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EAGLET AND THE RIVER
By Wendy Leptien Moore
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2011 Wendy Leptien Moore
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Storm
A flash of lightning lit up the sky. Two baby eagles huddled in their nest in the branches of a tall pine. Eaglet, the smallest of the two, buried his head under his wings ... wings that enabled him to move about the nest, hop to nearby limbs ... wings too young to fly.
Thunder clapped overhead. Eaglet peeked out of the nest and listened for his parents' call. He had been practicing for his first flight. How he wished to soar and dive through the sky like his parents. He settled back into the nest as dark clouds moved across the sky and droplets of rain began to fall.
Nearby, two gray squirrels, one light and one dark, leaped from branch to branch chattering about the storm. Pausing next to Eaglet one called, "We better head for cover! Looks like rain!"
"It sure does," replied the other. "Big storm headed this way. More rain means more water and the stream can't hold much more."
"Where does it all go? The rain, the rushing water ...?"
"Into the stream, to the river, to the sea ... remember the stories?" answered the dark gray squirrel.
Eaglet listened carefully. He had never been far from the nest; and therefore, he knew nothing of the stream on the forest floor. Curiously, he lifted his head above the branches and chirped, "What are you talking about? What stream?"
"The stream below us," the dark squirrel replied. "Down there, little eagle. Don't you know? This stream joins many others to form the river," he explained. "Just above Beaver Pond."
"Heh, I'm getting wet. Let's head for home," called the light gray squirrel. Waving to Eaglet, they turned and disappeared into a large hole in the tree.
Puzzled, Eaglet turned to his sister, "Do you know there is a stream below us? A stream that leads to a river?"
"I sure do. This morning while you were roosting with Mother, Father told me stories about the feeding grounds at the river. Every morning and evening a group of eagles follows the stream below. They soar and circle together – it's called kettling. They chase each other, do barrel rolls, and dive-bomb. When we can fly, we can join them! When we go to the river, we can fish, too! Once we can fly, we can do anything!"
"Speaking of fish, I'm hungry! Will they be back soon?"
"They fish in the morning and then again at dusk. Father said they'll be home when the sun sets in the West, beyond our forest, beyond the river valley, beyond ... somewhere called the ocean. Don't worry; they'll be home before dark." Glancing at the menacing sky, Eaglet sighed, "It looks pretty dark to me."
Strong winds muscled the tree branches as the two young eaglets crouched deeper into the nest. Dense rain clouds darkened the sky. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed as a curtain of rainfall drenched the forest.
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck. Craaack! A section of the tree splintered from the main trunk ripping the nest in two. Branches that had cradled the eagles, now dangled in the air. Other branches and twigs remained attached to the tree. The eaglets, torn apart, frantically called to one another. Hanging over the rushing water Eaglet lifted his wings. If only I could fly, he thought. Crack ... Snap ...! Both of the eaglets let out shrill calls, gripping the shifting branches as they began to fall. Down Eaglet went! Down with the branches into the stream! A sharp pain shot through his shoulder. He closed his eyes, letting go of the nesting twigs, his only tie to home. Above, the other eaglet clung to the shredded remains of the nest, the eagle aeries, the eaglets' home.
Then, a darting shadow dove into the swirling waters. A small bird, a water ouzel, grabbed Eaglet's leg and pulled him out of the rapids towards the shore. Eaglet raised his head to thank the ouzel who nodded quietly and flew off. into the night.
The waters of the eddy lapped against the shore where Eaglet lay. Exhausted and shaken, he pulled himself out of the muddy pool and onto the grassy bank. The rain beat lightly on his back as the sounds of lightning and thunder faded in the distance. He laid his head to one side and drifted off to sleep - the ouzel but a faint memory.
Chapter TwoThe Headwaters
Early the next morning, the same two squirrels sat at Eaglet's side whispering to one another.
"Should we wake him up?"
"No, let him rest."
"But, it's dawn. Time to wake up!"
"Just wait ... Look ... He's opening his eyes."
Eaglet lifted his head and asked, "Where am I?"
"You're at the headwaters of the river," said one of the squirrels. "We saw you fall. The waters carried you downstream and a small bird pulled you from the torrent."
"I remember the bird, small and strong." Eaglet dropped his head and sighed, "I must be so far from my nest. My shoulder aches. My wing ... I think it's broken. I'll never fly." Tearfully, he whispered, "I'll never find my way home."
Running to his side, the first squirrel said, "Now just a minute, little fellow. You're not far from home." The other squirrel exclaimed, "And never, say never! Your wing will heal. You will fly. You will fly home!"
Wondering, Eaglet tilted his head, "How do you know?"
A soft smile stretched from ear to ear and the squirrel answered, "Those of us who live along the river understand our place, and you shall too. Trust yourself and listen to the voice within you. It will guide you downstream. There is a right time and a right place for everyone in the river life mosaic. Someday the pieces will fit. Get back on the river, face the changing currents, and let the river carry you home. Believe in yourself and you will fly home."
