A Turtle Tale

A Turtle Tale

BY: PAUL J. ROBERTS

Once upon a time, there was a family of turtles who lived near the Illinois River. The river provides the family with a wide variety of tasty foods. Plenty of tender, water bugs, tasty crickets and earthworms keep the family supplied with food all year around.

For many years the turtles had made the river their home. The turtles want for nothing and life for the family is good in every way.

There are twenty-five turtle children in all, ten boy turtles and fifteen girl turtles. Turtles have incredibly large families.

The children are very active during the day, swimming and splashing in the river water from dawn until dusk. And after a full day of non-stop playing and swimming around in the cool, river water, they share in feasts of plump, juicy crickets. Crickets are their favorite.

The town of Siloam is two miles east of the river’s shores. When the weather is warm, people from town like to visit the river. But turtles will usually keep themselves hidden when they see people. Turtles are usually quite shy, especially around strangers.

There is one little turtle that isn’t shy at all. He is the youngest of his twenty-four brothers and sisters. He loves to be picked-up and handled by the river-visiting people. He likes to pretend that he is flying through the air while nestled in the palm of a human hand. He isn’t afraid at all. His name is Hardy. Hardy’s brothers and sisters are amazed that He dares to take such chances. After all, these people are strangers to Hardy.

Hardy likes to brag to his brothers about his bold, high-flying adventures. His sisters shriek with excitement as he recalls for them every last detail of his high flying adventures. The young boy turtles can hardly believe that Hardy would dare to be so brave. The older brothers and sisters couldn’t make Hardy understand that he shouldn’t be quite so trusting, because of the harm that might come to him. Hardy just won’t hear of it. After all, nothing bad had ever happened to him.

Hardy’s mother worries that Hardy’s ideas of fun and excitement could one day get him into a lot of trouble. His father has warned him again and again of the danger he puts himself in for the sake of seeking thrills. Hardy just won’t listen.

Then, one day a storm caused the whole sky to turn black as night. Thunder began to roll and flashes of lightning streaked across the horizon of the river valley.

Hardy’s father called out to his children, warning them that a storm was about to hit. One by one the turtle children swam to the river’s outer bank to join their anxiously awaiting parents. And after counting the heads of those who had safely reached the shore, Father turtle began to panic. One was missing! “Where are you Hardy, “ he called? By then the rain was coming down so hard that the Father turtle could hardly see what was in front of him.

Hardy was on his own, there was nothing more that anyone could do for him until the storm had passed and the rains stopped. The whole family feared the worst.

The father turtle tried to remember a time when he had ever felt so helpless. There wasn’t a time that he could remember. Even though he was terribly worried about the safety of his son, he wasn’t going to give up.

“Hardy, where are you,” his mother cried? Just then the wind began to blow even harder. Sticks and leaves swirled in the air above her as she peeked from the safety of her shell.

In the moments that followed, Father turtle made the decision to try one last time to
find his son. He was determined to find the little turtle. He knew he had to try.

“Now listen to me, every one of you,” Father turtle commanded! The whole family gave him their full attention. “Get out of the water; Climb the bank, and go into the field,” he cried! “Now go; Go before it’s too late!” “Go, I
tell you!” “Stay there until I come for you.” “Hurry, I say!” “Hurry!”

It wasn’t until father turtle crawled to the river’s edge that he realized how unlikely it was that any of them would ever see Hardy again. The churning, surging, swoosh of the river’s current had become much too strong for any turtle to try and swim. It would be foolish to even try. The water was moving much too fast.

Sadly, father turtle would return to his family with a broken heart and without Hardy. It seemed that Hardy was gone forever.

At a slow turtles pace, the poor, distraught, Father turtle made his way back to the field where he was met by the rest of his family. It was there that they had all gathered close to hear what their Father had to say. But just as Father turtle was about to tell them the sad news concerning Hardy, Mother turtle shrieked with excitement.

“Look, “ cried Mother turtle! “There goes Hardy; He’s alive!”

“Look at him go;” “Hang on Hardy; Hang on,” his brothers yelled!
Hardy was having the ride of his life. The churning, river water rushed past him as he held tight to the log on which he rode.

“Look at me; look at me go,” he squealed! Hardy was laughing so hard he nearly lost his balance and fell into the water. He was having so much fun that he didn’t even realize how far down the river he’d gone. The little turtle forgot all about the storm. He was so excited by the thrill of the wild river ride that he couldn’t think of anything else.

“Faster, faster,” he said, as the little turtle sped down the winding river! And faster he went. He raced along the river so fast that the force of the churning water caused him to slide back and forth, from one side of the log to the other. At one point he had to bite down on the log just to hold on.

The river’s stream slowed to a much more gentle pace as the little turtle made his way down and around the next bend. He was glad too. He’d grown tired from the wild ride and wasn’t sure for how much longer he could hold on.

Hardy could feel his eyelids growing heavy as he drifted along in gentle, slow rolling, river stream. It wasn’t long until the little turtle had fallen fast asleep.

By the time Hardy woke from his nap the storm had completely passed. The once gushing river had slowed to a lazy stream. Bright yellow rays of warm sunshine filled the sky above him.

But something was wrong. Everything around him looked so different, so strange. “Where could he be,” he wondered? He had no idea how long he’d been asleep nor how far down stream he had traveled.

From a distance he began to hear a familiar chatter. “Why yes,” he thought. The chit-chat-chattering sounds were the voices of other turtles. He couldn’t see them, but he could hear them.

“Where were they,” he asked himself? He looked high, then low, from left to right, until finally he spotted one of them.

“Hey, look at me—over here,” Hardy shouted! And to his surprise he saw a dozen or more turtleheads, not unlike his own, stretching their necks to see him as he continued to float right past them. Most of them paid Hardy no attention at all, but some of the really young ones clapped and cheered as Hardy drifted past them.

“What fun,” one of the younger turtles said to another!

“Catch me if you can,” Hardy teased them! But by the time the little turtles waddled from the shore and into the water, Hardy was almost out of sight.

As day turned into night, the river valley was filled with sounds of nature. It was music to Hardy’s tiny, turtle ears. Hundreds upon hundreds of little, green, tree frogs were joined in song, each trying to out sing the other. In the trees, high above the riverbed, birds of all kinds sang melodies of their own making. The steady peck, peck, pecking of the mite-eating woodpecker hammered along in unison with all the others. It was the kind of music that Hardy had grown to love.

The cool, night air was causing him to shiver. Normally, by this time of the night Hardy would be warm and tucked cozily inside of the nest that his father and mother had prepared for him and his other brothers and sisters. Not on this night though, and what made these circumstances even more unsettling was the fact that Hardy had never ever been alone before, especially at night.

“Oh how I wished that I had stayed with the others,” he thought to himself. “If only he could turn the hands of time backwards, I would. ” The haunting echo of his father’s voice warning him played over and over in Hardy’s mind. It was almost more than he could bear. “If only I had listened to father,” he thought. A tear fell from his tiny, turtle eye and dropped into river. After saying his prayers Hardy tucked his head deep inside his shell and fell fast asleep. “If only…” Hardy’s own words seemed to echo in his mind as he drifted off to sleep and down the river.

When Hardy awakened the next morning he felt alert and rested. He stretched and stretched as the warm sunshine covered him like a soft blanket.

“Good morning,” croaked the sound of a deep voiced stranger. Hardy’s eyes, still half closed, opened wide as could be when he turned to look behind him. Hardy was no longer alone on the floating log. Behind him sat a huge, green, bullfrog! Why, it was more than twice the size of Hardy.

“Yikes,” Hardy cried out as he went tumbling off the log and into the river!

“You’re not exactly what I had in mind for breakfast, little turtle.” So don’t worry, I mean you no harm.” The big, bullfrog then laughed so hard he almost fell into the water himself.

“Br-r-r-r,” Hardy shivered as crawled from out of the cold river and took his place back onto the log from which he fell.

“There, there, are you better now,” the frog asked Hardy as he helped him out of the
water?

“I’m fine,” Hardy replied

“My name is Zip,” said the frog to Hardy. “I’ve never seen turtles around here before; are you lost,” Zip asked?

“I’m not lost,” Hardy answered. “I came down the river on this log.”

“Ah, I see,” Zip said. “Intentionally,” he asked?

“Well, sort of,” Hardy answered.

“Uh-huh, well, what about your family; Do they know where you are,” Zip pressed on?

“I’m afraid not,” Hardy answered.

“They must be very worried; what are you going to do, “ Zip wanted to know?

“I really haven’t thought much about that,” Hardy replied.

“Well maybe you should start,” Zip said to him as he scolded him. “You should know that you are one lucky, little, turtle.” Why you could have been an owls midnight snack easier that you might have imagined,” he went on to lecture Hardy!

“I suppose you are right Zip.” “I really hadn’t thought too much about that either,”
Hardy admitted to the bull frog.

