Chapter Five of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “Day 3 Ongoing — The Encampment”

Note to Readers– This is Chapter Five 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.


Panic.

Clearly not how Saturday mornings are supposed to start out, with – PANIC – inside and out.

Chased by the weasel, Henrietta the rabbit darted in and out between the legs of the picketing ostriches and coyotes, by now having lengthened their picket line to totally encircle the cabin.

Henrietta raced frantically to escape the weasel, whose plan, as always, was to chase and harry the older bunny until she finally wore down and collapsed, unable to defend herself from the weasel’s final onslaught and attack as he sought to wrap his muscular body around his victim to hold it in place in order to sink penetrating fangs into its brain like a jaguar.

Round and round they went at a breakneck pace, in a life and death agility race around the cabin.

The weasel, a compact ball of energy eating half its own body weight each day and much younger with more endurance, knew it was only a matter of time before the rabbit wore down and he would be able to pounce and claim her for breakfast.

But not this day. Spotting the chase from the window, I hopped as quickly as one good foot would allow, but Little Red Bear had already rushed out to our receptionist’s rescue before me.

Waiting for Henrietta to complete another lap around the cabin, Little Red Bear jumped onto the path behind her as she raced past, placing himself directly in front of the charging weasel.

Henrietta immediately veered right, changing course and making a break for the cabin, leaping up the front porch steps, thru the door I was holding open for her, and into safety. The pursuing weasel made skid marks in the dirt trying frantically to stop before crashing into Little Red Bear’s big foot, swerved at the last second and retreated into the nearby woodline.

“You can stay out here and picket in the hot sun and rain all you want, but we ain’t havin’ none of that!”

Little Red Bear admonished the ostriches and everyone within earshot, waving his right paw at them to emphasize the point in the same manner a mother might scold a misbehaving child.

Little Red Bear walked up to the largest ostrich and faced him, nose to beak. “If you want to carry on your stupid protest, that’s fine. Do it. But you WON’T be harming any of our friends or you’ll be dealing with me!”

He tromped over to the smallest ostrich, abruptly grabbing away the protest sign the bird had been carrying, the one saying that Little Red Bear was “fat, stupid and ugly” as you may recall, broke the stake handle over his right knee and crumpled the sign into pieces between his paws.

“That’s what will happen to you if you harass or harm any more of our friends or story characters!” Little Red Bear declared for all to hear as he hurled the sign pieces into the air, turned and walked away.

The gallery of squirrels, raccoons, possums, chipmunks and other small critters already chased up into the safety of nearby trees by the weasels and coyotes, burst into applause, whistling and cheering wildly for Little Red Bear as he returned to the cabin.

But it’s fair to say, that little ostrich was madder than a wet hen in a fox’s tote sack after his protest sign was destroyed!

Back inside, Little Red Bear calmly sat down beside me where I was checking over Henrietta to make sure she was all right, trying to reassure and soothe the old bunny’s jangled nerves.

“Guess I told them, huh?”

Little Red Bear laughed heartily – the loud, deep, belly laugh guffaw which he so often does and is known for.

“I suppose you did, Red,” I responded, chuckling myself.

Catching her breath after a short time, Henrietta patted Little Red Bear on the foot. “Thought that weasel might have had me there, Red,” Henrietta admitted. “I don’t run quite as fast as I used to, you know. I was starting to wear down. Thanks for saving me. I was just trying to come in to work, that’s all. Figured you boys might need a little help with all this rabble-rousing going on.”

“No need to thank anyone, Henrietta,” Little Red Bear responded. “We all stick up for each other and appreciate your dedication, for sure. You are family working with us here. And your bunnies back in the nest need you.”

“What about them, Red?” Henrietta responded, with suddenly a worried tone in her voice. “Will they be safe now? I should go check on them!”

Little Red Bear gently held her shoulder to keep the mother rabbit from rushing back outside to run and check on her family.

“They will be fine, Henrietta,” Little Red Bear reassured. “I never thought it would come to this but hopefully they all got the message to leave everyone alone from now on. But just in case, we’ll have Albuquerque stay closer now to help keep things in order. On the way back inside, I sent our friend Stanley the Cardinal to find him and to have Albuquerque bring all your bunnies back to stay inside here with us, just in case.”

“Thanks, Red. It’s really not nice or fair what those ostriches and other tormentors are saying about you out there.”

“Sticks and stones, Henrietta,” Little Red Bear replied, with a knowing wink in my direction.

It was at that time Little Red Bear and I simultaneously realized it was quiet. The protesting chants and howling coyote racket had subsided following Little Red Bear’s intercession on Henrietta’s behalf. We looked at each other and sighed. Could we be that lucky? Had Little Red Bear’s outburst ended it all?

Well, seems we’re never really that lucky, truth be told. A moment later the disturbance started up all over again.

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

And continued.

1-2-3-4 – They’re scared and hiding behind the door!

5-6-7-8 – We’re gonna make their stories late!

1-2-3-4 – They’re not gonna be able to work no more!

5-6-7-8 – We’re gonna make their readers wait!

Arising once again to make sure the window was closed and looking out to see what was going on, Little Red Bear and I observed the ostriches and coyotes had resumed their picket duties, circling the cabin with protest signs being thrust up and down and waved about in the air for all to see. Except for the smallest ostrich, who was nowhere to be seen.

And now, for the first time, the noise was not coming solely from the front of the cabin, as there seemed to be a commotion going on in the back and from other surrounding areas, as well.

Looking out a rear window, Little Red Bear and I witnessed an impromptu village of woodland critters camped out not only behind the cabin, but also beginning to expand and surround it, seemingly growing in size by the minute. A few curious human onlookers were intermingled amongst the critter encampment to boot! The image of General Custer flashed uncomfortably thru my mind.

An unimaginable display of nests, burrows, bedding and other improvised shelters had sprung up overnight all over our property like mushrooms following a spring rain, and continuing to pop up seemingly in every nook and cranny right before our eyes. Activity and construction was going on everywhere, with more homes and housing than we could begin to count.

Several deer and elk had bedded down in what used to be a very nice stand of tall prairie grass in the back. The skunks and porcupines seemed to be enjoying a secluded area pretty much all to themselves off in the side yard to the right. Best for everyone, I suppose.

Ol’ Cooter’s ‘Raccoon Platoon’ had set up a row of lean-to shelters off to one side, with Farmer Turner’s prize hunting dog Blue and the hounds having raised a row of pup tents on the opposite side.

Grass and leaf huts seemed to be cropping up everywhere!  Find an open patch of ground, turn away for a moment and then look back, and a slapdash home had been erected on the spot in the meantime.

Long lines of varicolored little tents were arranged closest to the cabin in almost military-like precision, fashioned by rabbits from old discarded blankets. “Those add a nice touch of color to the landscape,” I mentioned in jest, nudging Little Red Bear for him to notice. Apparently, the bivouacked bunnies felt safer in considerable numbers.

“With all those rabbits, we are definitely going to need Albuquerque’s help keeping the peace and them all safe now, Red.”

Little Red Bear grunted and nodded in agreement, and pointed out a  very large, jumbled pile of sticks and twigs in the corner of the left side yard.

“Who made that mess?” I wondered out loud.

“That’s no mess, Jim. That there’s a beaver lodge,” Little Red Bear advised.

Indeed, it was a beaver lodge, constructed in hurried fashion overnight by our beaver neighbors in Hoppers Holler, who, as we watched, were busy simultaneously working off to the side on second and third lodges also, with “For Rent” signs in front of each.

“Beavers don’t build lodges on dry ground,” I observed.

“No, they don’t build on dry ground, Jim,” Little Red Bear agreed. “Think about it. It’ll come to you.”

And then it hit me. Flap and Slap, the beaver twins, are good friends, but if they even think about diverting a stream thru my yard to form another new beaver pond, I will . . .

Sorry. Got sidetracked there for a moment. It’s all starting to wear a bit, you see – the protests, chanting, picket lines. The dream that felt like a dream but which burnt my foot and set the old oak tree ablaze from the inside out. Almost losing our receptionist to a hungry weasel right before our eyes. Hundreds and maybe thousands of animals, birds and people encamped on our property, with more arriving every minute. And now the prospect of our side yard being turned into a beaver pond.