Eaglet puffed up his chest. He felt hopeful. He felt important. He felt change.
"Here," said one squirrel. "Take this branch. Let the waters carry you to Beaver Pond. Talk to the beavers. They'll know how to help you."
Eaglet clung to the branch that the squirrels had dragged into the water. They pushed him into the current and called, "Hang on! You'll be there by nightfall!"
"Are you sure this is the way? How will I know?"
"Just follow the river," they called as they scampered away.
Chapter ThreeBeaver Pond
For most of the day, Eaglet braved the rushing river. He rode the wild rapids that swept him downstream. Through rushing waters, past boulders and around bends, Eaglet endured. The helpless fledgling held tightly to the branch that bobbed, swirled, and twisted out of control in the current. Hoping to find calm water, Eaglet hunted for a way to get to the shore.
"Hmm," he thought. "There's no turning back." Remembering the squirrels' words, he knew he must follow the river. How he wished to get off this rollercoaster ride.
Two large boulders loomed ahead. Eaglet clung tightly to the branch as the torrent swung him around into a deep hole on the far side of the rocks. The water pulled him under, then set him free. Drenched, he crawled atop the branch one more time and shook the water from his head. Defeated, Eaglet sighed, "I don't think I can handle one more set of rapids." His wing hung at his side.
But the river changed. Much to his surprise, the river now ran deep and wide. The surface glistened with ripples and spirals and Eaglet's thoughts drifted home:
Prepare, practice, persevere ...
I remember Father's words: "You must have perseverance."
Perseverance ... What was that? Something about obstacles? Something about going on. So I must go on. Keep hopping. Keep gaining strength. I must return to my nest, my world, my home.
Eaglet murmured, "I have to stay on the river now ... I must go on. Persevere". He drifted into deeper water, deeper yet calm.
The river flowed through a meadow carrying the weary traveler into Beaver Pond. He felt the late afternoon sun on his back. "You'll be there by dusk," he remembered the squirrels saying. In the shallows, he let go of the branch, reached the shore and collapsed on the bank. Eaglet wondered about his family. Are they searching for me? Will I see them again? I must return home. I must believe in me. Maybe the beavers can help. But how?
At dusk, four beavers, a mother and her three kits, surfaced and climbed onto the shore. The large female gnawed on a birch tree on the bank. The trunk tipped and fell to the ground. She dragged it to the water.
Hidden in the brush, a bobcat crept toward the beaver kits who were chewing on small branches at the pond's edge. Sensing danger, Eaglet knew he must warn the young beavers. A shrill call pierced the air. The mother beaver lifted her head and spotted the bobcat approaching her young.
The large cat crept closer. As he was about to pounce, the mother beaver plunged into the pond, and slapped the water with her tail! Slap! Slap! Slap!
Alarmed, the kits dashed for the pond as the bobcat leapt towards them. The angry mother appeared and gnashed her teeth into the cat's left haunch. Wincing in pain, he rolled to the ground. Then, he rose and turned with bared teeth and outstretched claws. The mother scrambled to the shore and dove to safety. The pond water stilled. Defeated, the bobcat paused at the water's edge to lick his wound. He limped into the woods and disappeared in the brush.
Eaglet's heart pounded just as it had in the raging waters of the stream.
"Boy, that was a close one," he gasped. "Those young beavers were so vulnerable. Glad I was here to warn them. They must have been frightened. Just like me on the river. Just different. I guess everyone meets danger and fear in their own way. I'm glad I'm here. I don't feel so alone and vulnerable now. I just helped them ... maybe now they can help me."
His throat was dry, so he dragged his wing to the shore. He quenched his thirst at a trickle of water that fed the pond. Nightfall had come and a crescent moon cast a soft light on the pond's surface. He glanced towards the lodge where the beavers had sought refuge. Now, the still waters of Beaver Pond provided a safe place for him. In the quiet of the night, his thoughts drifted home. A soft whisper comforted him:
"Someday you will join us in the skies. You must prepare for flight. One day soon, you will fly and soar to greatness."
"I don't feel so great right now," he thought.
Later, in the moonlit evening, the beavers paddled through the glassy waters towards Eaglet. They purred as they slid onto the bank. Rubbing their faces and whimpering, they turned to Eaglet.
"Thanks for the warning. Thought that old bobcat left days ago," said the mother beaver.
"Oh, you're welcome," said Eaglet. "That was a close one!"
"So what can we do for you, little eaglet?"
"The squirrels sent me here. They told me to come to Beaver Pond."
"This is the place. We'll return at sunrise. Then we'll see what we can do for you." Quietly, they slipped back into the pond. "A small beginning," Eaglet thought, "But a beginning ... someone to talk to, someone to help me return home."
Chapter FourThe Builders
At dawn a lone beaver's wake rippled the surface. The beaver grunted as she climbed onto the bank. "Good morning, little eagle. Now, what brings you to Beaver Pond?"
Eaglet stared at her huge webbed feet and large, flat scaly tail. He told the beaver about the storm and how the lightning had struck the tree; how he had fallen into the stream, met the squirrels and traveled to Beaver Pond. Eaglet gazed at the beaver searching for some answers in her eyes. "Where do I go from here? How do I get home?" he asked anxiously.