“Have you any idea how far from home you are, little turtle,” Zip asked?

“No, I don’t.” Hardy answered him.

“So I don’t imagine that you’ve given much thought to how you will get back home either!” “Well, have you,” Zip asked him?

“Well, no, not really,” Hardy answered him meekly. Poor hardy was at a loss for words. He began to realize for the first time how foolish this adventure had proven to be.

“Now don’t you worry little turtle; keep your chin up.” “Are you hungry; you must be?” “I know all the best places for food, come along, I’ll show you.”
Afterwards, Zip and Hardy relaxed in the warmth of the mid-morning sun. Hardy would have liked to forgotten about all his problems, but he couldn’t. Besides, he realized that forgetting about what he had done wasn’t going to make his problems go away. He knew he had to first admit that his problems were his own making. His mother and father had been right to worry about him, His brothers and sisters too. They had been right and he had been wrong, but none of that seemed to make any difference now.

Zip and Hardy became friends that afternoon. Zip would do what he could to help his new friend in any way he knew how, but knowing exactly what to do was going to take some thought.

Now Zip had many years of river, life-experiences. He had lost many of his own brothers and sisters, even his mother. All of them just disappeared one day, without a trace. He couldn’t let that happen again to someone he cared about, not if he could help it.

For the next hour Zip shared with Hardy story after story about critters, both large and small, who became lost in the river valley, never to be seen or heard from again. Zip believed that he had a duty to make Hardy understand how dangerous life could be for a young and unsuspecting turtle.

“”Zip was right,” Hardy finally decided, about everything. His new friend had helped him understand that his parents, his brothers and sisters, really did love him. No one was trying to spoil his fun, as he’d once thought. He realized now, that they’d been right to worry.

It had been a whole day since Hardy had last seen his family. He was missing them terribly and wondering if they were missing him too. Or had they given up on the idea of ever seeing him again?

“Zip, “ the little turtle whispered?

“Yes Hardy,” the frog answered him

“What am I going to do?” “I’m a turtle.” “It would take weeks, months, even years, for a turtle, small and slow as I am, to get back home.”

“Yes, yes indeed it would take a long time to travel such a distance—on your own,” the frog said to Hardy. “Maybe you could grow wings and fly home,” Zip offered.

“Did you say fly,” Hardy asked?

“Why, yes; yes I did,” Zip said to the now very confused turtle. “See, there’s nothing wrong with your hearing at all; you hear very well for someone with such teeny, tiny ears.”

“Hey, wait a minute; I’m a turtle, not a bird; I can’t grow wings; turtles can’t fly,” Hardy cried out! “What are you, some kind of wise guy?”

“Oh my, yes, well, I guess you are right, turtles can’t fly,” the frog said. “We’ll just have to think of another way, won’t we,” Zip said to Hardy? “I know, I know, you could swing like a monkey, from tree to tree, or maybe you could hitch a ride with a turtle-friendly hawk, then you could….”

“Very funny, Zip!” “Very funny, Hardy cried!” “I’m not a bird; I’m not a monkey and you and I both know that hawks are not turtle-friendly!” “What are you thinking, Zip; are you trying to get me eaten alive?”

“What am I thinking; what AM I thinking?” “What were YOU thinking as you bobbled, without a worry in the world down, down, down the river,” Zip scolded the little turtle! “I’d say that it was you, YOU are the one who wasn’t thinking!” “Am I right or am I wrong?” “Would somebody PLEASE TELL ME?”

“I guess so,” Hardy barely spoke a word.

“WHAT, I CAN NOT HEAR YOU,” Zip cried out loud enough for every river dwelling creature within a mile to have heard him!”

“You’re right, already, I said…what I mean is, I’m sorry Zip; you are right.” “I should have thought a lot more about what I was doing,” Hardy apologized.

“Oh well then, all right; all right.” “Maybe we can put our heads together and figure all this out.” “Let’s see—I know, I’ve got it!” “What we need here is a paddle.” “Right now, little turtle, you are down the creek without a paddle.” “We need to get you ON a paddle and UP the creek!” Zip was so excited he could hardly contain himself.

“Huh,” was all that Hardy could get out. He was very confused. “Down the creek, up the creek, a paddle,” he wondered?

“Here’s what we’re going to do; we’re going to find Chipper!”

“Who?” “Whose Chipper,” Hardy asked Zip?

“Chipper’s our paddle, well…your paddle, anyway,” zip answered him.

“Why do I need a paddle,” Hardy asked nervously?

“Why?” “You want to go home don’t you,” Zip asked Hardy

“Oh yes, more than anything,” the little turtle cried.

“Well, all right then; Let’s go.”

“You mean you actually know a paddle and it has a name,” Hardy pressed on with his questions to Zip.
Hardy had never seen a paddle before. He didn’t even know what one looked like.

“No, of course not, but I know Chipper and he has a paddle.”

“Huh,” Hardy couldn’t have been more confused.”

“Chipper is a beaver,” Zip finally explained to Hardy. “And Chipper has a paddle.”

“Oh Zip, what a great idea!” “Do you think he will do it?” “Do you think he will really help me?”

“I do,” said the frog to the turtle enthusiastically; “I do!” “Come on now, let’s go find Chipper; I’ve got to get you on your way before you drive me hip-hopping-mad-crazy!”

“There he is now!” “Good-day Chipper; how are you on such a fine, fine day,” Zip asked as he and Hardy walked toward the very large beaver?

“What are you up to, ZIPPER-HEAD; you are much too chum-chum-chummy to be wanting nothing?” “What is it, what gives, and who’s the little oyster on-the-half-shell,” Chipper rattled on?

“Look Chipper, we’re in kind-of-a-pickle and we need your help,” Zip said to Chipper.

“So, what’s new; last time I saw you, you were about two hops shy of a hungry, fox’s
lunch,” Chipper inquired of Zip?

“Yes, well, it’s nice to see you too, Chipper,” Zip replied. “It seems my little friend took the wrong log, going in the wrong direction,” Zip explained.

“What’s that got to do with me?” “So, now I’m in charge of the Illinois River’s lost and found; I don’t think so,” Chipper said boastfully. “Besides, this river only runs in one direction—downstream; what do you take me for, some kind of numb-skull?”

“No, of course not, but you see: Hardy, here, decided to take a ride down the river during yesterdays storm.” “He thought it would be fun and exciting,” Zip explained.

“Hmm, sounds to me like half-shell should have thought longer and decided differently.”

“Yes, I believe we’ve reached the same conclusion,” Zip agreed with Chipper.

“And, we’ve been through what caused this problem, but that’s not why we’re here; we’re here because…”

“Did I ever tell you about Seymour—the muskrat,” Chipper cut Zip off?

“Well, no, I don’t think you ever did,” Zip replied.

“Seymour; now that was one lucky muskrat!” “Let me tell you about Seymour,” Chipper continued. “Seymour was sitting along the river bank, just a bit further down-stream from where we are now.” “It was broad day-light, mind you, BROAD DAY-LIGHT, I say!” “Everyone knows muskrats don’t go out in BROAD DAY-LIGHT,” Chipper said as he raised his arms and pointed to the bright, yellow, sun—high in the sky. “And that Seymour, he had been warned over and over about the harm that could come to him if he kept going out during the day,” Chipper clamored on.

“Then, one morning, just as Seymour was finishing his last drink of water, Bellows, you know Bellows, don’t you Zip,” Chipper asked?

“Know him, you mean Bellows the Hawk,” Zip asked?

“That’s him!” “Anyway,” Zip went on, “Bellows came swooping down from the sky and snatched that little muskrat right from where he sat and into the air he went, taking Seymour with him, straight up into the sky they both went flying!” “It looked as though it was all over for poor Seymour, and there wasn’t a thing anyone could do for him.”

“Seymour struggled and fought to break free of the hawks mighty hold on his neck.”
“Finally, would you believe that Bellows actually dropped that little muskrat right into the river!” “Seymour got away; he actually got away!”

“Your kidding,” Hardy said, amazed by what he had just heard!

“Nope, I’m not kidding,” Chipper, said. “Getting wet was the worst thing that happened to Seymour—that day; he was a very lucky muskrat for Bellows had never been known to miss his prey, and he has never been known to drop anything that he’d ever caught, not ever” “But he did that day,” Chipper went on to say.

“So what ever happened to Seymour,” the inquisitive little turtle wanted to know?

“Bellows got him—the very next day; he found him sitting by the river in the broad day-light, sitting in almost the same spot as he was sitting in the day before.” “Only this time, Bellows caught the little fellow and he didn’t drop him either.” “Poor little Seymour was never heard from or seen again,” Chipper answered him.

“How could Seymour not know that Bellows wouldn’t try and catch him again,” Hardy asked in disbelief?