“All we need is a ringmaster and a few clowns to make this circus sideshow complete,” I muttered out loud.

“Careful what you wish for,” Little Red Bear deadpanned, with a vacant stare into the distance. He motioned again, to bring my attention to a distant hilltop.

Up on a back hill to the west and overlooking the unplanned and unauthorized campgrounds, teepees were hurriedly being erected. Recognizing the markings, it was apparent that word of the protest and goings-on had also reached Indian John and our good friends over on Bent Feather Creek.

I would never have expected Daniel Yellowhorse to bring along his pet bison though. Just hope those big fellas don’t wander down into the yard section we’ll be mowing later, if you know what I mean.

Off to the southeast I spotted a group of backwoods folk that I recognize from the next county over. Looks like they might be planning to visit and stay a spell, with what appeared to be several outhouses under construction as they were hurriedly throwing together a line of single-purpose buildings in the distance resembling a line of porta potties at the county fair, but disconcertingly more permanent in nature.

Although, I suppose we do need sanitation with all the unplanned guests continuing to arrive in numbers. Appreciate their lending a helping hand with that, after thinking about it more. But what happens to them all when this ostrich mess is over?

The hoped-for peace that I thought the weekend might bring has instead brought flocks and herds of onlookers and looky-loos wanting to be witness to what is turning into the biggest news event in quite a while here. With nearly every critter and human freed up from their weekday woodland jobs and having the weekend off, it appears the entire backwoods populace of the tri-county area decided this was the place to be.

I blame the squirrels.

“WEEKEND CAMPOUT AT LITTLE RED BEAR CABIN! Y’ALL COME!”

Yeah – that was the headline in last night’s special edition of “Squirrelly World”. Explains it all, doesn’t it? Apparently, “Squirrelly World” has a much more extensive reader and subscription base than I had been led to believe.

After the initial shock of discovering the overnight encampment in the morning, I started serving what refreshments I could gather to the potential story characters still waiting patiently in line beyond the picket line. Little Red Bear and I need to keep them on our side as this all unfolds, with still many unfilled story character positions needed for upcoming stories.

They always say the fastest way to a man’s heart is thru his stomach, and I have always found that approach works equally well with critters, too. So, refreshments for everyone in line seemed both the natural and prudent thing to do.

I did not feel comfortable asking Little Red Bear to do it since I feared his presence outside might provoke the ostriches even more after that protest sign smash up and encounter earlier, and to be honest I’m not sure I trust him in close proximity to them again, either.

So, I took it upon myself. While out, I chased off a pair of weasels who were trying to charge arriving campers a fee to enter the area. Weasels, true to their nature – trying to profit from uninvited campers on our property.

Since I was out there already, I tried to again engage the ostriches in dialogue to move this to a settlement and resolution, but they refused to talk at all, saying only that they have now filed a complaint with the NLRB—National Labor Relations Birds. I suspect a Venue of Vultures will arrive in a day or so to start the hearing proceedings, wind currents permitting.

Things will get out of hand sometimes. But tomorrow is Sunday. Certainly, peace and camaraderie can be achieved on a Sunday. So, keeping a good thought and hoping for better tomorrow.

With Albuquerque, the little red fox sheriff, having arrived safely with Henrietta’s little family of bunnies and now patrolling the bunny rabbit tents and campsite area out back to keep the weasels at bay, we all seated ourselves around the table for dinner. It had been another long and arduous day for all of us.

Little Red Bear distributed fresh greens and veggies for the rabbits, and some very special honey roasted carrots he had specially prepared as a treat for the baby bunnies, playfully teasing them with the honey jar while making sure each one took only a tiny piece for dessert, not to overload them on sugar highs and have baby bunnies bounding about the cabin all night.

Little Red Bear’s special carrot treat was never sampled though, as without warning a large rock came crashing thru the front window!

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”

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 Honey Roasted Carrots he made for Henrietta’s bunnies. 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!

Random acts of kindness cost nothing, yet yield the greatest rewards.  Be the reason someone smiles today!   — Jim  (and Red!)


Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

“Every Spring nature writes a fresh new chapter in the book of Genesis.” — Anonymous


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

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


Chapter Three of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “DAY 2 ¾ — To Sleep, Perchance to Dream?”

Note to Readers– This is Chapter Three 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 two chapters.


Twas after midnight, before the dawning.

Before sparrows were stretching and sleepily yawning.


Following what seemed an endless day of ostriches picketing and protesting in front of the cabin and with ear-splitting ostrich chants still ringing in our ears (No Ostriches – No Stories!”), a welcome and restful night’s sleep was uppermost in our minds. I looked forward to hitting the sack early and pulling the covers up over my head with the same childlike eagerness and anticipation of Christmas Eve.

With a nightly cup of chamomile tea to soothe jangled nerves, I wished Little Red Bear “good night” and off to bed I went. Mentally and physically exhausted, sleep soon followed as peace and quiet had finally returned to Honey Hill, reassuring that even angry ostriches must rest their vocal chords at some point.

It didn’t seem long before a loud clap of thunder woke me from my slumber.

Sheets of rain mixed with small hail beat against the window, and I found myself bouncing up and down on the bed mattress as the floor of the cabin shook from the impact of a lightning strike nearby, followed soon by the creaking and crashing sound of tree limbs.

Then followed the unexplainable but unmistakable, moaning, groaning whisper of my name.

Jim . . . .”

And again – “Jim . . . . . . .”

I looked around but no one was to be found.  Lightning flashes illuminated the room, irregular strobe light bursts at once nearly blinding to the eyes yet revealing nothing save haunting shapes and shadows.

Jimmm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .”

Was I dreaming, or truly hearing my name being called, as though from both distant and near at the same time?

I rushed to the window, scanning the outside, squinting to focus in the stormy night, searching to see if anyone was in peril and calling my name in distress. The old white oak tree nearby twisted and strained in the howling winds of the storm. But I could see no further thru the driving rains.

Jiiiimmmmmm . . . . . . . . . . . .”

Louder. Clear now. The whispered call was coming from inside the room!

At once turning back around I found myself inexplicably looking upwards. I saw but did not believe. Surely, I must be dreaming.

This is not possible I thought, as a dark and ominous thundercloud, flickering on and off with flashes of internal red and yellow lightning, hovered above my head inside the room where the ceiling should have been.

Though – there was no ceiling, only the menacing and silent thundercloud with clear skies and distant stars shining behind, all while the unabated storm continued to rage outside the cabin walls.

“It’s odd Little Red Bear has not been woken by all of this,” I said aloud. “Wait until I tell him about this dream in the morning.”

“You are not dreaming,” came a sonorous voice from inside the cloud — resonant, deep, and authoritative in tone.

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes – I am!”

“No – you’re not!”

“Clouds thunder but do not talk. Therefore, it’s a dream. End of discussion. Good night.”

“YOU ARE NOT DREAMING!” thundered the cloud as lightning flashed and winds now rushed about the room, sweeping up clothes and papers, hurling them into the air and whipping them about in tornadic bursts. White hot lightning bolts, one after another, blasted the floorboards, causing me to leap and dance about to avoid them striking my feet.

“Dance, storyteller! Dance!” the thundercloud mocked.

“Okay, okay – not dreaming,” I acquiesced, though still really believing it was a dream while simultaneously wondering if one’s foot were to be burnt in a dream about lightning would it still be burnt upon awakening? Unsure of the answer, I felt it best to play along in my dream.

“Who or what are you? And what do you want of me then?” I inquired.

“Muucchhhh. I am the Ghostly Cloud of Untold Stories Passed.”

“Who’s past?”

“Not ‘past’ – ‘passed’. Well, I suppose in a technical sort of way ‘past’, for it is your past of which I speak this night.”

“O–kay . . .”

“So, more precisely then since you seem inclined to quibble and nitpick – You are being haunted by your past’s passed stories never written or told, and lost forever – The distraught man on the train. The sick child in the hospital bed. The boy pirate who became a mountain man. The lonely grandmother sitting alone on the church steps. The red-nosed circus clown running for Congress. The . . . ”

“Oh, get on with you,” I responded in defiance and losing patience.

“You do not believe in me?”

“Nope, not even a tidily bit.”

