Ol’ T.C. has left the neighborhood. For his final issue he graciously gave me permission to use his column. Although quite lengthy, I hope you enjoy the story:
The Caribou and the mouse — An original fable written for narration by Jess Wade
There is a story told about a young and curious caribou who loved to play in the tall grass meadows and nearby forest of the great American northwest. One fine morning he decided to take a trip along an unfamiliar path. This trail was different because it went deep into the forest. He knew he might get thirsty, so he hung a small keg of fresh water around his neck. “It will be an adventure,” he thought and off he went.
The smooth, grassy path soon became rocky. The forest walls closed in and were lined with large rocks. Shielded from the sun, the trail narrowed and grew darker. The little caribou slowed, trying not to stumble. He looked hard at the path before him. His attention was no longer on the surrounding trees and dark, jagged rocks.
Suddenly, he was surrounded by a pack of angry wolves.
“What are you doing on our path,” growled the pack leader.
The wolves moved in closer. The frightened caribou lowered his head to defend himself but stumbled. He went to his knees and the wolves attacked; biting and clawing, leaving him for dead by the side of the trail.
It was hours later when a strong, sure-footed mule walked by. Seeing the caribou lying to one side, injured, and breathing slowly, the stubborn mule did not stop.
“This looks like a dangerous place,” he thought. “I can’t take a chance by helping that caribou.” He hurried along the trail without giving the situation a second thought.
Soon, a freedom loving snowshoe rabbit came hopping along without a care in the world. She too passed the poor caribou by. The rabbit would later say, “I didn’t stop to help because the caribou was so big. What could I do? Sure, I could see he needed help, but I’m just a little rabbit. And besides, I needed to get to the other side of the meadow…to the farmhouse where I have my burrow. And I was getting so hungry.”
The suffering caribou now lay very still. His breathing was louder and more labored than before. It was then that a little gray mouse scurried by. It was only the slow sound of the caribou’s desperate breathing that brought her to a sudden halt.
Whirling around, and using her loudest voice, the mouse squeaked, “What happened?”
“I see you are injured and badly hurt,” she exclaimed, not waiting for the caribou to reply. “I will help you,” she said.
With that, the mouse began to open the keg of water she found around the caribou’s neck. She quickly discovered the shell of a large walnut, filled it with water and gave the caribou a drink. Time and again, the mouse repeated this until the caribou stirred and opened his eyes.
“You are so small,” the caribou remarked, “and I am afraid of your kind. You move so fast, and I fear you will climb up my long legs and tickle my ears or nibble at my nose.”
The caribou paused. He was so severely injured. After a few minutes he was able to continue; using what little energy he could muster.
“I won’t be afraid. You are the only one to stop and give me water. Thank you, mouse.”
By this time, the mouse was busily cleaning the wounds and sores on the slowly breathing caribou. She scurried around tirelessly to be as useful as possible; knowing she would need help to move him to a safe place.
“We will need help to move from here,” the mouse confided. “Do you know anyone nearby?”
“A rabbit and a mule, but they did not stop to help,” replied the caribou with pain in his voice. “Perhaps they will help now.” Hearing this, the mouse ran as fast as her tiny legs would carry her. She was determined to find the rabbit and the mule.
Important time went by and, all alone, the caribou began to lose hope as darkness settled in. It was then, just like in a storybook, that the mouse, the rabbit, and the mule arrived. Together, they washed the blood away and bound the wounds to help the weakened caribou. Together, they fashioned a travois (a kind of sleigh) and encouraged the caribou aboard. Pulling the travois behind him, the mule followed the rabbit as she led the way to the nearby farmhouse where all was to be made well over time. The mouse returned to help again and again until the young caribou was strong and able to run and play in the tall grass meadows once again.
I ask you, which of these animals was the most useful and caring?
Was it the strong, sure-footed, mule?
Or, the freedom-loving, carefree rabbit?
Or was it the little gray mouse?
Moral: Even the individual, the smallest one of us, can be useful to others if only we are where the need is.
© 2020 Jess Wade