“No one really knows.” “That’s a question many of us had,” Chipper said to Hardy.
“He had been warned many times, and we all thought that he would have learned his lesson, since he almost became Bellow’s breakfast just the day before.” “Seymour got away from Bellows once, but just once,” Chipper finished the sad tale of Seymour the muskrat.

“Now, back to you, ya’ scrawny, little, river urchin, what’s your story”? “Try to break my heart—go ahead and try,” Chipper said Hardy, who was still thinking about Seymour.

“Well, sir, Mr. Chipper, sir, you see, I was thinking that I would… well… that I might… and then the rain came… and well, sir…” Hardy stammered for every word.

“I’m an old beaver, half-shell; I’m not getting any younger listening to this story either; get to the point—will you,” Chipper scolded the young turtle!

“Zip, I don’t think this is such a good idea; clearly Mr. Chipper doesn’t have the time to be bothered by me, and, I don’t know, Zip…” Hardy babbled.

“Look Chipper,” Zip said to the beaver as he cut Hardy off, “the kid-turtle needs your help; now are you going to help or not; if not we’ll just be on our way!

“Don’t rush me,” chipper lashed out!” “I think about the things I do, see?” “I don’t just hop, pop, hip-pity, hop into a wild dog’s den without first coming up with some sort of plan—unlike some I know.” “But I won’t mention any names, you slimy, fly
eating, zipper-headed amphibian,” Chipper murmured under his breath.” “So don’t rush me; got it,” Chipper crooned? “Then IF, IF I say yes, then that’s what I mean, see?” “And IF, IF I say NO, then NO it is, GET IT?” “But in any case, I THINK, THINK, THINK, about what I do.” “My YESES mean YES and NO means NO.” “GET IT; GOT IT; GOOD!” Maybe half-shell there should think about taking some of my advice and…”

“Stop calling me half-shell,” Hardy said to the old beaver! “My name is Hardy; I’m no oyster, I’m a turtle!”

“Oh, I see that you are, a snapping turtle—no doubt,” Chipper replied. He was both amused and surprised that the little turtle had stood up to him.

“Chipper, Chipper, Chipper, that’s wonderful advice,” Zip said to Chipper; “Just wonderful, really!” “I believe that I speak for the two of us when I say how humbled and honored we are to be in the presence of such greatness,” Zip went on to say, “Really, we are!”

“Yes, we are; we really are,” Hardy chimed in.

“Hush kid,” Zip said to the little turtle. “I’ll take from here.”

“We are both charmed and delighted with your wisdom and magnificence,” Zip continued.

“All right, all right, Chipper said to Zip!” “All this smooth talk is getting you no where.” “Why, I’m starting to believe you want me to help the kid turtle for nothing in return.”

“Yes, for one, and for two—stop pretending that you have never made any mistakes, because you have.” “Why, I seem to recall a helping hand that may have just saved your neck—once upon a time.” “Do you remember; I do; shall I go on,” Zip asked Chipper?

“I don’t suppose it would make any difference if I were to say no; would it,” Chipper asked?

“Mmm, not likely,” Zip exclaimed gleefully!

“Ah, I thought as much; go on then, have your moment if you must,” Chipper replied.

“Alright then, it was four seasons ago, it was the spring of the year as I recall,” Zip said thoughtfully. “It had rained every day—for more than a week.” “You and those two, bone-for-brains, brothers of yours were suppose to take care of your sister’s children that fateful morning.” “What a fiasco that was,” Zip chuckled out loud. “Had it not been for Elsa and the kindness she showed all of you, you all would have surely drowned!”

“Whose Elsa,” Hardy asked Zip?

“Elsa is a black bear; she lives way to the north from here; she comes down stream early every spring; and, I should ad, she is remarkably strong, and brave.” “Chipper can tell you just how strong and brave Elsa really is; can’t you Chipper,” Zipper asked him?

“Mmm,” Chipper grunted.

“In fact, she risked her very own life the day she dove head-first into that pool of water to save you, your nieces and nephews and those two brothers of yours, didn’t she Chipper?” “That water hole was spinning in a circle, trying its best to pull all of you under, and you would have all drowned had it not been for Elsa.” “In fact, if had not been for her brave and selfless act of kindness, Hardy and I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you, now would we,” Zip went on to ask?

“Oh, all-right-all-ready, so I got myself into a small pickle of my own.” “So what,” Chipper said to the testy bullfrog!”

“A small pickle?” “Did you say a s-m-a-l-l pickle?” “I’d like to know what you think a B-I-G pickle is,” Zip said to Chipper angrily! Zip was beginning to loose his patience with the stubborn beaver and his selfish attitude.

“C’mon kid, we’ll just have to find another way,” Zip said to the heart-broken little turtle.

“But how,” Hardy asked Zip?

“I don’t know, we’ll think of something,” Zip answered him as cheerfully as he could.

“Oh stop it, both of you, you’re breaking my heart,” Chipper cried out loud! “I’ll take you home!

“WHAT?” “You will; you really will,” Hardy asked as he was dancing and twirling around? “He was so happy and he was so relieved. He was going home at last. “The old beaver had a heart after all,” Zip thought to himself.

“Well, C’mon then, get on!” “Let’s go,” Chipper said to the amazement of both Zip and Hardy! Hardy could hardly believe his ears.

“Oh Chipper, you are wonderful, just wonderful,” Hardy exclaimed joyfully!

“Yeah, yeah, yeah—wonderful, I know kid.” “Now jump on the flat of my tail and don’t squirm around a lot either,” chipper instructed the little turtle.

“Oh yes sir, Chipper sir,” Hardy said to the old beaver.

In a flash Hardy was sitting square in the middle of Chipper’s large, flat tail waving to Zip and thanking him for all of his help. He was thankful that he now had a way to return home to his family, promising both Zip and Chipper to never again choose the idea of having fun over his safety and well-being—ever again.

“Goodbye,” Said Hardy to Zip.

“So long Hardy,” Zip said to the little turtle as he sped safely and smoothly up the Canadian river where he would soon be reunited with his whole turtle family, and there they would all live together, happily ever after.

The end.

A Turtle Tale

BY: PAUL J. ROBERTS

Once upon a time, there was a family of turtles who lived near the Illinois River. The river provides the family with a wide variety of tasty foods. Plenty of tender, water bugs, tasty crickets and earthworms keep the family supplied with food all year around.

For many years the turtles had made the river their home. The turtles want for nothing and life for the family is good in every way.

There are twenty-five turtle children in all, ten boy turtles and fifteen girl turtles. Turtles have incredibly large families.

The children are very active during the day, swimming and splashing in the river water from dawn until dusk. And after a full day of non-stop playing and swimming around in the cool, river water, they share in feasts of plump, juicy crickets. Crickets are their favorite.

The town of Siloam is two miles east of the river’s shores. When the weather is warm, people from town like to visit the river. But turtles will usually keep themselves hidden when they see people. Turtles are usually quite shy, especially around strangers.

There is one little turtle that isn’t shy at all. He is the youngest of his twenty-four brothers and sisters. He loves to be picked-up and handled by the river-visiting people. He likes to pretend that he is flying through the air while nestled in the palm of a human hand. He isn’t afraid at all. His name is Hardy. Hardy’s brothers and sisters are amazed that He dares to take such chances. After all, these people are strangers to Hardy.

Hardy likes to brag to his brothers about his bold, high-flying adventures. His sisters shriek with excitement as he recalls for them every last detail of his high flying adventures. The young boy turtles can hardly believe that Hardy would dare to be so brave. The older brothers and sisters couldn’t make Hardy understand that he shouldn’t be quite so trusting, because of the harm that might come to him. Hardy just won’t hear of it. After all, nothing bad had ever happened to him.

Hardy’s mother worries that Hardy’s ideas of fun and excitement could one day get him into a lot of trouble. His father has warned him again and again of the danger he puts himself in for the sake of seeking thrills. Hardy just won’t listen.

Then, one day a storm caused the whole sky to turn black as night. Thunder began to roll and flashes of lightning streaked across the horizon of the river valley.

Hardy’s father called out to his children, warning them that a storm was about to hit. One by one the turtle children swam to the river’s outer bank to join their anxiously awaiting parents. And after counting the heads of those who had safely reached the shore, Father turtle began to panic. One was missing! “Where are you Hardy, “ he called? By then the rain was coming down so hard that the Father turtle could hardly see what was in front of him.

Hardy was on his own, there was nothing more that anyone could do for him until the storm had passed and the rains stopped. The whole family feared the worst.

The father turtle tried to remember a time when he had ever felt so helpless. There wasn’t a time that he could remember. Even though he was terribly worried about the safety of his son, he wasn’t going to give up.

“Hardy, where are you,” his mother cried? Just then the wind began to blow even harder. Sticks and leaves swirled in the air above her as she peeked from the safety of her shell.

In the moments that followed, Father turtle made the decision to try one last time to
find his son. He was determined to find the little turtle. He knew he had to try.

