The Rhino, the Bird and the Mouse

(This is a story for children.  The story was read aloud many times before I ever wrote it down. A huge change from the last story that I hope you will enjoy. Something more traditional and serious next week.)

     Once upon a time, there lived a rhino, a bird and a mouse.  They all lived on a large plain with plenty of food, water and space for all the animals.

     One season, however, the weather was poor and very little rain fell, so water was scarce and all the animals suffered.  This was a rare thing to happen, but it was known that the plains on the other side of the mountains usually had plenty of water when the other was dry.  Many animals made the journey, and soon the plain was almost empty; but the rhino, the bird and the mouse stayed behind.  The plain had always been their home and they did not want to leave, even if times were difficult.

     After a while, though, they found that the shortage of food and water was too much, and decided to make the trip across the mountains.  The three decided to travel together, seeing how they were going to the same place.  They took a well known pass through the mountains.  The pass was safe and the going easy, but they encountered an obstacle, just as they neared the end of the pass, and it blocked them completely.  A small landslide had left a large pile of rocks across their path, and there was no way around it.  The three travelers stopped for a moment, to think about how they would cross.

     “I am sorry to have to leave you like this,” the bird said, “but I am very hungry and thirsty.  The plains are just beyond this place, and I can fly over these rocks without much trouble.  I’m sure you will find a way across, too.  Good day.”

     The rhino tried to say something, before the bird departed, but the bird did not think that a big, stupid rhino would have anything important to say, and didn’t stop.  The bird flew over the steep pile of rocks and down the other side.  This was very difficult because the bird was used to flying on the plains, where he did not have to fly very high or very far.  So, when he reached the other side of the pass and came to that plain, he was very tired and needed rest.  Unfortunately, a nearby pack of hyenas saw him, and how tired he was, and gave chase.  The bird was too tired to escape, so the hyenas caught and ate him.

     Not long after the bird had left, the mouse grew anxious about getting through the pass.

     “Well, I am also hungry and thirsty,” said the mouse, “so I can’t wait any longer, either.  I am small enough to crawl through these rocks.  I’m sure you’ll find a way past, too.  Good day.”

     The rhino tried to say something, again, but the mouse didn’t think it would make a difference, and kept on going.  The rocks had fallen loosely, so there were plenty of gaps for him to make his way through, just like the narrow mouse tunnels under the plain.  He went quite far, manoeuvering through gaps and cracks and such, until he could almost see the light on the other side.  Then, in his excitement to cross, he tried to squeeze through a tight gap.  He had known it would be tight before he went through, but thought he could wiggle past it.  The rocks, however, were not like the tunnels he was used to on the plain, and wiggling was not working.  This was not a problem, for the mouse was patient and knew he would get out.  Unfortunately, a snake was hunting in the rocks, and saw the mouse was trapped.  The mouse didn’t have time to escape, and was eaten.

     The rhino was alone, now.  He was hungry and thirsty, and badly wanted to get to the new plains, beyond the landslide.  He waited until he thought the bird and mouse would be safely across, and did what he had planned to do all along; only the others hadn’t given him time to say so.  He backed up the pass until he had room for a good, long run at the rocks that blocked him.  He ran at the rocks, as fast as he could, lowering his head at the last moment.  His big body and strong head smashed the boulders aside, and he made it to the other plains; where he found water to drink and food to eat.

(The moral of the story is that cooperation is better than selfinterest. A secondary moral is that we should not make assumptions about the input from others, even if we believe ourselves to be smarter.)

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