OUT IN THE DESERT

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

A fictional tale of wildlife in the desert

OUT IN THE DESERT

By John Ross Hart

 

The sun was rising as a desert mouse slowly emerged from his hole.He was just taking in the cool of the morning when a roadrunner flew by, spinning him back into the hole.

"Those roadrunners!," said the mouse in disgust."Can't they just watch where they're going?"

Gathering himself, the mouse looked around.He was looking for food, but keeping an eye out for snakes.Another mouse he knew, who had lived up the hill, was swallowed by a diamondback, a couple of weeks back.

Nothing but an old tortoise could be seen.As fast as the roadrunner moved, the tortoise was the opposite, slowly lumbering amongst the sand, gravel, and cholla.

"Hey tortoise!," shouted the mouse.  "Where are you going?"

The tortoise turned his head slowly, then just as slow responded to the question.

"I am looking for grass," he told the mouse."No flowers at this time of the year."

The tortoise continued on his way, passing more cholla, a barrel cactus, and some prickly pear cactus.The prickly pears were also out of season.

"I must eat!," said the mouse, and followed the tortoise down a slight ravine.Next to the sandy bottom, the tortoise found his grass and was eating contentedly.    Behind him, was a creosote bush with fallen seeds.For the mouse, this was a treat.

Up on the hill, the roadrunner was flying across the landscape.Behind him, a coyote was trying to keep up.The mouse had seen it all before.The coyote never catches the roadrunner.

Out of a nearby mesquite tree hopped a gray jackrabbit with a white tail.The mesquite tree was a popular hangout at this time of the year, and would be later on a hot summer afternoon.

A mother javelina, followed by three little ones, were trekking up the sandy wash.At the mesquite tree, they found hundreds of fallen pods. So, they ate what they could.

Hey pig!," shouted the mouse.

"How many times have I told you not to call me pig!," responded the javalina."You know I could eat you."

"Catch me if you can!," teased the mouse, scampering around the tree.Javelina knew she couldn't catch him.He was a brat.

A taranchula was working its way down the hill with a full belly and a smile.

"There's gnats on that hill and I got enough to make my day," he said.

"Any snakes?," asked the mouse.

"They're all over that hill," said the taranchula."I kept my distance and found those gnats behind an ironwood.Stay off the hill until it heats up.

"They won't bother me!," said the tortoise, who was ready to move on.

"They usually don't bother me either," said the javelina.She added, "I'm more worried about the coyotes."

"And the mountain lions!, added the jack rabbit, who had returned to the mesquite tree.

The tortoise began his walk up the hill to the sound of "take care" from the others.The javelina and her family decided to stay put under the mesquite tree.The sun was rising higher and they would need the shade soon enough.

"Anybody want to go scouting?, asked the jack rabbit.

"Already done that," said the taranchula.  "But go ahead."

"I better not," said the mouse.

"I'll be back soon!," said the jack rabbit, and went on his way.

The tortoise slowly worked his way up the hill.Passing a saguaro, a cactus wren called to him.

"Good morning, tortoise!," said the wren from his hole."What brings you this way?"

"Oh, just out for a walk," replied the tortoise.

"Good thing you're doing it now," said the wren."I can tell already it is going to be very hot today."

"Yes, that time of year," noted tortoise.

"By the way," questioned the wren, "have you seen chuckwalla?"

"Funny you should mention chuckwalla," said the tortoise slowly."I thought about him this morning.I haven't seen him in weeks!"

"Haven't seen who?, came a voice.

"Chuckwalla!"

"I've been around," said chuckwalla."Gotta' hide a lot.Too much danger in this desert."

"Yes!," said the wren. "Coyotes, mountain lions, ringtails, rattlesnakes, gila monsters, and I swear I saw a wolf the other night."

"I think I saw that wolf," said chuckwalla.  "There hasn't been a wolf around here in years."

"Something else to look out for," said the tortoise.

"The greatest threat is man," reminded the wren.

"Yes," said the tortoise, then proceeded his walk up the hill.

"I should stretch my wings!," said the wren, taking to the sky.

"Oh well," said chuckwalla."Go down to the wash and find some food.Then go find myself a nice nest."

Tortoise was determined to reach the top. Wren was flying above, keeping an eye on his friend.Lizards would pop out of the rocks, but just as quickly would scamper back.Tortoise slowly negotiated his way around the cholla, ocotillo, and various other cacti.At an ironwood plant, he stopped to snack on some leaves.Onward he walked.  Ahead, a rattlesnake crossed his path.Tortoise stopped and let the snake have its space.Then he continued on.