The beaver chuckled. "At Beaver Pond we believe a beaver's work is never done until it's done. You just have to stick with it. That's right, Sonny. You just have to stick with it."
"Stick with it? Stick with what?" Eaglet asked.
"Stick with anything you try to do. Stick with your plan. Get back on the river. At Boulder Bend, look for the stone face on the canyon wall. Below is the cave of the Canyon Bear. That bear knows everything! He will tell you where to meet the salmon. They know where to find the whales, the wisest creatures of all. The whales will have an answer for you. You must follow the river to the sea."
She added, "First, we will splint your wing so that it will heal. Then we'll build you a sturdy raft that will carry you down the river."
"But how will I get beyond your dam?" asked Eaglet. The tangled mass of branches, twigs, and mud seemed impossible to pass.
"We'll fix that!" replied the beaver. "Much work to do. Must get started," she added as she dove into the water. "We'll be back soon!"
As promised, the beavers returned in the early afternoon. They attached a splint to Eaglet's wing and placed him on a log raft. Eaglet found the finely woven rope they had attached to the front of the raft. The beavers pulled the river traveler through a series of canals and back into the water beyond the dam.
"This is great. My own raft!" Eaglet called as the currents pulled him down river. "Thanks again." His shoulder was stiff. The splint was heavy. But he was happy to be on the river again. His journey began to take on new meaning. Eaglet listened to a voice within whispering, "Follow the river home."
Chapter FiveNarrow Escape
The river was deeper and moving quickly. Strong currents tugged at the raft as Eaglet steered towards the right bank avoiding the huge boulders in the river. He felt the warm sun on his back as he bounced through a set of rapids.
Suddenly, the raft jerked and stopped. Eaglet clung to the edge of the raft as rushing water poured over him. His sore wing lay in the swift current and his heart pounded. The tow rope was caught on a forked branch that stuck out of the water. His only hope was to tear at the rope to break the snag's monstrous grip.
Two small field mice scampered on the bank. Jumping from stone to stone, then boulder to boulder, they ran towards Eaglet.
"Look! He's caught! He's going to drown!" shouted one mouse. "We have to help him."
"Oh no! Not me! He's an eagle, a raptor ... he's dangerous!" squeaked the other.
"Oh, come on. We can just gnaw through the rope to free him and then head back to shore ... hurry!"
The young mice leaped onto the bow and chewed through the rope. Suddenly, the raft broke free of the snag and spun around in the swirling waters. Eaglet blinked his eyes and turned to thank the mice who cowered in fear at the far corner of the raft.
Chapter SixNewfound Friends
"Don't be afraid," whispered Eaglet. "I was in real trouble and you saved me. I wish you no harm."
"But, we fear all birds of prey and tremble in the shadows of your great wings."
"Great wings? Just look at me. I can't even fly. Today we meet as friends," said Eaglet.
The mice perched on their hind legs and nervously tossed their heads from side to side looking for the shore. "I hear the waterfall! The falls are coming. We must get ashore! We must get off the river now!"
The two small mice leaped into the water and swam through the current with Eaglet's tow rope clenched in their mouths. As soon as they tied the raft to a branch on the shore, a chorus of fidgeting mice called from the bank. "Squeak, squeak, squeak!" Eaglet looked curiously at a weed basket they help upon their backs.
"We'll carry you! Come on! We'll take you down the Misty Falls stairway. We can do it! Climb on!"
"Where's the Misty Falls stairway?" asked Eaglet.
"Beyond those trees," squeaked the smallest mouse.
"Just around the corner," said his brother.
"It's the only way to return to the river – you must come with us," called another.
Eaglet knew he had to go with the mice. Yet he didn't want to leave his raft.
"Don't worry," said one of the mice. "We'll push the raft into the water and let it go over the falls. We'll find it below. We'll save it. But we must hurry!"
Eaglet nodded his head and hopped into the basket balanced on the backs of the mice. Over green, mossy steps, the newfound friends carried Eaglet down a forty foot stairway. They placed him at the base of the falls where the churning waters had tossed the raft like a leaf onto the shore.
"How can I ever thank you?" asked Eaglet.
"Ah, it's nothing ... just watch where you're going and keep an eye out for the bobcat," the last mouse called as they ran away.
Eaglet pushed himself away from the shore through the mist. As he drifted into the main current, he strained his neck to gaze at the top of the falls. His head jerking from side to side, he searched for movement. He was aware of his keen eyesight and searched for the mice. Yet, all that could be seen or heard was the rushing and falling of water over Misty Falls.
Evening shadows began to fall. After a few more bends in the river, Eaglet tediously tied the raft to a large root on the shore using his beak and one strong talon. Another day on the river was over. Tomorrow he would begin his search for the bear.
Excerpted from EAGLET AND THE RIVER by Wendy Leptien Moore Copyright © 2011 by Wendy Leptien Moore. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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