“What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your own senses?”

“Haven’t a clue.”

“Why do you doubt your own senses then, storyteller?”

“Because the slightest thing can set them off. An upset stomach. A headache. An over-toasted piece of bread. A moldy bit of cheese. An over-ripe and fermented apple. I’m tired. There’s more pain-in-the-butt than painful memory about you, whatever you are. Hogwash and horsefeathers, I say! Now let me get back to sleep.”

The thundercloud began to darken, rumbling inside and turning an unnerving purple. The very room about me took on an oppressively heavy and cold feel to the point where I could see my breath.

“Someone just picked the wrong mushrooms for the soup last night and I’m hallucinating again. That’s what you are – an apparition. An illusion. A figment of my overly stimulated imagination. A colorful sensory overload of psychedelic mushrooms. I’ve told Little Red Bear to be careful about that. I don’t do mushrooms well for some reason.”

I am not a mushroom!” the cloud thundered.

“There are mushroom clouds,” I countered. “Dreadful, devastating things not to be taken lightly.”

“Do not take me lightly, storyteller!” the cloud raged. “I am the Ghostly Cloud of Your Untold Stories Passed. Do you believe in me, or not?!?!?”

“Look, you can be the Easter Bunny if you want, for all I care. Just let me get back to sleep.”

“I am salvation!”

“For who?”

“You.”

“No time. I have a lot going on right now. I’m dealing with a work stoppage on my next book, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“I am here for your salvation. And for the sake of stories yet untold.”

“I appreciate your concern, but I don’t need to be salvated.  I just need to get back to sleep.”

“Untold stories smolder within you, eventually igniting and burning, stoked by the fuels of neglect and indifference, searing and scorching from the inside out until they are released and told.”

“Yeah, that’s nice. Good night.”

Mark my words, storyteller! You will be consumed by the burning fires of your own imagination. Flames licking at your very soul. But salvation can be yours!”

“Maybe another time. I’m too tired to be salvated tonight. I just want to go back to sleep.”

I pulled down the covers to slip back into bed, wondering that if you go to sleep in a dream, would you then have a dream within a dream, or just start a new one entirely? Hoping for a new one.

“You will be visited by three Ostriches!” the cloud announced authoritatively, it’s prophetic words echoing around the room.

That perked my interest and got my attention. Back up out of bed.

“Come again . . . .”

“Ostriches three, will visit thee!”

“Well, that sounds a little Old Testament. What are you, the ghost of some old street corner oracle, Biblical poet or something?”

“Yes. We had better writing and greater use of dramatic flair back then.”

“Eh, to each his own, I suppose.”

“Enough about me.  You will be visited by Ostriches three.  Their stories to tell, will your job be.”

“Three ostriches. Really? Is that the message? The big chance and salvation you were referring to? That’s why you woke me up?”

“It is.”

“Uh-huh. Right then. Goodnight.”

“You still doubt me storyteller. Why do you continue to doubt your senses?”

“Well, because, it would be ‘non-sense’ to believe I am talking to a cloud? There’s one.”

Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled throughout the room.

“You might want to be a little more careful tossing those lightning bolts about so indiscriminately. Not that you care being a rain cloud full of water, but this is a log cabin comprised almost entirely of combustible wood, you know.”

“Rain cloud?!?!?  I am a Thundercloud!

A bolt of lightning struck the floorboards between my feet. The room’s walls shook as though in an earthquake from the thunderous blast.

“Yeah, uh, go on. I’m listening,” I responded, brushing burning splinters from my bare feet and staring down at the smoking burnt spot on the floor, thankful the cloud’s aim had been precise and not a little higher.

I tried to take a further step away only to put my left foot down atop a hot ember and found myself backed up against a wall. The smell of wood smoke filled the room.  With maybe a touch of third degree foot burns.

Mind racing, I nervously searched the twinkling stars in the skies beyond the thundercloud for a happier thought. “Third star past morning or something or other?” I wondered aloud, trying to remember and find any escape, or to switch the dream channel, wishing I had taken that Interdisciplinary Dream Studies Course instead of Advanced Cost Accounting years ago. Do you feel pain in a dream?

Rubbing my seared and painfully burned foot I turned my gaze back to the charred spot on the floor and the burning ember upon which I had stepped, sparks still glowing at the edges and smoke wafting into the room. Was that pieces of me burning or just the floor?

“Look at me!” the thundercloud demanded. “I bear your salvation!”

“Again — wooden building — please do be careful.”

“Salvation from your passed story torments!”

“Yeah, yeah – salvation. Got that part.”

“Do you?!?”

A second lightning bolt shattered an oil lamp on the nightstand, instantly bursting into flames and setting the curtains ablaze, and then just as quickly extinguished by a following gust of wind.

“Yes, yes. Please, do go on. Continue. I’m all ears. Hanging on every word. Waiting to be salvated. You were saying . . .”

“Very well then, storyteller. You will be visited by three ostriches.”

“Yep, ostriches. Three of ‘em. Got it.”

“Expect the first ostrich tonight, when the bell strikes one.”

“Ummm . . . ugh . . . gosh.  We don’t have a bell. I truly hope that’s not a problem. The mantle clock broke last year and we haven’t gotten it fixed yet.  So dreadfully sorry. No bells. But we do have a cuckoo clock.  It cuckoos. Might that work for you?”

“Whatever. Expect the first ostrich then, at the sounding of the first cuckoo.”

“Uh-huh . . . .”

“Look for the second ostrich with the second cuckoo.”

“And expect the third ostrich at the third cuckoo, I suppose.”

“No. That would be too predictable and unimaginative. Are you sure you are a storyteller, storyteller?”

“You’re sounding kind of cuckoo now yourself, cloud, to be honest. But perfectly fitting for the goofy ostriches. So please, go ahead. The last cuckoo ostrich, as you were saying . . .”

“Yes, yes . . . . The third ostrich, more mercurial, will appear in his own good time.”

“Yeah, you’re right. That is better. But, well, here’s the thing, cloud – I got news for ya. The ostriches are already here. They all three arrived together, all at once, two days ago, were upset by an off-paw comment made by Little Red Bear, and then picketed and protested all day long yesterday in front of the cabin. For a prophetic spectral warning cloud, you’re a little late, by two or three days.”

“Weather conditions over Montana unavoidably delayed my arrival.”

“My personal Spectral Early Warning System is subject to the whims of the atmosphere and weather delays? Perfect. That explains a lot in my life, actually.”

“We do what we can.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You have been warned, storyteller. Receive these ostriches well and mend your ways. Release and tell the stories inside and those that come to you, or you will continue to be haunted by the shadows and specters of untold stories passed. The ostriches have their stories waiting to be told. Tell them — or you will be consumed by your own internal creative fires!”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. Got it. I’m tired and now my foot hurts, thanks to you. Anything else or is that about it?”

“Now, look to see me no more.”

The thundercloud rumbled as it faded into the now starless and once again stormy sky above.

“Good. Nice chatting with you,” I muttered to myself, foot burning and limping back towards the bed. “A late warning is a wasted warning, you know. Might as well not even bother. Stupid ostriches already here and you show up three days too late to tell me about it. A lot of bloody good that did.”

Instantly a lightning bolt flashed, striking the old white oak tree just outside the window, mere feet from the cabin. Thunder rattled and shook the cottage to its foundations, repeatedly tossing me against the wall and thrown down crashing upon the floor only to be hurled thru the air and slammed against the walls yet again.

“Sorry,” I offered desperately, finally picking myself up and waving my hands in surrender while gazing upwards to the cabin’s ceiling, now returned to form. “Everybody’s so touchy and easily offended these days. I do appreciate the concern, if ill-timed. We’ll both try to do better the next time. Forgive and forget, yeah?”

The room convulsed and upheaved once again, and back to the floor I went.

“Characters . . . stories . . . untold . . . consumed . . .” – the final whispered reply, fading into the distance.

I awoke what seemed only moments later, but who of us truly senses the passage of time when sleeping, finding myself feeling cold, shivering and huddled in a corner on the floor. Struggling to rise, I used the chair as a prop to lift myself back up.

The first, welcome and comforting early rays of sunrise beamed thru the window curtains, not singed or scarred upon inspection. I was also relieved to find the nightstand lamp undamaged, nor any burn marks on the floor.