A pack of coyotes had taken a spot at the hill's summit.Tortoise would go no further and slowly turned around.A roadrunner had come up behind him and noting the same scene, also reversed his path.Wren continued flying to the top.The coyotes couldn't catch him.

It was afternoon by the time tortoise returned to the mesquite tree.But no one was there.It was very hot now.Tortoise decided to work his way up the wash to a nearby spring.Maybe his friends were there.

"Go back!Go back!," shouted a voice.It was jack rabbit."A pack of coyotes have invaded.I think they got one of the javalinas.Everyone has gone into hiding."

Tortoise wanted a drink from the spring, but knew he had to find cover as well.There was a rocky outcropping nearby, covered by a creosote.He could hide there.

As he settled amongst the rocks, he found turanchula.There was also a diamondback nearby but he was asleep.Jack rabbit hopped by.

"They're still at the spring, drinking the water and feasting upon their capture.Not sure where momma javelina went.Mouse went back to his hole.  Chuckwalla is hidden somewhere."

Suddenly, there came a sound of footsteps amongst the bushes.

"Man!," cried tortoise, and retreated into his shell.

"No, no!," said the jack rabbit."It's a ranger!  He is a good man!"

The ranger said "Hello" to the rabbit, then surveyed the scene.Walking over to mesquite, he stopped then knelt down.

"Coyote tracks!," exclaimed the ranger."A pack of them.Did you see them, rabbit?"

Rabbit did not understand human language, but bounded up the wash as if to lead.

The ranger followed.The tracks were very obvious in the wash.Rabbit stopped as the wash took a sharp bend.The ranger went on and came upon the spring.

The coyotes had devoured the young javelina and were lounging next to the small lake.

"Coyote!," shouted the ranger in a loud and angry voice.The party was over.They fled for their lives back up the hill.  They knew the ranger carried a gun and wasn't afraid to use it.

Rabbit hopped out of hiding.He took a drink from the cool spring lake and wagged his white tail as his way of saying "Thanks."

"Don't mention it!," responded the ranger."Looks like I better head up the hill and take a look.You should be safe now."

Cactus wren had seen everything from above.He made a sound of joy.The other creatures knew they could come out.

Chuckwalla was the first to arrive.Tortoise slowly followed, taking advantage of the grass along the lake.Soon, mouse arrived along with a party of small lizards.  Everybody took the opportunity to drink the sweet water from the spring.

"But where is javelina?," asked the mouse.

"She lost one of her babes to the coyotes," responded the jack rabbit.

"No!," cried the mouse."Where is she now?"

"Hidden somewhere and crying," said jack rabbit."There is nothing we can do."

As the creatures refreshed themselves, there was a deadly silence.Everyone was sad for javelina.Finally, the wren spoke.

"Life is hard here.The days can be so hot.  The nights can be so cold.The thunder and lightening is frightening.There are creatures than can kill us.Unless he's a ranger, man is our biggest threat.Were it not for the food of the plants and trees, plus the water of this spring, we would never make it."

Everyone nodded in agreement.Wren was right and they knew it.But each creature agreed they wouldn't want to be anyplace else.

Just then, javelina and her two remaining babies came out of the bushes and approached the spring.All of the other creatures respectfully gave her and her family room to quietly get a drink.  Afterwards, everybody gathered around to give support.

"I am crying for the loss of my baby," said javelina."But I am comforted by your support and friendship."

"We share this land together," said tortoise."We are all for one and one for all."

"Yes, one for all!," said mouse.

"One for all!," said jack rabbit.

"Yes, one for all," smiled javelina."Where would be without each other?"

"I don't know about you," said chuckwalla.  "But it's awfully hot out here!"

"Yes, it is!," said jack rabbit."I say we retire to the mesquite tree."

"I'm in favor of that!," said mouse."I'll lead the way."

So the mouse, the jack rabbit, the tortoise, the chuckwalla, the javelina and her family, plus the cactus wren, all headed down the wash to their favorite tree.    Taranchula was already there.

And so they all enjoyed a cool, quiet afternoon in the harsh land of the desert.

###

 

 


Submitted: December 04, 2020

© Copyright 2021 John Ross Hart. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Ann Sepino

As someone who is fond of wild animals, this was a treat to read. Somehow, I imagined the story playing out like a mix of Looney Tunes and Zootopia, lol. Poor Javelina though. It was their unlucky day, unfortunately.

Thank you for writing and posting this here. :)

Sat, December 5th, 2020 11:49am

GilbertZenner

intriguing and funny and insightful story of wild-life. very well written

Tue, July 20th, 2021 9:02pm

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