“Now listen to me, every one of you,” Father turtle commanded! The whole family gave him their full attention. “Get out of the water; Climb the bank, and go into the field,” he cried! “Now go; Go before it’s too late!” “Go, I
tell you!” “Stay there until I come for you.” “Hurry, I say!” “Hurry!”

It wasn’t until father turtle crawled to the river’s edge that he realized how unlikely it was that any of them would ever see Hardy again. The churning, surging, swoosh of the river’s current had become much too strong for any turtle to try and swim. It would be foolish to even try. The water was moving much too fast.

Sadly, father turtle would return to his family with a broken heart and without Hardy. It seemed that Hardy was gone forever.

At a slow turtles pace, the poor, distraught, Father turtle made his way back to the field where he was met by the rest of his family. It was there that they had all gathered close to hear what their Father had to say. But just as Father turtle was about to tell them the sad news concerning Hardy, Mother turtle shrieked with excitement.

“Look, “ cried Mother turtle! “There goes Hardy; He’s alive!”

“Look at him go;” “Hang on Hardy; Hang on,” his brothers yelled!
Hardy was having the ride of his life. The churning, river water rushed past him as he held tight to the log on which he rode.

“Look at me; look at me go,” he squealed! Hardy was laughing so hard he nearly lost his balance and fell into the water. He was having so much fun that he didn’t even realize how far down the river he’d gone. The little turtle forgot all about the storm. He was so excited by the thrill of the wild river ride that he couldn’t think of anything else.

“Faster, faster,” he said, as the little turtle sped down the winding river! And faster he went. He raced along the river so fast that the force of the churning water caused him to slide back and forth, from one side of the log to the other. At one point he had to bite down on the log just to hold on.

The river’s stream slowed to a much more gentle pace as the little turtle made his way down and around the next bend. He was glad too. He’d grown tired from the wild ride and wasn’t sure for how much longer he could hold on.

Hardy could feel his eyelids growing heavy as he drifted along in gentle, slow rolling, river stream. It wasn’t long until the little turtle had fallen fast asleep.

By the time Hardy woke from his nap the storm had completely passed. The once gushing river had slowed to a lazy stream. Bright yellow rays of warm sunshine filled the sky above him.

But something was wrong. Everything around him looked so different, so strange. “Where could he be,” he wondered? He had no idea how long he’d been asleep nor how far down stream he had traveled.

From a distance he began to hear a familiar chatter. “Why yes,” he thought. The chit-chat-chattering sounds were the voices of other turtles. He couldn’t see them, but he could hear them.

“Where were they,” he asked himself? He looked high, then low, from left to right, until finally he spotted one of them.

“Hey, look at me—over here,” Hardy shouted! And to his surprise he saw a dozen or more turtleheads, not unlike his own, stretching their necks to see him as he continued to float right past them. Most of them paid Hardy no attention at all, but some of the really young ones clapped and cheered as Hardy drifted past them.

“What fun,” one of the younger turtles said to another!

“Catch me if you can,” Hardy teased them! But by the time the little turtles waddled from the shore and into the water, Hardy was almost out of sight.

As day turned into night, the river valley was filled with sounds of nature. It was music to Hardy’s tiny, turtle ears. Hundreds upon hundreds of little, green, tree frogs were joined in song, each trying to out sing the other. In the trees, high above the riverbed, birds of all kinds sang melodies of their own making. The steady peck, peck, pecking of the mite-eating woodpecker hammered along in unison with all the others. It was the kind of music that Hardy had grown to love.

The cool, night air was causing him to shiver. Normally, by this time of the night Hardy would be warm and tucked cozily inside of the nest that his father and mother had prepared for him and his other brothers and sisters. Not on this night though, and what made these circumstances even more unsettling was the fact that Hardy had never ever been alone before, especially at night.

“Oh how I wished that I had stayed with the others,” he thought to himself. “If only he could turn the hands of time backwards, I would. ” The haunting echo of his father’s voice warning him played over and over in Hardy’s mind. It was almost more than he could bear. “If only I had listened to father,” he thought. A tear fell from his tiny, turtle eye and dropped into river. After saying his prayers Hardy tucked his head deep inside his shell and fell fast asleep. “If only…” Hardy’s own words seemed to echo in his mind as he drifted off to sleep and down the river.

When Hardy awakened the next morning he felt alert and rested. He stretched and stretched as the warm sunshine covered him like a soft blanket.

“Good morning,” croaked the sound of a deep voiced stranger. Hardy’s eyes, still half closed, opened wide as could be when he turned to look behind him. Hardy was no longer alone on the floating log. Behind him sat a huge, green, bullfrog! Why, it was more than twice the size of Hardy.

“Yikes,” Hardy cried out as he went tumbling off the log and into the river!

“You’re not exactly what I had in mind for breakfast, little turtle.” So don’t worry, I mean you no harm.” The big, bullfrog then laughed so hard he almost fell into the water himself.

“Br-r-r-r,” Hardy shivered as crawled from out of the cold river and took his place back onto the log from which he fell.

“There, there, are you better now,” the frog asked Hardy as he helped him out of the
water?

“I’m fine,” Hardy replied

“My name is Zip,” said the frog to Hardy. “I’ve never seen turtles around here before; are you lost,” Zip asked?

“I’m not lost,” Hardy answered. “I came down the river on this log.”

“Ah, I see,” Zip said. “Intentionally,” he asked?

“Well, sort of,” Hardy answered.

“Uh-huh, well, what about your family; Do they know where you are,” Zip pressed on?

“I’m afraid not,” Hardy answered.

“They must be very worried; what are you going to do, “ Zip wanted to know?

“I really haven’t thought much about that,” Hardy replied.

“Well maybe you should start,” Zip said to him as he scolded him. “You should know that you are one lucky, little, turtle.” Why you could have been an owls midnight snack easier that you might have imagined,” he went on to lecture Hardy!

“I suppose you are right Zip.” “I really hadn’t thought too much about that either,”
Hardy admitted to the bull frog.

“Have you any idea how far from home you are, little turtle,” Zip asked?

“No, I don’t.” Hardy answered him.

“So I don’t imagine that you’ve given much thought to how you will get back home either!” “Well, have you,” Zip asked him?

“Well, no, not really,” Hardy answered him meekly. Poor hardy was at a loss for words. He began to realize for the first time how foolish this adventure had proven to be.

“Now don’t you worry little turtle; keep your chin up.” “Are you hungry; you must be?” “I know all the best places for food, come along, I’ll show you.”
Afterwards, Zip and Hardy relaxed in the warmth of the mid-morning sun. Hardy would have liked to forgotten about all his problems, but he couldn’t. Besides, he realized that forgetting about what he had done wasn’t going to make his problems go away. He knew he had to first admit that his problems were his own making. His mother and father had been right to worry about him, His brothers and sisters too. They had been right and he had been wrong, but none of that seemed to make any difference now.

Zip and Hardy became friends that afternoon. Zip would do what he could to help his new friend in any way he knew how, but knowing exactly what to do was going to take some thought.

Now Zip had many years of river, life-experiences. He had lost many of his own brothers and sisters, even his mother. All of them just disappeared one day, without a trace. He couldn’t let that happen again to someone he cared about, not if he could help it.

For the next hour Zip shared with Hardy story after story about critters, both large and small, who became lost in the river valley, never to be seen or heard from again. Zip believed that he had a duty to make Hardy understand how dangerous life could be for a young and unsuspecting turtle.

“”Zip was right,” Hardy finally decided, about everything. His new friend had helped him understand that his parents, his brothers and sisters, really did love him. No one was trying to spoil his fun, as he’d once thought. He realized now, that they’d been right to worry.

It had been a whole day since Hardy had last seen his family. He was missing them terribly and wondering if they were missing him too. Or had they given up on the idea of ever seeing him again?

“Zip, “ the little turtle whispered?

“Yes Hardy,” the frog answered him

“What am I going to do?” “I’m a turtle.” “It would take weeks, months, even years, for a turtle, small and slow as I am, to get back home.”

“Yes, yes indeed it would take a long time to travel such a distance—on your own,” the frog said to Hardy. “Maybe you could grow wings and fly home,” Zip offered.

“Did you say fly,” Hardy asked?

“Why, yes; yes I did,” Zip said to the now very confused turtle. “See, there’s nothing wrong with your hearing at all; you hear very well for someone with such teeny, tiny ears.”

“Hey, wait a minute; I’m a turtle, not a bird; I can’t grow wings; turtles can’t fly,” Hardy cried out! “What are you, some kind of wise guy?”

“Oh my, yes, well, I guess you are right, turtles can’t fly,” the frog said. “We’ll just have to think of another way, won’t we,” Zip said to Hardy? “I know, I know, you could swing like a monkey, from tree to tree, or maybe you could hitch a ride with a turtle-friendly hawk, then you could….”