Convinced then that it all had been merely a stress-induced nightmare precipitated by the ostriches, I sighed in relief. Tired and feeling beat up and battered, after dressing and then slowly and gently slipping an unexplained aching left foot into my boot, I headed downstairs following a fitful and frightful night of storms and dreams.

Little Red Bear was sitting at the table, already reading the morning’s edition of “Squirrelly World” and appearing much chipper than the day before.

“How did you sleep last night, Red? Storms keep you awake all night, too?”

“I slept fine. And what storms? It was quiet and dry all night. The rain stopped well before dinner last night. Remember? The whip-poor-wills sang all night behind the cabin. Best night’s rest I’ve had in a month. You have trouble sleepin’, Jim?”

“Yeah, some. I suppose it had to be the mushroom soup at dinner then. You know mushrooms can cause problems for me.”

“What are you talking about? I made the spaghetti for us, and you made the salads and garlic bread to go with it for dinner last night. You feelin’ all right this morning, Jim? Why are you limping? You got a sore foot or something? Are those ostriches gettin’ to ya? You look like you already been down a rough stretch of road for someone who just got out of bed. There’s bumps and bruises all over ya. You didn’t go out and try to fight one of those ostriches after I went to bed last night, did you?”

“No, no. It was just a long night. ”

“Well, you look awful.  Maybe you should go back to bed for a while.”

“Not a chance.  But how about you? Any bad dreams or nightmares?”

“None that I recall. I started to have one dream that was a bit strange though, about a cloud talking to me.”

“Oh, yeah? Tell me about it.”

“Well, this cloud seemed to wake me up with thunder in the room and started mumbling something or other about ‘Adventures Untold’.”

Little Red Bear now had my full attention. “Really? Tell me everything. What happened?”

“Nuthin’. I reminded the cloud that it’s considered unwise to wake sleeping bears, dogs and babies. It replied, ‘Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot’, and then just disappeared. ‘Poof’ – it was gone. That was the only dream I had. Other than the usual dream about finding a giant ten foot beehive and honey, of course.”

“Oh, how nice,” I responded, recalling my own nightmares and wondering why only bears, dogs and babies seemed to enjoy the “don’t wake” protections afforded them. Well, babies I do understand of course, being the father of four kids. Yeah, never wake a sleeping baby. Doting grandparents dropping in for a visit seem to forget that one now and then. Dogs and bears are on their own as far as I’m concerned.

But, getting back to the story, I had come downstairs this morning half-thinking and half-hoping the ostriches might have called off their unreasonable picketing and protest, having no results to show for all their work and having moved on elsewhere. No such luck. Their voices carried thru the open windows.

Ostriches ready to challenge and put up a fight!
We’re back in the battle and going to rev up tonight!

Gingerly stepping out onto the front porch, there they were, all three of the ostriches energetically picketing and chanting across the front entrance to the cabin, exactly as they had the previous day. Determined birds, these.

The largest ostrich was carrying a new sign – “OSTRICHES HAVE STORIES TO TELL, TOO!”

And the chanting. The endless chanting, chanting, chanting . . . . .

Flap your wings and stamp your feet!

We’re picketing to the groove of the Ostrich beat!

Flap your wings and stamp your feet!

We’re makin’ new friends and gonna turn up the heat!

The crowd of spectators is continuing to grow larger and wondering why that is. Not overly concerned about it though, providing peaceful spectators do not become  belligerent participants, of course.

Hey, hey!  Whattaya know?

That writer guys movin’ pretty slow!

Hey, hey!  He’s all limpy!

 That old man’s lookin’ really gimpy!

Having already heard and seen enough, I turned to go back inside the cabin to begin making breakfast.

To the side, mere feet from my bedroom window, I caught sight of the old white oak tree, smoldering and split in two lengthwise from top to bottom, somehow mysteriously burning and being consumed from the inside out while still standing, flames licking at the edges. Smoke rose from the growing pile of ashes at its feet, forming grey and black clouds before the breeze took them off and away into the air.

“Now, that’s interesting,” I muttered to myself, limping back inside with a still clouded mind.

“Are you sure you didn’t hear any storms last night, Red?”

To be continued . . . . . . . .


Thanks as always for visiting with us!  This story part was prepared with a little tongue-in-cheek fun from the inspiration of Charles Dickens. Hope he didn’t mind.  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 — Be the reason someone smiles today!   — Jim  (and Red!)


Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

~ Think Globally — Act Locally ~


Chapter Two of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “Day 2 — Birds On Strike!”

Note to Readers– This is Chapter Two 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.


As you may recall, three Ostriches who appeared seemingly out of nowhere while seeking story roles in the Little Red Bear stories yesterday, became very upset and offended over some unintentional comments made by Little Red Bear about their being flightless.

During the interview to discuss their inclusion in one or more of the upcoming “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories and the roles they might play, things became rather heated between Little Red Bear and the ostriches. One word led to another and they threatened to walk out. Which they ultimately did.

But not before several more heated words were exchanged by both sides. Whispered comments I ruefully made to Little Red Bear about ‘sashaying’ and ‘strutting like peacocks’ were overheard as they went back down the path, which only seemed to anger them more.

Leaving the cabin, one of the ostriches had motioned towards a little teddy bear sign which I have hanging on the wall of the cabin, with the message “Don’t Feed the Bears, They’re Stuffed!”

The ostrich laughed and then mockingly implied the sign was referring to Little Red Bear because he was stuffed chockablock full with “Honey Fat” and, well—you can only imagine how that was received by Red.

When they departed and had ventured out of sight around the bend, I figured that would pretty much be the last of it, no ostriches in the stories. We had not been planning to add ostriches anyway. They are the ones who approached us to be in the stories.

To be honest, Little Red Bear and I have over forty Story Character job applications from other bird species wanting to be included, with more coming in daily, what with it being Spring now and the bluebirds, barn swallows, goldfinches, wrens and others arriving back from winter migrations. So, if the ostriches chose not to take part – so be it – and figured that was the end of it – “So long, thanks for coming.”

Heading downstairs to make breakfast this morning, the ostriches were nowhere in mind, having assumed that they would have simply returned to wherever it was they had come from.

I wished a “Good morning!” to Little Red Bear, already seated at the table, but with his head supported on his paws and not looking his normally cheerful self. The only reply I received in return was more of a grumble – “Grruummpphh.”

“What’s up with you this morning, Red?”

“Oh, you’ll see when you step outside.”

As I had been awoken by thunder rolling thru Hopper’s Holler below and it being an overcast, gloomy and rainy morning, I assumed Red’s rather glum response was more of a reflection of the weather conditions than anything else. We had planned an outdoor writing activity for the day, you see.

As every morning, I routinely placed the tea kettle on the stove to heat for breakfast tea, and stepped outside onto the front porch for my morning regimen of deep breathing exercises in the fresh morning air while the water heated to boiling.

And then, there they were – the three ostriches – picketing in front of the cabin – in the rain!

As it turns out, ostriches are not only somewhat difficult to deal with, but also resolutely single-minded in purpose. Angered, doubly so.

The largest ostrich, and most vocal in the meetings, was carrying a large sign, white with bold red letters which read – “ON STRIKE – UNFAIR TO FLIGHTLESS AVIANS!”

The second was carrying another sign which read – “FLY OR NOT – OSTRICHES ARE BIRDS, TOO!”  He was jauntily bouncing the sign up and down as he paced back and forth in line with the others across the yard.

The third, smallest of the three, was not toting a sign, but instead wearing an old-fashioned placard around his neck which on the front read – “LITTLE RED BEAR IS FAT AND SMELLS BAD!” – and when he turned around, on the back – “LITTLE RED BEAR’S MOTHER WAS AN UGLY ROOSTER!”

Now folks, I must admit, we can’t really figure that last one out either. Unless the ostriches got confused about hens and roosters, trying to imply that Little Red Bear is part bird, but that’s absurd.

Glancing around, there were “Don’t Feed the Bear” posters plastered everywhere – on the trees, fence posts and all over the front porch and walls of the cabin.

“Hey, y’all!” I called out, “I’m  fixin’ to put breakfast on. Why don’t y’all come on inside, out of the rain, get something to eat, and we’ll all sit down and try to talk this thing through?”

