TITLE: Something to Keep Forever March 13, 2019
By Marlene Custer
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“Hurry up, Grandpa,” teased six-year-old Joshua as he skipped down the pathway towards the woods. Joshua had looked forward to this day for weeks. He was spending the day with Grandpa at one of Joshua’s favorite places.....Deer Creek Woods.
Grandpa laughed. “I’m coming as fast as these old legs can move.”
Joshua waited for him to catch up, then they headed into the woods together. As the newly fallen leaves crunched beneath their feet Joshua talked excitedly. “I hope I find something I can add to my collection of Favorite Things.”
Grandpa chuckled. “That shouldn’t be hard. The woods is full of interesting things.”
Suddenly, Joshua froze. His voice was hardly a whisper, “What is that noise, Grandpa?”
Grandpa listened, then a big smile crinkled his face. He pointed to the trunk of an old oak tree. “It’s a tree toad.”
Joshua stepped in closer. “It’s hard to see.”
“Yes,” answered Grandpa. “They change color to match whatever they are resting on. They spend most of their time searching for insects to eat.”
Joshua watched the toad’s throat swell into a huge bubble as it made its peeping sound. He stretched out his hand to touch it, but the toad quickly hopped out of reach.
Now alert to the sounds around him, Joshua’s eyes darted from one side of the path to the other. Suddenly off to the side of the path a little critter poked its brown furry head up through the leaves. Joshua stopped, “Is that a mouse?”
“It is a chipmunk,” explained Grandpa. “These animals dig burrows underground with their long nails. They carry the soil away from the opening of their tunnels so they are not easily seen.”
Joshua listened, keeping his eyes on the animal. Maybe he could catch a chipmunk. But when he stepped carefully toward it, it scurried out of sight. Joshua searched and searched but could not find the little critter or its home.
Disappointed, Joshua took Grandpa’s hand and continued down the path. A few minutes later Grandpa pointed to a dried-up creek bed just ahead. “There is a perfect place to look for arrowheads.”
“Wow,” exclaimed Joshua. “Are there Indians in these woods?”
Grandpa rubbed his jaw. “Well.....not today. But not too many years ago an Indian tribe made its home right here in these woods.”
“Wow! An arrowhead would be something I could keep forever. And it wouldn’t scamper away and hide.” As they poked around the loose stones, Joshua asked, “Do you think kids my age got to hunt for food and use bows and arrows? That would be awesome!”
While Joshua and Grandpa searched, the sun inched higher in the sky. Joshua’s growling stomach told him it was getting close to lunch time. But neither he nor Grandpa had found a real arrowhead yet.
“This must not be our lucky day,” suggested Grandpa, “unless you like Grandma’s special chicken sandwiches and chocolate fudge cupcakes.”
Joshua was just licking the last of the chocolate fudge icing off of his lips when he saw something. He gently touched grandpa’s shoulder. “Look over by that fallen tree,” Joshua whispered. “A baby deer.” The two sat silently, scarcely breathing. The white-spotted deer turned and looked at them with its large brown eyes, then turned quickly on its slender legs to run swiftly back to its mother.
Joshua and Grandpa watched the two animals bound deeper into the woods, then they carefully picked up every scrap of litter and zipped it in to their backpack. Trudging back to the car they talked about all the things they had seen. Joshua was grinning from ear to ear as he climbed into the car.
When the car stopped in Joshua’s driveway he jumped out and raced into the house. “Mom, Mom,” he shouted. “Guess what we saw today?”
The words seemed to tumble from Joshua’s mouth. “We saw a tree toad and a little chipmunk, and we looked for arrowheads. Grandpa said an Indian tribe lived in those woods a long time ago. And when we were finishing lunch, we saw a baby deer and its mother.” When Joshua stopped to catch his breath, a trace of disappointment crept into his voice. “I really wanted to find something to keep forever, but I didn’t,” he finished with a sigh.
Mother gave him a warm hug. “Well, I think you have had a wonderful day. You can tell us more when we have dinner.”
Joshua pulled away from his mother and looked into her eyes. “I do have something I can keep,” he said excitedly. Placing his hands over his heart, he said, “I have lots of good memories. And I can keep them forever.”
*World Book Encyclopedia, World Book, Inc., Chicago, 1996
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