“Very funny, Zip!” “Very funny, Hardy cried!” “I’m not a bird; I’m not a monkey and you and I both know that hawks are not turtle-friendly!” “What are you thinking, Zip; are you trying to get me eaten alive?”

“What am I thinking; what AM I thinking?” “What were YOU thinking as you bobbled, without a worry in the world down, down, down the river,” Zip scolded the little turtle! “I’d say that it was you, YOU are the one who wasn’t thinking!” “Am I right or am I wrong?” “Would somebody PLEASE TELL ME?”

“I guess so,” Hardy barely spoke a word.

“WHAT, I CAN NOT HEAR YOU,” Zip cried out loud enough for every river dwelling creature within a mile to have heard him!”

“You’re right, already, I said…what I mean is, I’m sorry Zip; you are right.” “I should have thought a lot more about what I was doing,” Hardy apologized.

“Oh well then, all right; all right.” “Maybe we can put our heads together and figure all this out.” “Let’s see—I know, I’ve got it!” “What we need here is a paddle.” “Right now, little turtle, you are down the creek without a paddle.” “We need to get you ON a paddle and UP the creek!” Zip was so excited he could hardly contain himself.

“Huh,” was all that Hardy could get out. He was very confused. “Down the creek, up the creek, a paddle,” he wondered?

“Here’s what we’re going to do; we’re going to find Chipper!”

“Who?” “Whose Chipper,” Hardy asked Zip?

“Chipper’s our paddle, well…your paddle, anyway,” zip answered him.

“Why do I need a paddle,” Hardy asked nervously?

“Why?” “You want to go home don’t you,” Zip asked Hardy

“Oh yes, more than anything,” the little turtle cried.

“Well, all right then; Let’s go.”

“You mean you actually know a paddle and it has a name,” Hardy pressed on with his questions to Zip.
Hardy had never seen a paddle before. He didn’t even know what one looked like.

“No, of course not, but I know Chipper and he has a paddle.”

“Huh,” Hardy couldn’t have been more confused.”

“Chipper is a beaver,” Zip finally explained to Hardy. “And Chipper has a paddle.”

“Oh Zip, what a great idea!” “Do you think he will do it?” “Do you think he will really help me?”

“I do,” said the frog to the turtle enthusiastically; “I do!” “Come on now, let’s go find Chipper; I’ve got to get you on your way before you drive me hip-hopping-mad-crazy!”

“There he is now!” “Good-day Chipper; how are you on such a fine, fine day,” Zip asked as he and Hardy walked toward the very large beaver?

“What are you up to, ZIPPER-HEAD; you are much too chum-chum-chummy to be wanting nothing?” “What is it, what gives, and who’s the little oyster on-the-half-shell,” Chipper rattled on?

“Look Chipper, we’re in kind-of-a-pickle and we need your help,” Zip said to Chipper.

“So, what’s new; last time I saw you, you were about two hops shy of a hungry, fox’s
lunch,” Chipper inquired of Zip?

“Yes, well, it’s nice to see you too, Chipper,” Zip replied. “It seems my little friend took the wrong log, going in the wrong direction,” Zip explained.

“What’s that got to do with me?” “So, now I’m in charge of the Illinois River’s lost and found; I don’t think so,” Chipper said boastfully. “Besides, this river only runs in one direction—downstream; what do you take me for, some kind of numb-skull?”

“No, of course not, but you see: Hardy, here, decided to take a ride down the river during yesterdays storm.” “He thought it would be fun and exciting,” Zip explained.

“Hmm, sounds to me like half-shell should have thought longer and decided differently.”

“Yes, I believe we’ve reached the same conclusion,” Zip agreed with Chipper.

“And, we’ve been through what caused this problem, but that’s not why we’re here; we’re here because…”

“Did I ever tell you about Seymour—the muskrat,” Chipper cut Zip off?

“Well, no, I don’t think you ever did,” Zip replied.

“Seymour; now that was one lucky muskrat!” “Let me tell you about Seymour,” Chipper continued. “Seymour was sitting along the river bank, just a bit further down-stream from where we are now.” “It was broad day-light, mind you, BROAD DAY-LIGHT, I say!” “Everyone knows muskrats don’t go out in BROAD DAY-LIGHT,” Chipper said as he raised his arms and pointed to the bright, yellow, sun—high in the sky. “And that Seymour, he had been warned over and over about the harm that could come to him if he kept going out during the day,” Chipper clamored on.

“Then, one morning, just as Seymour was finishing his last drink of water, Bellows, you know Bellows, don’t you Zip,” Chipper asked?

“Know him, you mean Bellows the Hawk,” Zip asked?

“That’s him!” “Anyway,” Zip went on, “Bellows came swooping down from the sky and snatched that little muskrat right from where he sat and into the air he went, taking Seymour with him, straight up into the sky they both went flying!” “It looked as though it was all over for poor Seymour, and there wasn’t a thing anyone could do for him.”

“Seymour struggled and fought to break free of the hawks mighty hold on his neck.”
“Finally, would you believe that Bellows actually dropped that little muskrat right into the river!” “Seymour got away; he actually got away!”

“Your kidding,” Hardy said, amazed by what he had just heard!

“Nope, I’m not kidding,” Chipper, said. “Getting wet was the worst thing that happened to Seymour—that day; he was a very lucky muskrat for Bellows had never been known to miss his prey, and he has never been known to drop anything that he’d ever caught, not ever” “But he did that day,” Chipper went on to say.

“So what ever happened to Seymour,” the inquisitive little turtle wanted to know?

“Bellows got him—the very next day; he found him sitting by the river in the broad day-light, sitting in almost the same spot as he was sitting in the day before.” “Only this time, Bellows caught the little fellow and he didn’t drop him either.” “Poor little Seymour was never heard from or seen again,” Chipper answered him.

“How could Seymour not know that Bellows wouldn’t try and catch him again,” Hardy asked in disbelief?

“No one really knows.” “That’s a question many of us had,” Chipper said to Hardy.
“He had been warned many times, and we all thought that he would have learned his lesson, since he almost became Bellow’s breakfast just the day before.” “Seymour got away from Bellows once, but just once,” Chipper finished the sad tale of Seymour the muskrat.

“Now, back to you, ya’ scrawny, little, river urchin, what’s your story”? “Try to break my heart—go ahead and try,” Chipper said Hardy, who was still thinking about Seymour.

“Well, sir, Mr. Chipper, sir, you see, I was thinking that I would… well… that I might… and then the rain came… and well, sir…” Hardy stammered for every word.

“I’m an old beaver, half-shell; I’m not getting any younger listening to this story either; get to the point—will you,” Chipper scolded the young turtle!

“Zip, I don’t think this is such a good idea; clearly Mr. Chipper doesn’t have the time to be bothered by me, and, I don’t know, Zip…” Hardy babbled.

“Look Chipper,” Zip said to the beaver as he cut Hardy off, “the kid-turtle needs your help; now are you going to help or not; if not we’ll just be on our way!

“Don’t rush me,” chipper lashed out!” “I think about the things I do, see?” “I don’t just hop, pop, hip-pity, hop into a wild dog’s den without first coming up with some sort of plan—unlike some I know.” “But I won’t mention any names, you slimy, fly
eating, zipper-headed amphibian,” Chipper murmured under his breath.” “So don’t rush me; got it,” Chipper crooned? “Then IF, IF I say yes, then that’s what I mean, see?” “And IF, IF I say NO, then NO it is, GET IT?” “But in any case, I THINK, THINK, THINK, about what I do.” “My YESES mean YES and NO means NO.” “GET IT; GOT IT; GOOD!” Maybe half-shell there should think about taking some of my advice and…”

“Stop calling me half-shell,” Hardy said to the old beaver! “My name is Hardy; I’m no oyster, I’m a turtle!”

“Oh, I see that you are, a snapping turtle—no doubt,” Chipper replied. He was both amused and surprised that the little turtle had stood up to him.

“Chipper, Chipper, Chipper, that’s wonderful advice,” Zip said to Chipper; “Just wonderful, really!” “I believe that I speak for the two of us when I say how humbled and honored we are to be in the presence of such greatness,” Zip went on to say, “Really, we are!”

“Yes, we are; we really are,” Hardy chimed in.

“Hush kid,” Zip said to the little turtle. “I’ll take from here.”

“We are both charmed and delighted with your wisdom and magnificence,” Zip continued.

“All right, all right, Chipper said to Zip!” “All this smooth talk is getting you no where.” “Why, I’m starting to believe you want me to help the kid turtle for nothing in return.”

“Yes, for one, and for two—stop pretending that you have never made any mistakes, because you have.” “Why, I seem to recall a helping hand that may have just saved your neck—once upon a time.” “Do you remember; I do; shall I go on,” Zip asked Chipper?

“I don’t suppose it would make any difference if I were to say no; would it,” Chipper asked?

“Mmm, not likely,” Zip exclaimed gleefully!

“Ah, I thought as much; go on then, have your moment if you must,” Chipper replied.