The only response came from the largest ostrich, again with that same (what I assume to be) obscene wing gesture he threw back at me yesterday. “Okay, then,” I muttered to myself.  “Have it your way.”

Coming back inside the cabin, I now understood why Little Red Bear was rather crestfallen, still sitting dispirited at the table, head in paws.

“Well, it’s raining anyway, Red,” I began, seeking to cheer him up. “Let’s just do our writing work inside today. If we don’t pay the ostriches any attention, I’m sure they will soon get bored and tired of just walking around in the rain, and then go on about their way. Whattaya say? Let’s just ignore them. ‘Don’t feed the trolls’, as they say.”

We prepared breakfast, which we (not being trolls) ate quietly at the table with no disruption. Shortly after, with a nice, quick little breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes, blueberry muffins, oatmeal, grits, cornbread, hashbrowns, bananas, half a dozen biscuits with honey, an orange, and two cups of English Breakfast Tea now inside him, Little Red Bear had perked up considerably and we were working on the “Sir Snapsalot” story together, for Red’s first story collection.

Outside, the soft morning rain continued, with the relaxing pit-pat, pit-pat, pit-pat drips off the porch roof splashing lightly onto the ground in front. On the hill behind the cabin, a song sparrow was singing, despite the light rain, and another distant thunder murmured softly over the holler. All in all, a beautiful spring morning for work and writing.

Then things took a turn. We heard it. There was no point at all in pretending that we hadn’t.

Little Red Bear and I both stopped working and simply looked at each other, each hoping the other might be able to possibly deny what we had so clearly and undeniably heard with our own ears, or at least have something intelligent to offer about it. Dumbfounded, we simply listened.

From outside and thru the half-open window, we could hear the ostriches begin chanting in unison at the top of their voices –

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

“Really?” I said out loud. “They haven’t left yet?”

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

“What did we do to deserve this?” Little Red Bear rhetorically asked of anyone who might respond, head tilted back and looking forlornly up at the ceiling. No one answered back of course, as we had requested the resident ghosts to relocate a few months before when it became apparent that they had begun keeping very different sleeping schedules than ours.

“I suppose maybe you should have simply apologized for your ‘flightless’ comment yesterday when they asked for it,” I finally responded, somehow feeling compelled to say something while pointing out the obvious. “Any time that we have a choice of being right or being kind, always choose kind. You know that.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know. But they didn’t ask,” Little Red Bear corrected. “They demanded. Neither you or me respond well to orders and demands. And you know that. That’s one thing you and I have in common – a wild, unfettered, independent spirit.”

“Yeah Red, I do know that. And it does sound better when you put it that way. As opposed to simply being prideful and stubborn. But unfortunately, the ostriches didn’t know about our unbridled independent natures.”

Who are we? Just one guess!

Ostriches refusing to be oppressed!

Ostriches live with lions and cheetahs.

So ain’t no way you’re gonna beat us!

“Wanna bet?” Little Red Bear snorted in reply, glancing menacingly towards the window.

I simply looked at him and shook my head. They had merely been unintentional off-paw, off-hand comments, after all. Who could know anyone would be so easily and irreparably offended simply by stating an obvious fact – ostriches are flightless.

Clearly, the ostriches do not embrace the concept of a ‘measured response’.

Who’s got the power? We got the power!

What kind of power? Ostrich power!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

I began to think, and correctly so truth be told, that this could all get pretty old, pretty quick. Which it did.

“What are we going to do, Jim?” Little Red Bear inquired after several more minutes of chanting. “Clearly your strategy of ignoring them and hoping they go away didn’t work. If anything, they’re getting louder. So, what now?”

“Hope they get hoarse from chanting and yelling – and then go away?” I responded with a half-bemused chuckle, but actually having no idea of what to do.

1-2-3-4 – We ain’t gonna take it no more!

5-6-7-8 – We’re gonna set these story folks straight!

The calming pitta-pat of the rain between chants became less and less comforting, calling to mind more of a Chinese water torture, ticking off the seconds until the next verbal barrage from the front yard blasted our ears.

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! This fat bear has got to go!

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! That old writer is really slow!

“Oh, listen, Jim. They’ve included you now, too,” Little Red Bear said rather happily, appearing to perk up again at the new development.

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! This fat bear has got to go!

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! That old man is really slow!

Still shaking my head in bewilderment and confusion as to how we ever arrived at such a state, I could only and simply reply – “How nice. It’s good to be remembered, I suppose.”

It’s hot!  It’s hot!  It’s very, very hot out here.

It’s Little Red Bear’s hot air, polluting the atmosphere!

Global warming and pollution’s no joke, it’s real.

This bear’s bad breath lacks any civilized appeal.

“Well now,” I observed. “The breath comment aside, that one is both topical and catchy.”

Ummpph!” Little Red Bear grunted.

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!

Little Red Bear pushed back from the table and began to rise.

“Where are you going?”

“Nowhere in particular, just out to strangle those guys! Be back in a couple minutes.”

“Red, you may outweigh one of them, but you don’t outweigh all three of them.”

“You ain’t comin’ along to help?”

“Sticks and stones, Red,” I replied. “Don’t listen to them. We must practice restraint. Ignore them. Don’t let them get to you. They’re merely making stuff up and saying things, throwing anything they can think of against the wall to see what sticks.”

Little Red Bear sighed, shoulders slumped, and returned to his seat at the table.

“Well, it’s easy for you to say – ‘Don’t pay them no nevermind’. They got the whole place covered in ‘Don’t Feed the Bear’ posters. Looks like they got those to stick up pretty well on the walls. And what’s up with that? I’ve been feeding myself as long as I can remember. I don’t need anyone to feed me!”

“It’s not about ‘feeding’ you. They want to cut off your food supply and starve you to death.  A blockade of sorts.”

“Well,  – that’s not nice. What’d I ever do to them?”

“Flightless, rude comments.  Remember?”

“Oh, yeah. Right. Well, it’s still not a good enough reason to starve somebody to death!”

Before I could respond to Red’s concerns again, the ostriches all began to sing. Vigorously. They echoed each phrase as they marched in line one behind the other in mock military fashion, waving picket signs thru the air like battle flags.

I don’t know but I’ve been told . . . .

(I don’t know but I’ve been told.)

That Little Red Bear writer is really old . . . .

(That Little Red Bear writer is really old.) 

I don’t know but it’s been said . . . .

(I don’t know but it’s been said.)

Old writers’ butts are made of lead . . . .

(Old writers’ butts are made of lead.)

Instinctively, I then found myself pushing away from the table to head outside and grab hold of a neck.  Or three.

“Your turn to sit back down now, Jim,” Little Red Bear advised, now doubled over laughing and mind clearly off the ‘Don’t Feed’ posters. “Ha, ha, ha! You don’t even outweigh the littlest one.”

And he kept laughing. “They got you good with that one! Ha, ha, ha, ha!  Haw, haw, haw!”

Little Red Bear pounded on the table in great delight, guffawing and yucking it up. Apparently laughing at another’s misery is great stress relief for a bear.

“Yeah, very funny,” I muttered, pulling my chair back beneath me.

“I feel a little better now, not the only one being tormented,” Little Red Bear managed to say, between laughs.

“Happy to help.”

What Little Red Bear knew and had picked up on, was that without knowing it the ostriches had actually hit pretty close to the mark, just citing the wrong metal. But then, in their defense, stainless steel and titanium are a lot harder to rhyme than lead, I suppose.

The ostriches continued their endless chanting, with both volume and vitriol seeming to swell as the day wore on.

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

We are left wondering and not knowing where this whole ostrich confrontation may be headed now, but with increasing concern, as they are beginning to draw the attention of local wildlife who have been overwhelmingly supportive of Little Red Bear’s adventures to this point.

Crowds are gathering, assembling in what appear to be small discussion groups off to the sides. Discontent, even unfounded, has a way of spreading like an uncontrolled virus at times, having a way of triggering dormant and unrelated emotions in others over long-ago slights, real or imagined. We certainly do not need a story character walkout or to lose support in the local community.

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’!

