Rabbit Adventures #1
A lesson for Hattie
Hattie & Jake had spent the spring & summer living in the hollow of a tree along the rivers edge. Each day they had taken the baby bunnies for a walk, teaching them about life and showing them things of beauty around the forest.
Jake knew he should leave his family and search for a place to dig a winter home in the ground before it froze but each day was such a happy time seeing his family grow that he kept putting off the task. The hollow of the tree had made a good home but with winter coming he knew they had to go below the surface of the ground or they would freeze.
One morning Hattie became alarmed when she poked her head out of the tree and saw the first signs of a winter frost. As she stepped out on the once warm and soft leaves they crunched beneath her feet from the spray of the first frost. As soon as the sun peeked out she sent Jake on his way, reminding him that time had passed and it was now an emergency to dig a hole in a safe place.
Each time Jake found a safe place and began to dig, out would pop an angry animal barking at Jake to move on because this spot was taken. This would be a harder job then he had expected it would be.
Each morning seemed to get a little colder. Hattie huddled in the center of the tree stump with her babies, keeping them warm beneath her furry arms. Soon the winter winds began to blow and she saw swirling snow start to fall.
One morning she heard the sounds of the humans’ guns in a distance. It was hunting season. She knew this meant that winter was upon them. There was no sign of Jake’s return. A few more days passed. She heard the squirrels talking about storing acorns for their winter supply. The blue jays squawked about a storm that was approaching. Hearing this Hattie knew she couldn’t wait for Jake any longer. Her heart was heavy with worry about Jake, but now she had to find a place to protect her children.
She remembered seeing caves in the side of the mountain on one of their summer walks. Jake had warned to stay away from them because Mr. Snake and his relatives had made the cave their summer home. Hattie knew the snake families would also have gone underground for the winter and right now, the caves seemed like the only place she might find warmth enough for her babies to survive the winter storms.
It seemed much farther, maybe because she was carrying the babies and was slowed by the deep tree leaves that had blown off the trees in the night wind. By the time she reached the mountain the sun was going down. She had to hurry and find an opening or they would be caught outside with only bare bushes for protection.
She felt her way around the side of the mountain until she came to an opening. As she entered she could still feel the wind so she slowly went deeper into the rock until she finally felt some warmth and her fur was no longer being blown away from her face. She could see the roots of trees growing through the stone. She hurried and broke off some roots, feeding the children and tucking them under her body for a night of rest. She felt relieved that she was protecting them but saddened when she thought of Jake, not knowing what had happened to him or where he might be.
Hattie had just drifted off to sleep when she was awakened by a gruff sound that bounced off the walls of the cave. She knew that sound had come from another animal but wasn’t sure what kind. It was over powering so she knew it had come from an animal much larger then herself. All of a sudden the peace she had felt was gone and now she shivered against the rock in terrible fear. She wanted to grab up her babies and leave but she knew taking them out in the night was no safer. The cold wind could mean an end for them. She decided to wait until morning and sneak out of the cave.
It was a long night. Hattie was near exhaustion when a hint of light entered the cave. She quickly woke the bunnies sending fear into them so they wouldn’t make a sound. They quietly made their way back to the entrance of the cave. To Hattie’s horror the entrance was blocked with snow. It was good, providing water for them but it was also bad, trapping them inside with the owner of the gruff voice. The bunnies began to shiver. It was much too cold to stay at the cave entrance. They would have to work their way back into the cave. She warned the babies about making any noise.
Days passed. They would make trips to the snow wall for water and a place to eat the roots torn from the mountain sides and then return to the belly of the cave, hiding as best they could. Often the gruff sound of what lurked farther inside the cave would ring out against the rocks.
As the days passed Hattie’s short naps were catching up to her. She was having trouble staying awake. One night warmth came over her. She hadn’t felt that warm since the days of summer when they were all happy and playing by the river’s edge. With those happy thoughts she drifted off into a deep sleep. She woke up feeling so rested at last. She reached out to feel for her babies and was startled to feel her hand touch a bristly fur instead of the soft down of her bunnies. She fearfully opened her eyes. She couldn’t make out what she was seeing all cuddled up against her babies. It was larger then a raccoon or opossum. Oh NO! This could only mean one thing. She had moved into the den of a bear family!
There were some neighbor’s that you could ignore and be safe, some that you could be friendly with and many who you knew to avoid. Bears were something Hattie had been taught to fear. Just their size alone was trouble but everyone knew that bears were vicious. One swat of a paw would flatten a bunny.
She carefully tried to move her babies away from the belly of the bear but just as she did the eyes of the animal sprung open. She froze with fear. She knew this was the end. She hid her children behind her and waited for her fate. The big fellow sat up casting his shadow over her. He stretched and yawned and let out a growl. This was not the gruff sound that Hattie had heard in the past. It was much smaller telling her that this fellow was not alone. The fear was too much for her. She passed out, hearing and seeing nothing.
Hattie slowly began to come around. She heard the voices of her children and felt the coolness of wet leaves on her head. Was she gone and this was just a dream? She was almost afraid to open her eyes. Slowly she peeked through her eyelashes. She saw the pointy snout and beady eyes of Mrs. Bear looking at her. She smelled pine coming from the soft bed of pine needles she was laying on. She heard the happy voices of children playing.
Mama bear’s paw was bigger then Hattie’s entire body. She gently removed the wet leaves from Hattie’s head and whispered to her to wake up. Hattie jumped from the pine needle bed, grabbing her babies and backed herself up against the wall, once again shaking uncontrollably. Mother bear was shocked and then realized that Hattie was reacting to what she had been taught.
“You are free to leave”, said mother bear. “Your fear comes from what you have been told or what you have heard”, she said. There is a river that runs through the mountain. Papa has gone to fish for our breakfast. He is bringing back greens that grow in the water for your family. We will sleep for most of the winter. You are welcome to stay and be safe from the winter cold.
Soon Hattie’s fear lifted. They enjoyed their meal together. Hattie shared her worries about Jake and how they came to have no winter home. Soon the bear family was sleeping again. Hattie and the babies spent the winter safely in the cave. This would be a new teaching for her bunnies. They would not fear size alone or the difference in appearance. Hattie settled into her winter home with the bear family waiting for spring and the hope of finding Jake.
Rabbit Adventures #2