“Alright then, it was four seasons ago, it was the spring of the year as I recall,” Zip said thoughtfully. “It had rained every day—for more than a week.” “You and those two, bone-for-brains, brothers of yours were suppose to take care of your sister’s children that fateful morning.” “What a fiasco that was,” Zip chuckled out loud. “Had it not been for Elsa and the kindness she showed all of you, you all would have surely drowned!”

“Whose Elsa,” Hardy asked Zip?

“Elsa is a black bear; she lives way to the north from here; she comes down stream early every spring; and, I should ad, she is remarkably strong, and brave.” “Chipper can tell you just how strong and brave Elsa really is; can’t you Chipper,” Zipper asked him?

“Mmm,” Chipper grunted.

“In fact, she risked her very own life the day she dove head-first into that pool of water to save you, your nieces and nephews and those two brothers of yours, didn’t she Chipper?” “That water hole was spinning in a circle, trying its best to pull all of you under, and you would have all drowned had it not been for Elsa.” “In fact, if had not been for her brave and selfless act of kindness, Hardy and I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you, now would we,” Zip went on to ask?

“Oh, all-right-all-ready, so I got myself into a small pickle of my own.” “So what,” Chipper said to the testy bullfrog!”

“A small pickle?” “Did you say a s-m-a-l-l pickle?” “I’d like to know what you think a B-I-G pickle is,” Zip said to Chipper angrily! Zip was beginning to loose his patience with the stubborn beaver and his selfish attitude.

“C’mon kid, we’ll just have to find another way,” Zip said to the heart-broken little turtle.

“But how,” Hardy asked Zip?

“I don’t know, we’ll think of something,” Zip answered him as cheerfully as he could.

“Oh stop it, both of you, you’re breaking my heart,” Chipper cried out loud! “I’ll take you home!

“WHAT?” “You will; you really will,” Hardy asked as he was dancing and twirling around? “He was so happy and he was so relieved. He was going home at last. “The old beaver had a heart after all,” Zip thought to himself.

“Well, C’mon then, get on!” “Let’s go,” Chipper said to the amazement of both Zip and Hardy! Hardy could hardly believe his ears.

“Oh Chipper, you are wonderful, just wonderful,” Hardy exclaimed joyfully!

“Yeah, yeah, yeah—wonderful, I know kid.” “Now jump on the flat of my tail and don’t squirm around a lot either,” chipper instructed the little turtle.

“Oh yes sir, Chipper sir,” Hardy said to the old beaver.

In a flash Hardy was sitting square in the middle of Chipper’s large, flat tail waving to Zip and thanking him for all of his help. He was thankful that he now had a way to return home to his family, promising both Zip and Chipper to never again choose the idea of having fun over his safety and well-being—ever again.

“Goodbye,” Said Hardy to Zip.

“So long Hardy,” Zip said to the little turtle as he sped safely and smoothly up the Canadian river where he would soon be reunited with his whole turtle family, and there they would all live together, happily ever after.

The end.

A Turtle Tale

BY: PAUL J. ROBERTS

Once upon a time, there was a family of turtles who lived near the Illinois River. The river provides the family with a wide variety of tasty foods. Plenty of tender, water bugs, tasty crickets and earthworms keep the family supplied with food all year around.

For many years the turtles had made the river their home. The turtles want for nothing and life for the family is good in every way.

There are twenty-five turtle children in all, ten boy turtles and fifteen girl turtles. Turtles have incredibly large families.

The children are very active during the day, swimming and splashing in the river water from dawn until dusk. And after a full day of non-stop playing and swimming around in the cool, river water, they share in feasts of plump, juicy crickets. Crickets are their favorite.

The town of Siloam is two miles east of the river’s shores. When the weather is warm, people from town like to visit the river. But turtles will usually keep themselves hidden when they see people. Turtles are usually quite shy, especially around strangers.

There is one little turtle that isn’t shy at all. He is the youngest of his twenty-four brothers and sisters. He loves to be picked-up and handled by the river-visiting people. He likes to pretend that he is flying through the air while nestled in the palm of a human hand. He isn’t afraid at all. His name is Hardy. Hardy’s brothers and sisters are amazed that He dares to take such chances. After all, these people are strangers to Hardy.

Hardy likes to brag to his brothers about his bold, high-flying adventures. His sisters shriek with excitement as he recalls for them every last detail of his high flying adventures. The young boy turtles can hardly believe that Hardy would dare to be so brave. The older brothers and sisters couldn’t make Hardy understand that he shouldn’t be quite so trusting, because of the harm that might come to him. Hardy just won’t hear of it. After all, nothing bad had ever happened to him.

Hardy’s mother worries that Hardy’s ideas of fun and excitement could one day get him into a lot of trouble. His father has warned him again and again of the danger he puts himself in for the sake of seeking thrills. Hardy just won’t listen.

Then, one day a storm caused the whole sky to turn black as night. Thunder began to roll and flashes of lightning streaked across the horizon of the river valley.

Hardy’s father called out to his children, warning them that a storm was about to hit. One by one the turtle children swam to the river’s outer bank to join their anxiously awaiting parents. And after counting the heads of those who had safely reached the shore, Father turtle began to panic. One was missing! “Where are you Hardy, “ he called? By then the rain was coming down so hard that the Father turtle could hardly see what was in front of him.

Hardy was on his own, there was nothing more that anyone could do for him until the storm had passed and the rains stopped. The whole family feared the worst.

The father turtle tried to remember a time when he had ever felt so helpless. There wasn’t a time that he could remember. Even though he was terribly worried about the safety of his son, he wasn’t going to give up.

“Hardy, where are you,” his mother cried? Just then the wind began to blow even harder. Sticks and leaves swirled in the air above her as she peeked from the safety of her shell.

In the moments that followed, Father turtle made the decision to try one last time to
find his son. He was determined to find the little turtle. He knew he had to try.

“Now listen to me, every one of you,” Father turtle commanded! The whole family gave him their full attention. “Get out of the water; Climb the bank, and go into the field,” he cried! “Now go; Go before it’s too late!” “Go, I
tell you!” “Stay there until I come for you.” “Hurry, I say!” “Hurry!”

It wasn’t until father turtle crawled to the river’s edge that he realized how unlikely it was that any of them would ever see Hardy again. The churning, surging, swoosh of the river’s current had become much too strong for any turtle to try and swim. It would be foolish to even try. The water was moving much too fast.

Sadly, father turtle would return to his family with a broken heart and without Hardy. It seemed that Hardy was gone forever.

At a slow turtles pace, the poor, distraught, Father turtle made his way back to the field where he was met by the rest of his family. It was there that they had all gathered close to hear what their Father had to say. But just as Father turtle was about to tell them the sad news concerning Hardy, Mother turtle shrieked with excitement.

“Look, “ cried Mother turtle! “There goes Hardy; He’s alive!”

“Look at him go;” “Hang on Hardy; Hang on,” his brothers yelled!
Hardy was having the ride of his life. The churning, river water rushed past him as he held tight to the log on which he rode.

“Look at me; look at me go,” he squealed! Hardy was laughing so hard he nearly lost his balance and fell into the water. He was having so much fun that he didn’t even realize how far down the river he’d gone. The little turtle forgot all about the storm. He was so excited by the thrill of the wild river ride that he couldn’t think of anything else.

“Faster, faster,” he said, as the little turtle sped down the winding river! And faster he went. He raced along the river so fast that the force of the churning water caused him to slide back and forth, from one side of the log to the other. At one point he had to bite down on the log just to hold on.

The river’s stream slowed to a much more gentle pace as the little turtle made his way down and around the next bend. He was glad too. He’d grown tired from the wild ride and wasn’t sure for how much longer he could hold on.

Hardy could feel his eyelids growing heavy as he drifted along in gentle, slow rolling, river stream. It wasn’t long until the little turtle had fallen fast asleep.

By the time Hardy woke from his nap the storm had completely passed. The once gushing river had slowed to a lazy stream. Bright yellow rays of warm sunshine filled the sky above him.

But something was wrong. Everything around him looked so different, so strange. “Where could he be,” he wondered? He had no idea how long he’d been asleep nor how far down stream he had traveled.

From a distance he began to hear a familiar chatter. “Why yes,” he thought. The chit-chat-chattering sounds were the voices of other turtles. He couldn’t see them, but he could hear them.

“Where were they,” he asked himself? He looked high, then low, from left to right, until finally he spotted one of them.

“Hey, look at me—over here,” Hardy shouted! And to his surprise he saw a dozen or more turtleheads, not unlike his own, stretching their necks to see him as he continued to float right past them. Most of them paid Hardy no attention at all, but some of the really young ones clapped and cheered as Hardy drifted past them.

“What fun,” one of the younger turtles said to another!

“Catch me if you can,” Hardy teased them! But by the time the little turtles waddled from the shore and into the water, Hardy was almost out of sight.