I now find myself dealing with a group of angry ostriches and an ever-growing crowd outside, and an insulted and agitated bear inside. And it now appears that I myself have become a target for their taunts and barbs.

Though unfamiliar with ostriches per se, these birds are displaying all the obstinacy and stubbornness of Missouri Mules, with whom we are fairly acquainted here. And that’s not exactly a comforting thought, given the independent resolve and strong-mindedness of Little Red Bear on the other side.

I am hoping we are well supplied with aspirin and antacid, because this distressing turn of events appears to have the makings of both an onslaught and a siege.

Ostriches are birds and have our rights.

We’re big and strong and willing to fights!

Good grief. “Willing to fights?” And they want me to stop writing?

Off for aspirins. Hurry nightfall. Maybe these ostriches will all wake up hoarse in the morning and go away.

Or not . . . . . . . .

To be continued . . . . . . . .


Thanks as always for visiting with us!  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!  — Jim  (and Red!)


Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

~ Think Globally — Act Locally ~


 

Please Don’t Pull The Dandelions — They’re Nature’s Gift!

Oh my gosh!  It’s early Spring and here come the dandelions all over the yard.  What to do?!?

Answer — absolutely nothing.  Relax, have an iced tea, and simply leave them be. We really dig dandelions here, but perhaps not in the way some may imagine.

My father, noted for his dandelions obsession, would have me busy every available free moment years ago it seemed, dandelion puller in hand, sent out to pull and dispatch the lowly yellow flowers out of our burgeoning green lawn.

“Now, get down deep and pull ’em up by the roots or they’ll surely come back on us, son!”

My idea of true technological progress was when my father came home one day with a long-handled dandelion puller newly purchased from the hardware store, one I didn’t have to bend over all day with or crawl around the yard on hands and knees.  Yep, modern science had come a long way. I could pull ’em standing up!



In the suburban sprawl era of the early ’60s with new subdivisions sprouting up everywhere, my father could and did spend hours talking with other men in the neighborhood about — Grass.

Seriously weighing the merits of one variety of grass versus another and how best to care for their lawns.

Those out there on the very cutting edge of technology were experimenting with the new Zoysia Grass just becoming available at the time, and “plugging” their lawns with it.  Anybody in their right mind seeded. Everybody knew that.  They were “plugging!”

“Poor Troutman’s lost his mind this year with that Zoysia grass.”

“Gonna have an ugly mess on his hands for sure!”

“That Zoysia stuff turns brown like straw all winter.  A real fire hazard, that!  He’ll be sorry.”

“Well, he’s a young college guy and doesn’t know anything.  He’ll learn.  Ya just can’t beat good ol’ Kentucky Blue Grass.”

“Nah, that stuff burns up in the summer heat.  I’ll stick with my Fescue.”

And on and on it went. Heady stuff, those evening, after-dinner grass meetings on the sidewalk.  We won’t even go into Crabgrass debates.  And what in the world to do about that guy on the corner and his dandelion infested yard, blowing seeds all over the neighborhood?

“Who does Baggett think he is, after all, a Dandelion Farmer? Look at his mess down there! Why doesn’t he get out and pull those dad-gummed weeds?!?”



The beauty of one’s lawn was definitely a status symbol in the subdivision back then, as dandelions in your yard certainly meant that you would be looked down upon by all of the folk meticulously fertilizing, treating, and clipping perfectly manicured lawns, proudly pushing their new, bright green Scotts’ spreaders in front of them while whistling a happy tune, dandelion digger tucked into their belt or back pocket.  And yes, there was a distinction.  Farmers ‘mowed’ down weeds.  Lawn aficionados ‘clipped’.

Folks with dandelions in their yards were judged to be lazy, uncaring, and downright disrespectful because soon those wicked seed puffs would be blowing thru the air on spring breezes and re-infesting all of the honorable and upstanding folks’ yards.

Such was life in the suburbs during the time of manicured lawns and new homeowners aspiring to be featured on the cover of ‘Better Homes & Gardens’ magazine.



But, let’s hold on just a bit and fast forward several decades.

Honeybees, critical to the world’s food supply, have been decimated in recent years from an assortment of maladies —  colony collapse disorder (CCD), global warming, selective industrial crop plantings, insecticide and herbicide poisoning, the uprooting and destruction of native plant species, and so much more.  They sorely need our assistance for the benefit of the planet, and it just so happens that leaving those dandelions in your yard alone for a while is one of the very best things that you can do to help them in early Spring.



When honeybees and other pollinators first emerge in the very first warm days of early Spring, like bears coming out from their dens after a long Winter and having depleted their honey stores which kept them going thru the Winter months, they are hungry and in need of nutrition right away. And just as Mother Nature intended, those bright yellow dandelion flowers in your yard are one of the very first emerging and available food sources for them every year.

Each dandelion flower is composed of up to a hundred individual florets, each one packed with needed nectar and pollen before later emerging flowers and plants bloom and are available.  Dandelions are one of the earliest and best food sources for bees and pollinators each Spring.  They count on dandelions for survival.



Not only honeybees feast on the flowers but also bumblebees, hoverflies, beetles, and butterflies.  Later, goldfinches, house sparrows, and others eat the seeds while raising babies in the nests.

For us, young dandelion leaves make a fine addition to spring salads and are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, and the flowers (leaving some for the honeybees and wildlife) have been made into Dandelion Wine for ages.  Just be sure the plants have not been treated with chemicals or lawn fertilizers for food safety.



So, if it is necessary to mow the grass, please consider raising the height of the cutting blades to safely pass over the dandelion flowers for the first month or so. It makes mowing thick spring grass easier, anyway. And then sit back with your iced tea on the porch to enjoy the parade of honeybees, butterflies, and other visitors to the dandelion flowers in your yard, confident that you are helping both them and the environment.



And if a well-intentioned neighbor makes a comment, just bring them up to speed about why it is so important to simply leave the dandelions be in early springtime, for the sake of the honeybees and pollinators. And us.

Cross-pollination helps at least a third of the world’s food crops and 90% of wild plants to survive.  Without bees to pollinate and spread seeds, many plants, including major food crops that we ourselves depend upon for survival, would die off.  And that is why early spring dandelions are so important.

Some have stated that if honeybees disappeared from the Earth, humans would inevitably follow four years later due to lack of food supplies. If letting the dandelions grow in early springtime helps the bees survive and keeps the grocery shelves stocked, we are all for that.

Besides, I haven’t met the Mother yet who doesn’t delight in a freshly-picked dandelion bouquet from her four-year-old in the Spring.

And, if the dandelions are all mowed down, pulled out, and tossed away — how could we ever hope to make a wish?



Speaking of dandelion bouquets and making wishes, if you have small children or grandchildren, check out the delightful little children’s book “Why Dandelions Grow” by Nita Marie Clark available on Amazon.

Told in verse with colorful illustrations, the book tells about how dandelions came to be (they seemed to be an afterthought, you know), and is very instructive for youngsters on both dandelions and bees, along with the importance of dandelions to the survival of bees in early springtime.

Little Red Bear and I always advocate teaching children about Nature and its importance, beginning at the earliest age, so they will become involved, learn to appreciate, and care about taking care of and preserving it for the future.  That’s the Little Red Bear way.


Working together we can do our best with Mother Nature to help the bees and other pollinators.

Thanks always for stopping by to visit with us, and please feel free to share this important message with family and friends!

My story friend, Little Red Bear, and I hope you will join us in the “Bee Friends” club and simply sitting back to watch the dandelions grow, confident in knowing that you are doing something positive and a ‘good thing’ for the environment and Mother Nature.  — Jim   (and Red!)

If you enjoyed this feature, you may also like → “Happy Hummer Season! Welcoming, Helping, and Attracting Hummingbirds In Your Neighborhood” 


Think Globally — Act Locally — Tomorrow Begins With You TODAY!

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy, Balanced Kids


Meet Little Red Bear & His Friends —  “Once Upon A Time In A Very Special Woods . . . .”


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages! 
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

                 “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength                   that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson 


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.

Because together we can do so much!


“How doth the little busy bee, Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day, From every opening flower!”

 – Isaac Watts, ‘Divine and Moral Songs for Children’ 



Little Red Bear Answers Reader Questions — “Where is McNickle’s?”

