already, Follow the Blog now to be informed of every new post and update.

As a special ‘thank you’ for everyone, Little Red Bear has included the Pinterest Recipe for Bunnies in Blankets that he mentioned earlier in the story, a nifty little appetizer featuring Caramelized Baby Carrots in Crescent Roll Wraps, just for fun.  You didn’t really think that we would be harming baby bunnies, did you? Find this recipe and much more on my Pinterest Boards.

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!

Kindness costs nothing.  Be kind whenever possible, while keeping in mind that it is always possible.   Be the reason someone smiles today!   — Jim  (and Red!)


“Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith.” – St. Francis of Assisi

“Anger helps straighten out a problem like a fan helps straighten out a pile of papers.” – Susan Marcotte


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About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

Celebrate Earth Day Every Day!    Think Globally — Act Locally!


 

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