As day turned into night, the river valley was filled with sounds of nature. It was music to Hardy’s tiny, turtle ears. Hundreds upon hundreds of little, green, tree frogs were joined in song, each trying to out sing the other. In the trees, high above the riverbed, birds of all kinds sang melodies of their own making. The steady peck, peck, pecking of the mite-eating woodpecker hammered along in unison with all the others. It was the kind of music that Hardy had grown to love.

The cool, night air was causing him to shiver. Normally, by this time of the night Hardy would be warm and tucked cozily inside of the nest that his father and mother had prepared for him and his other brothers and sisters. Not on this night though, and what made these circumstances even more unsettling was the fact that Hardy had never ever been alone before, especially at night.

“Oh how I wished that I had stayed with the others,” he thought to himself. “If only he could turn the hands of time backwards, I would. ” The haunting echo of his father’s voice warning him played over and over in Hardy’s mind. It was almost more than he could bear. “If only I had listened to father,” he thought. A tear fell from his tiny, turtle eye and dropped into river. After saying his prayers Hardy tucked his head deep inside his shell and fell fast asleep. “If only…” Hardy’s own words seemed to echo in his mind as he drifted off to sleep and down the river.

When Hardy awakened the next morning he felt alert and rested. He stretched and stretched as the warm sunshine covered him like a soft blanket.

“Good morning,” croaked the sound of a deep voiced stranger. Hardy’s eyes, still half closed, opened wide as could be when he turned to look behind him. Hardy was no longer alone on the floating log. Behind him sat a huge, green, bullfrog! Why, it was more than twice the size of Hardy.

“Yikes,” Hardy cried out as he went tumbling off the log and into the river!

“You’re not exactly what I had in mind for breakfast, little turtle.” So don’t worry, I mean you no harm.” The big, bullfrog then laughed so hard he almost fell into the water himself.

“Br-r-r-r,” Hardy shivered as crawled from out of the cold river and took his place back onto the log from which he fell.

“There, there, are you better now,” the frog asked Hardy as he helped him out of the
water?

“I’m fine,” Hardy replied

“My name is Zip,” said the frog to Hardy. “I’ve never seen turtles around here before; are you lost,” Zip asked?

“I’m not lost,” Hardy answered. “I came down the river on this log.”

“Ah, I see,” Zip said. “Intentionally,” he asked?

“Well, sort of,” Hardy answered.

“Uh-huh, well, what about your family; Do they know where you are,” Zip pressed on?

“I’m afraid not,” Hardy answered.

“They must be very worried; what are you going to do, “ Zip wanted to know?

“I really haven’t thought much about that,” Hardy replied.

“Well maybe you should start,” Zip said to him as he scolded him. “You should know that you are one lucky, little, turtle.” Why you could have been an owls midnight snack easier that you might have imagined,” he went on to lecture Hardy!

“I suppose you are right Zip.” “I really hadn’t thought too much about that either,”
Hardy admitted to the bull frog.

“Have you any idea how far from home you are, little turtle,” Zip asked?

“No, I don’t.” Hardy answered him.

“So I don’t imagine that you’ve given much thought to how you will get back home either!” “Well, have you,” Zip asked him?

“Well, no, not really,” Hardy answered him meekly. Poor hardy was at a loss for words. He began to realize for the first time how foolish this adventure had proven to be.

“Now don’t you worry little turtle; keep your chin up.” “Are you hungry; you must be?” “I know all the best places for food, come along, I’ll show you.”
Afterwards, Zip and Hardy relaxed in the warmth of the mid-morning sun. Hardy would have liked to forgotten about all his problems, but he couldn’t. Besides, he realized that forgetting about what he had done wasn’t going to make his problems go away. He knew he had to first admit that his problems were his own making. His mother and father had been right to worry about him, His brothers and sisters too. They had been right and he had been wrong, but none of that seemed to make any difference now.

Zip and Hardy became friends that afternoon. Zip would do what he could to help his new friend in any way he knew how, but knowing exactly what to do was going to take some thought.

Now Zip had many years of river, life-experiences. He had lost many of his own brothers and sisters, even his mother. All of them just disappeared one day, without a trace. He couldn’t let that happen again to someone he cared about, not if he could help it.

For the next hour Zip shared with Hardy story after story about critters, both large and small, who became lost in the river valley, never to be seen or heard from again. Zip believed that he had a duty to make Hardy understand how dangerous life could be for a young and unsuspecting turtle.

“”Zip was right,” Hardy finally decided, about everything. His new friend had helped him understand that his parents, his brothers and sisters, really did love him. No one was trying to spoil his fun, as he’d once thought. He realized now, that they’d been right to worry.

It had been a whole day since Hardy had last seen his family. He was missing them terribly and wondering if they were missing him too. Or had they given up on the idea of ever seeing him again?

“Zip, “ the little turtle whispered?

“Yes Hardy,” the frog answered him

“What am I going to do?” “I’m a turtle.” “It would take weeks, months, even years, for a turtle, small and slow as I am, to get back home.”

“Yes, yes indeed it would take a long time to travel such a distance—on your own,” the frog said to Hardy. “Maybe you could grow wings and fly home,” Zip offered.

“Did you say fly,” Hardy asked?

“Why, yes; yes I did,” Zip said to the now very confused turtle. “See, there’s nothing wrong with your hearing at all; you hear very well for someone with such teeny, tiny ears.”

“Hey, wait a minute; I’m a turtle, not a bird; I can’t grow wings; turtles can’t fly,” Hardy cried out! “What are you, some kind of wise guy?”

“Oh my, yes, well, I guess you are right, turtles can’t fly,” the frog said. “We’ll just have to think of another way, won’t we,” Zip said to Hardy? “I know, I know, you could swing like a monkey, from tree to tree, or maybe you could hitch a ride with a turtle-friendly hawk, then you could….”

“Very funny, Zip!” “Very funny, Hardy cried!” “I’m not a bird; I’m not a monkey and you and I both know that hawks are not turtle-friendly!” “What are you thinking, Zip; are you trying to get me eaten alive?”

“What am I thinking; what AM I thinking?” “What were YOU thinking as you bobbled, without a worry in the world down, down, down the river,” Zip scolded the little turtle! “I’d say that it was you, YOU are the one who wasn’t thinking!” “Am I right or am I wrong?” “Would somebody PLEASE TELL ME?”

“I guess so,” Hardy barely spoke a word.

“WHAT, I CAN NOT HEAR YOU,” Zip cried out loud enough for every river dwelling creature within a mile to have heard him!”

“You’re right, already, I said…what I mean is, I’m sorry Zip; you are right.” “I should have thought a lot more about what I was doing,” Hardy apologized.

“Oh well then, all right; all right.” “Maybe we can put our heads together and figure all this out.” “Let’s see—I know, I’ve got it!” “What we need here is a paddle.” “Right now, little turtle, you are down the creek without a paddle.” “We need to get you ON a paddle and UP the creek!” Zip was so excited he could hardly contain himself.

“Huh,” was all that Hardy could get out. He was very confused. “Down the creek, up the creek, a paddle,” he wondered?

“Here’s what we’re going to do; we’re going to find Chipper!”

“Who?” “Whose Chipper,” Hardy asked Zip?

“Chipper’s our paddle, well…your paddle, anyway,” zip answered him.

“Why do I need a paddle,” Hardy asked nervously?

“Why?” “You want to go home don’t you,” Zip asked Hardy

“Oh yes, more than anything,” the little turtle cried.

“Well, all right then; Let’s go.”

“You mean you actually know a paddle and it has a name,” Hardy pressed on with his questions to Zip.
Hardy had never seen a paddle before. He didn’t even know what one looked like.

“No, of course not, but I know Chipper and he has a paddle.”

“Huh,” Hardy couldn’t have been more confused.”

“Chipper is a beaver,” Zip finally explained to Hardy. “And Chipper has a paddle.”

“Oh Zip, what a great idea!” “Do you think he will do it?” “Do you think he will really help me?”

“I do,” said the frog to the turtle enthusiastically; “I do!” “Come on now, let’s go find Chipper; I’ve got to get you on your way before you drive me hip-hopping-mad-crazy!”

“There he is now!” “Good-day Chipper; how are you on such a fine, fine day,” Zip asked as he and Hardy walked toward the very large beaver?

“What are you up to, ZIPPER-HEAD; you are much too chum-chum-chummy to be wanting nothing?” “What is it, what gives, and who’s the little oyster on-the-half-shell,” Chipper rattled on?

“Look Chipper, we’re in kind-of-a-pickle and we need your help,” Zip said to Chipper.

“So, what’s new; last time I saw you, you were about two hops shy of a hungry, fox’s
lunch,” Chipper inquired of Zip?

“Yes, well, it’s nice to see you too, Chipper,” Zip replied. “It seems my little friend took the wrong log, going in the wrong direction,” Zip explained.