More reader questions for Little Red Bear!   Here we go with another one . . . . . .

Reader Question from Road Trip Rick in Disoriented, Oregon – “Dear Little Red Bear —  I’m really hungry for some old-fashioned pickles and pork rinds so planning a road trip on Sunday, but can’t seem to find “McNickle’s Famous Pickles & Pork Rinds” country store where you do book signings, anywhere on a map. And my GPS is no help at all.  Where is it and will you be there on Sunday for a book signing when I get there?” 

Answer— That is a very good question, Rick!  And it’s not surprising that you can’t find McNickle’s Famous Pickles & Pork Rinds on a map or in the GPS doohickeys, because it seems to be one of those kind of places that a person can’t find unless they know where it is to begin with.

The best thing to remember is that it is on Shady Holler Road, just west of Knob Lick. The country store is located about half a mile past Turner’s red barn, and across from the split pin oak tree if you’re unfamiliar with the area.  If you find yourself sitting in front of the Post Office in Curly Pine, chances are you most likely missed the barn and went too far.  That old red barn sits back from the road a bit, behind the row of hedge apples, so you need to keep a sharp eye peeled and be on the lookout for it, especially during the summer when the trees have their leaves.  And if that’s the case and you’re staring at a mailbox, we find it best to just go back and start over from where you left and try again.

But, Ethel McNickle is adamant that the store remains closed on Sundays, so you might want to plan a Saturday trip.  As for the book signing, Ethel assures me that she will have a number of pre-signed books on hand for you when you get there.  But don’t look for me.  Summer Saturdays are for fishing, not sitting inside talking.  If you want to talk about the book, just mosey on down to Perch Lake. Don’t worry, I usually bring along a few extra fishing poles for visitors if you forget yours.  Out-of-towners dropping by to talk and fish seem to turn up quite often ever since the book went out last year.  And if you don’t like fishing, that’s not a problem, either. We can always use another hand or two cleaning ’em.   Hope that answers your questions, Rick.  Drive safe. — Little Red Bear

Horizontal Rule 1

Please keep those questions and letters coming, don’t be bashful.  We’ll get to them as best we can here for you.  And if it’s really urgent, just smear a little honey on the envelope seal.  Red will be sure to get to that one first!

Happy reading, and thanks as always for stopping by!  And remember folks, life is simpler when you plow around the stump.   – Jim (and Red!)

LRB Ad- With a Fishing Pole

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

A New “Little Red Bear” Video!

Since “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” short stories collection published last week, Red has been so excited he couldn’t sit down. You can find the stories to order on Amazon, available for Kindle and in Paperback.

He finally decided to put all that energy to good use and went out with some other story characters and the backwoods crew and made another video for you, showing the area he calls home and some of his friends and neighbors.  Red apologizes for that Otter near the end, playing around as they do so much of the time.  As Creative Director, Little Red Bear always recommends viewing on full screen with the speakers on for the full nature experience.

Feel free to share with family, friends and neighbors.  Hope you like it.  And check out the page link above or on youtube for other Little Red Bear videos.  If he keeps going, we’re going to have a whole collection pretty soon.

On another topic, we realized something about “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” over the weekend.  Something we had not considered until now.  We’ll be talking more about that in a few days, so please watch for it.  There might be a fight brewing, but we’re hoping not.

Thanks for stopping by! —  Jim (and Red!)

"Hey, y'all.  Do you fellas know where they're showin' the new Little Red Bear video?"

“Hey, y’all. Do you fellas know where they’re showin’ the new Little Red Bear video?”

 

Endangered Species Day

Today is “Endangered Species Day”, a day set aside by Congress to bring awareness and attention to the plight of endangered, fragile and threatened species.  Folks of all ages can and are encouraged to learn more about the importance of protecting imperiled species and what they can do through their own actions to help.

For more information and links, please visit The Endangered Species Site.

Here are two other links for great information–

From the Park Advocate Site — Nine Endangered National Park Animals.

Black-footed Ferret in a Colorado conservation center. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Black-footed Ferret in a Colorado conservation center. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

From the wonderful folks at BirdNote, a discussion of Piping Plovers and Golden-cheeked Warblers– BirdNote.

Golden-cheeked Warbler, via BirdNote, photo by Greg Lavaty

Golden-cheeked Warbler, via BirdNote, photo by Greg Lavaty

Please learn more and contact your elected representatives to help support the wildlife and plants struggling so hard to survive faced with oppressive habitat loss, climate change, illegal poaching and other dangers.  And please get the children involved, as it is their future we are talking about, as well.

Thanks as always for stopping by!  — Jim (and Red!)

Springtime in the Ozarks with Little Red Bear!

Welcome to “Springtime in the Ozarks Mountain Country”, Little Red Bear’s newest video and book trailer for the soon to be released “Adventures of Little Red Bear” short stories collection!

With his first collection of short story adventures to be released very soon, Red couldn’t wait to show everyone springtime in his neck of the woods and all that is going on around.  As Creative Director on the video projects, Little Red Bear wanted it to be filled only with beautiful images and music for you, but our esteemed attorney, Brooks the Badger, insisted that he include a few promo texts for the upcoming book as well.  They finally agreed on just a couple.

If you enjoy Red’s video, please feel free to share and pass along to friends and family, and consider giving him a “Thumbs Up!” like on youtube.  It really makes his day as he watches the numbers go up and gets him out working on the next one even sooner.

Big bear hugs and thank you’s to fellow birder Adele Barger Wilson, author of “Bonding With the Barn Swallows” for permitting us to use some of her images, and to the Missouri Wildflower Guide for making their images available for use.

Hope you enjoy it. Thanks for visiting!  — Jim (and Red!)

Introducing “Little Red Bear”– the First Book Trailer Video!

Little Red Bear and I are excited to announce the release of the very first video trailer for the upcoming “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories!

“The Adventures of Little Red Bear” is a collection of six short stories about a bear and his many friends living in the scenic Ozarks Mountain Country, with the initial collection of stories entitled “The First Holler!” available on Amazon soon for Kindle and Paperback. Fun, family-friendly and entertaining for all age groups, the stories have underlying themes of positivity, nature, kindness, and helping others.  There is always time to stop along the roadside to smell a wildflower and listen to a songbird.  The stories are told at an enjoyably relaxing pace in a style I just call “Country Comfortable.”

Hope you enjoy the video. And if you do, please share with friends and family. Red had so much fun serving as Producer and Creative Director on this first trailer that he has the crew out working on more videos right now. He recommends viewing on full screen with the speakers on, for total immersion in the outdoor experience.

Please keep an eye out for more videos coming soon as we near the book release date, some featuring more information about the book and characters, and some others just for fun. You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks as they say, but perhaps an old man and bear– given enough time and aspirin– can figure out how to make a tolerably presentable video.

Some future videos will feature a number of photos from blog followers and Facebook friends allowing their own images to be shared for the enjoyment of others. As a testament to goodness in the world, every individual approached about sharing photos has agreed enthusiastically without hesitation. As you may expect, while flowers, plants and trees tend to be easier subjects, it’s very difficult sometimes getting a critter to hold still long enough to focus the camera and capture a good likeness, not to mention birds in mid-flight holding their position, not being helicopters as they are.

So Red and I truly appreciate those kindhearted and generous folks permitting us to share their photography work with you as we go along.  (And if we unintentionally step on anyone’s copyright toes, please accept our apologies and just drop us a note if there is something not to be shared before showing up on the front porch with a shotgun.  Or worse– one of those lawyer fellas.)

We both hope you enjoy these little videos as much as we enjoy making them for you.  So here is the first one– “Introducing Little Red Bear.”   Thanks as always for reading and following along! – Jim (and Red!)

On Rabbitbrush, Ripples, Sheriffs and Such

Had a terrific weekend of writing.  I had an idea for a story in my head for several months but it never went anywhere, very unusual for me because I am a “pantser” in approach mostly, just sitting down and writing from start to finish from an initial story concept or character name, without a lot of forethought or planning.  I had the initial story idea, which is usually enough, but it never developed.  After sitting down the other day with the story idea once again, the light suddenly went on and it entered that magical land where the story writes itself.  Very happy with it, delighted actually, and wish I could share the story now with you.  But it is to be included in the upcoming “Adventures of Little Red Bear” collection so we will all have to wait just a little longer.

