Jake’s Big Decision #5
Winter in the cave was wonderful. When the bears were sleeping, Jake spent a lot of time telling and retelling his family about his adventure at the human’s farm. When the bear family was awake they enjoyed Papa bears story about his encounter with the human’s one hunting season. All the children liked the part of his story when he rose up on his hind legs and scared off all the human men and their yapping little dog. Skipper and Sissy were getting a picture of fear of the humans and of their fathers’ safety in the human’s cage.
It didn’t seem long this year until Papa bear woke and told everyone it was time to leave the cave. Saying goodbye to Skipper and Sissy was very hard but it was time for them to start a new life. Once again the bears walked Hattie and Jake back to the hollow tree and again they found it empty. Jake and Hattie would be alone now, but the bear family and the children promised to return soon for a mid summer reunion.
Jake took Hattie for short walks along the river. Mostly they stayed close to the hollow tree. They were getting old now. Jake was not looking forward to winter but he hoped they would be invited back to the cave. Digging a winter home would be very difficult for him now.
Summer was usually wonderful. Food was plentiful and fresh greens were especially tasty. But this year, Hattie was finding the chore of picking the daily meal almost too much for her. Skipper and Sissy came home several times that summer. With them came their new mates and a lot of excitement. Jake was especially glad to see them after missing one entire winter of their lives. The Bears also stopped by to visit one day. As in the past, they invited the rabbits to join them in the cave for the winter. The younger bear was not yet ready to leave home like the bunnies had, so he would also spend the winter in the cave again. He had grown this summer and was almost the same size as his mother.
Soon the berries were gone from the bushes and leaves started to fall off the trees. It was time to go back to the cave for the winter. As Jake watched his wife struggle to provide meals each day, he thought ahead for the next year to come, the next summer when they would be even older. He had an idea, one that he wasn’t sure Hattie would like. He had put off talking to her about it long enough. Now it was time.
One afternoon when they were sitting by the river enjoying the smell of honeysuckle, he told Hattie that he had been thinking a lot about old Ben and the human’s farm. He now realized why Ben didn’t mind his freedom being taken away. He was happy and well cared for by the human children. Jake told Hattie he feared they wouldn’t be able to care for themselves by next summer. He thought it might not be so bad living on the human’s farm.
Hattie was certainly surprised by Jakes’ suggestion! Of course, she hadn’t seen the farm or the kind way Ben had been treated. She only had fear to judge the suggestion with. Jake didn’t mention it again. He allowed Hattie to think about it. He did remind her of all the things they had learned about fear and how they had been wrong.
One morning Hattie surprised Jake. She was ready to head to the farm. She was ready to be caged up and taken care of by the human children. It was a sunny day. She didn’t want to face traveling in the rain and mud like Jake had. It was time to leave the hollow tree.
They had all day to make it to the farm. They stopped often to rest, finding a bush or log to hide in. Soon Jake saw the fence to the pasture and the roof of the barn off in a distance. Since it was late in the day, the cows had already been taken to the barn so making it across the pasture would be easy. The door to the barn was standing open so they hopped in and hid behind the hay. After filling themselves with the fresh hay, they both fell fast asleep.
When Jake woke up it was already starting to get light outside. He began to look for the trap. Hattie followed close behind. As he turned into the horses stable, there it was with a juicy red apple sitting inside. Jake entered the cage half way, keeping the door from snapping shut. Once Hattie was inside, he hopped the rest of the way in. The door closed with a snap. This time he wasn’t shaking. He and Hattie enjoyed every bit of the apple.
Just as Jake had promised, the barn door opened and in came the human children. They had grown but they were just as excited as Jake remembered when they saw the trap filled with two rabbits.
The human father carried the trap out to the cage that Jake had once occupied. He gently tilted it until Hattie and Jake had slid into their new home. Soon the children had filled the cage with a water bottle and fresh food, just as they had before. When all the excitement was over, old Ben poked his head out of his hole. He was very surprised to see Jake. Hattie hopped in and out of the box several times getting use to it, nibbled at the food and enjoyed listening to Jake telling the story to Ben.
Winter set in quickly. Hattie was happy with her new home and the human children coming to visit each day. They were warm and safe. They didn’t have to worry about taking care of themselves anymore. They had exchanged their freedom for the comfort the humans gave and the company of old Ben.