“What’s that got to do with me?” “So, now I’m in charge of the Illinois River’s lost and found; I don’t think so,” Chipper said boastfully. “Besides, this river only runs in one direction—downstream; what do you take me for, some kind of numb-skull?”

“No, of course not, but you see: Hardy, here, decided to take a ride down the river during yesterdays storm.” “He thought it would be fun and exciting,” Zip explained.

“Hmm, sounds to me like half-shell should have thought longer and decided differently.”

“Yes, I believe we’ve reached the same conclusion,” Zip agreed with Chipper.

“And, we’ve been through what caused this problem, but that’s not why we’re here; we’re here because…”

“Did I ever tell you about Seymour—the muskrat,” Chipper cut Zip off?

“Well, no, I don’t think you ever did,” Zip replied.

“Seymour; now that was one lucky muskrat!” “Let me tell you about Seymour,” Chipper continued. “Seymour was sitting along the river bank, just a bit further down-stream from where we are now.” “It was broad day-light, mind you, BROAD DAY-LIGHT, I say!” “Everyone knows muskrats don’t go out in BROAD DAY-LIGHT,” Chipper said as he raised his arms and pointed to the bright, yellow, sun—high in the sky. “And that Seymour, he had been warned over and over about the harm that could come to him if he kept going out during the day,” Chipper clamored on.

“Then, one morning, just as Seymour was finishing his last drink of water, Bellows, you know Bellows, don’t you Zip,” Chipper asked?

“Know him, you mean Bellows the Hawk,” Zip asked?

“That’s him!” “Anyway,” Zip went on, “Bellows came swooping down from the sky and snatched that little muskrat right from where he sat and into the air he went, taking Seymour with him, straight up into the sky they both went flying!” “It looked as though it was all over for poor Seymour, and there wasn’t a thing anyone could do for him.”

“Seymour struggled and fought to break free of the hawks mighty hold on his neck.”
“Finally, would you believe that Bellows actually dropped that little muskrat right into the river!” “Seymour got away; he actually got away!”

“Your kidding,” Hardy said, amazed by what he had just heard!

“Nope, I’m not kidding,” Chipper, said. “Getting wet was the worst thing that happened to Seymour—that day; he was a very lucky muskrat for Bellows had never been known to miss his prey, and he has never been known to drop anything that he’d ever caught, not ever” “But he did that day,” Chipper went on to say.

“So what ever happened to Seymour,” the inquisitive little turtle wanted to know?

“Bellows got him—the very next day; he found him sitting by the river in the broad day-light, sitting in almost the same spot as he was sitting in the day before.” “Only this time, Bellows caught the little fellow and he didn’t drop him either.” “Poor little Seymour was never heard from or seen again,” Chipper answered him.

“How could Seymour not know that Bellows wouldn’t try and catch him again,” Hardy asked in disbelief?

“No one really knows.” “That’s a question many of us had,” Chipper said to Hardy.
“He had been warned many times, and we all thought that he would have learned his lesson, since he almost became Bellow’s breakfast just the day before.” “Seymour got away from Bellows once, but just once,” Chipper finished the sad tale of Seymour the muskrat.

“Now, back to you, ya’ scrawny, little, river urchin, what’s your story”? “Try to break my heart—go ahead and try,” Chipper said Hardy, who was still thinking about Seymour.

“Well, sir, Mr. Chipper, sir, you see, I was thinking that I would… well… that I might… and then the rain came… and well, sir…” Hardy stammered for every word.

“I’m an old beaver, half-shell; I’m not getting any younger listening to this story either; get to the point—will you,” Chipper scolded the young turtle!

“Zip, I don’t think this is such a good idea; clearly Mr. Chipper doesn’t have the time to be bothered by me, and, I don’t know, Zip…” Hardy babbled.

“Look Chipper,” Zip said to the beaver as he cut Hardy off, “the kid-turtle needs your help; now are you going to help or not; if not we’ll just be on our way!

“Don’t rush me,” chipper lashed out!” “I think about the things I do, see?” “I don’t just hop, pop, hip-pity, hop into a wild dog’s den without first coming up with some sort of plan—unlike some I know.” “But I won’t mention any names, you slimy, fly
eating, zipper-headed amphibian,” Chipper murmured under his breath.” “So don’t rush me; got it,” Chipper crooned? “Then IF, IF I say yes, then that’s what I mean, see?” “And IF, IF I say NO, then NO it is, GET IT?” “But in any case, I THINK, THINK, THINK, about what I do.” “My YESES mean YES and NO means NO.” “GET IT; GOT IT; GOOD!” Maybe half-shell there should think about taking some of my advice and…”

“Stop calling me half-shell,” Hardy said to the old beaver! “My name is Hardy; I’m no oyster, I’m a turtle!”

“Oh, I see that you are, a snapping turtle—no doubt,” Chipper replied. He was both amused and surprised that the little turtle had stood up to him.

“Chipper, Chipper, Chipper, that’s wonderful advice,” Zip said to Chipper; “Just wonderful, really!” “I believe that I speak for the two of us when I say how humbled and honored we are to be in the presence of such greatness,” Zip went on to say, “Really, we are!”

“Yes, we are; we really are,” Hardy chimed in.

“Hush kid,” Zip said to the little turtle. “I’ll take from here.”

“We are both charmed and delighted with your wisdom and magnificence,” Zip continued.

“All right, all right, Chipper said to Zip!” “All this smooth talk is getting you no where.” “Why, I’m starting to believe you want me to help the kid turtle for nothing in return.”

“Yes, for one, and for two—stop pretending that you have never made any mistakes, because you have.” “Why, I seem to recall a helping hand that may have just saved your neck—once upon a time.” “Do you remember; I do; shall I go on,” Zip asked Chipper?

“I don’t suppose it would make any difference if I were to say no; would it,” Chipper asked?

“Mmm, not likely,” Zip exclaimed gleefully!

“Ah, I thought as much; go on then, have your moment if you must,” Chipper replied.

“Alright then, it was four seasons ago, it was the spring of the year as I recall,” Zip said thoughtfully. “It had rained every day—for more than a week.” “You and those two, bone-for-brains, brothers of yours were suppose to take care of your sister’s children that fateful morning.” “What a fiasco that was,” Zip chuckled out loud. “Had it not been for Elsa and the kindness she showed all of you, you all would have surely drowned!”

“Whose Elsa,” Hardy asked Zip?

“Elsa is a black bear; she lives way to the north from here; she comes down stream early every spring; and, I should ad, she is remarkably strong, and brave.” “Chipper can tell you just how strong and brave Elsa really is; can’t you Chipper,” Zipper asked him?

“Mmm,” Chipper grunted.

“In fact, she risked her very own life the day she dove head-first into that pool of water to save you, your nieces and nephews and those two brothers of yours, didn’t she Chipper?” “That water hole was spinning in a circle, trying its best to pull all of you under, and you would have all drowned had it not been for Elsa.” “In fact, if had not been for her brave and selfless act of kindness, Hardy and I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you, now would we,” Zip went on to ask?

“Oh, all-right-all-ready, so I got myself into a small pickle of my own.” “So what,” Chipper said to the testy bullfrog!”

“A small pickle?” “Did you say a s-m-a-l-l pickle?” “I’d like to know what you think a B-I-G pickle is,” Zip said to Chipper angrily! Zip was beginning to loose his patience with the stubborn beaver and his selfish attitude.

“C’mon kid, we’ll just have to find another way,” Zip said to the heart-broken little turtle.

“But how,” Hardy asked Zip?

“I don’t know, we’ll think of something,” Zip answered him as cheerfully as he could.

“Oh stop it, both of you, you’re breaking my heart,” Chipper cried out loud! “I’ll take you home!

“WHAT?” “You will; you really will,” Hardy asked as he was dancing and twirling around? “He was so happy and he was so relieved. He was going home at last. “The old beaver had a heart after all,” Zip thought to himself.

“Well, C’mon then, get on!” “Let’s go,” Chipper said to the amazement of both Zip and Hardy! Hardy could hardly believe his ears.

“Oh Chipper, you are wonderful, just wonderful,” Hardy exclaimed joyfully!

“Yeah, yeah, yeah—wonderful, I know kid.” “Now jump on the flat of my tail and don’t squirm around a lot either,” chipper instructed the little turtle.

“Oh yes sir, Chipper sir,” Hardy said to the old beaver.

In a flash Hardy was sitting square in the middle of Chipper’s large, flat tail waving to Zip and thanking him for all of his help. He was thankful that he now had a way to return home to his family, promising both Zip and Chipper to never again choose the idea of having fun over his safety and well-being—ever again.

“Goodbye,” Said Hardy to Zip.

“So long Hardy,” Zip said to the little turtle as he sped safely and smoothly up the Canadian river where he would soon be reunited with his whole turtle family, and there they would all live together, happily ever after.

The end.

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