Work then started on another new story late last night.  So today I am working on what quite possibly could be the final story in the collection, and writing about Rabbitbrush, a featured element in the story.  Love the stuff.  To me, it is beautiful.   It is a plant native to arid regions in the North American West and Southwest, and thrives in coarse, alkaline soil common to desert environments.

Detail of Rabbitbrush Flower Head (Image Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Detail of Rabbitbrush Flower Head
(Image Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Rabbitbrush is an important food source for wildlife, especially during winter months.  The Zuni people of the Southwest used the plant’s blossoms to make a yellow dye, and stems for baskets.  Rabbitbrush is gaining popularity now as an ornamental plant in areas where water conservation is a growing concern.  In the wild, it is often found in unmanaged range lands, along roadways and in abandoned fields.

Also known as Rubber Rabbitbrush for its uses as a source of rubber dating back to 1904, it is a shrubby perennial growing in sizes ranging from 12 to 90 inches tall.  It’s flower heads are comprised of five small, yellow tubular flowers appearing in clusters.  The flexible stems are rubbery (hence the name) and its leaves a greenish-grey in color with a felt-like covering.

Rabbitbrush- Chrysothamnus nauseosus (Photo credit- Wikipedia)

Rabbitbrush- Chrysothamnus nauseosus
(Photo credit- Wikipedia)

Having seen Rabbitbrush before in travels to the Southwest but not knowing what it was, I learned more about it from beautiful photos shared over a year ago by a great friend, the award-winning author Kathleen Creighton in California. That is how I met her, actually.  She shared the photos online, I commented, she replied, and without hesitation granted me permission to use her photos.  Kathleen then contacted and put me in touch with others to provide me with more information on the plant.  A conversation struck up and we have been talking and great friends ever since.  And now I am including it in a Little Red Bear story.  It’s wonderful how it all works when one is open and receptive to meeting new people.  More of that Sending Out Ripples notion.

But, it has taken me a year to get the Rabbitbrush into a story, and I have stacked up a pile somewhere north of 1,000 story ideas and features since then.  I will have to live to the age of Moses and Methuselah to get them all into stories.  Since that is probably unlikely, I better pick up the pace it seems.

And in case you are wondering– “How does an arid desert plant find its way into a story about Little Red Bear and friends based in the Ozarks Mountains in the Southern Midwest?”  Well, guess you will have to wait for the upcoming collection of stories to find that one out.  But here’s a hint– There’s a new sheriff in town!

Wishing everyone a great day and positive start to the New Year!  Break time is over and Little Red Bear is calling me back to writing so I need to go.  Thanks for visiting! — Jim (and Red!)

Rabbitbrush, California Farm- October, 2013. (Photo by Kathleen Creighton Fuchs)

Rabbitbrush, California Farm- October, 2013.
(Photo by Kathleen Creighton Fuchs)

New Year Resolutions Woodland Style | Sylva Fae

New Year’s Resolutions.  Most people prepare them.  Few seem to stick with them more than a month or so.  Even fewer complete them.  My very talented writer friend Sylva Fae has prepared her New Year’s Resolutions in an extraordinary way.   My money is on her to see them thru, too.

Please visit Sylva’s blog thru the link below to view her delightful take on resolutions for the New Year!

New Year Resolutions Woodland Style | Sylva Fae.

Major Oak-- 1000 Year Old Major Oak Tree in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. by VJLF on  Flickr

Major Oak– 1000 Year Old Major Oak Tree in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. by VJLF on Flickr

“Howdy!” (Or- How I Spent My Weekend)

“Howdy!”

That is how a new story character introduced himself to me on Friday morning. Out of nowhere, he just popped into my head with a loud “Howdy!” It has been an interesting, and exciting, weekend.

Red and I already have more story characters lined up for his upcoming “Adventures of Little Red Bear” short stories than we can probably squeeze into three or four collections. Nevertheless, in popped another one on Friday. He and Red hit it right off. I do declare, Little Red Bear collects new story characters and companions faster than a hound dog walking thru a flea patch.

 Old Hound Dog (by Maria Hearn)

Old Hound Dog (by Maria Hearn)

It’s a struggle to keep up with them all, to be honest. And suddenly on Friday—here came another one into my head, totally uninvited. “Howdy!” But that was pretty much it. For Friday anyway. He just popped in, introduced himself and went to spend time with Little Red Bear. I didn’t learn any more from him that day. Just the “Howdy!” Hearing it over and over again.

Early Saturday morning was spent catching up on odds and ends for the week, and by late morning it was so beautiful outside I decided to go walkabout for a while, to get some fresh air and exercise.

Bear Scratching Against a Tree (by Brett Lewis Photography)

Bear Scratching Against a Tree (by Brett Lewis Photography)

Two blocks from home while checking out dropped walnuts on the ground from an old Black Walnut tree up on the hill, the quiet was broken once again with a loud “Howdy!” in my head. I suppose he had talked Red’s arm off the night before, and now it was to be my turn.

The further I walked the more he talked. On and on, revealing his story to me. He continued talking thru Saturday night, was in my head when I woke up Sunday morning, and continued on thru the day. I have been listening to this little guy all weekend! Turned out, he is a Burrowing Owl.

Burrowing Owl- Sneaking A Peek

Burrowing Owl- Sneaking A Peek

We usually don’t give this much away about upcoming story characters, but this fellow is special, caught us totally by surprise and immediately stole our hearts. So much so, that Red and I are even reworking some things to move his introduction up into the first collection of stories, already nearing completion. I am so excited about him it’s hard not to just tell you all about him right now. But that would spoil all the fun.

Regardless, I can let you know that he is a Burrowing Owl from way out west in the Oklahoma Panhandle with quite a story to tell. Burrowing Owls inhabit grasslands, rangelands, agricultural areas and other open, dry areas with low vegetation. From their name, they live in a hole in the ground, not up in a tree like other owls. Although capable and willing to dig their own burrows, more frequently they inhabit existing holes abandoned by prairie dogs, skunks, armadillos, tortoises and the like.

 Burrowing Owls via Cornell Lab of Ornithology (© Ned Harris, AZ, Tucson, June 2009)

Burrowing Owls via Cornell Lab of Ornithology (© Ned Harris, AZ, Tucson, June 2009)

Unlike most owls, Burrowing Owls are active during the day, although wisely avoiding the midday heat. But like most owls, they do most of their hunting between the hours of dusk to dawn, taking advantage of their superior night vision and hearing. So they do not sleep a lot, which may go a long way towards explaining his extended chattiness all weekend.

Living in open grasslands as opposed to forests, Burrowing Owls have long legs and short tails which allow them to sprint very quickly across the ground in pursuit of prey. They are small in size, about 11” long, a little larger than an American Robin when fully grown. When agitated, they bob their head up and down, revealing a white chin patch. But I cannot imagine this sweet little guy ever being agitated or angry.

Burrowing Owl in California on top of Burrowing Owl Sign Post (by Jeff Cartier of Ventura, CA)

Burrowing Owl in California on top of Burrowing Owl Sign Post (by Jeff Cartier of Ventura, CA)

Burrowing Owls have no ear tufts, unlike many other owls. They feature prominent white eyebrow markings, and in color they are brownish, with lighter colored bars on the front and spots on the back.  They have noticeable bright yellow eyes.  No other owls are commonly seen on the ground or so frequently during daylight hours.  As with many birds and creatures, Burrowing Owls are threatened or endangered in some areas due to loss of habitat as more open nesting areas are plowed under for development and agriculture.

 Burrowing Owl, via Cornell Lab of Ornithology (© Bob Gunderson, CA, Antioch, May 2011)

Burrowing Owl, via Cornell Lab of Ornithology (© Bob Gunderson, CA, Antioch, May 2011)

This half-pint owl has captured our hearts and will be featured in the first “Adventures of Little Red Bear” short story collection available soon. Red and I just couldn’t wait to tell you at least a little about him, and are sure you will recognize him when he enters the stories.

“Howdy!”

As always, thanks for reading and have a great day! – Jim (and Red!)

Burrowing Owls Group, Southern Variety

Burrowing Owls Group, Southern Variety