“Here come’s that boy. Here come’s that nauuuuuuughty boy who likes to wander in the woods against his mothers wishes.”
“I can hear you Old Crow,” said Little Bear, as he stopped beneath the branch where the old bird sat.
“Weeeeeell, now that I know what good hearing you have, I wonder why you do not listen to your mother and stay out of the forest?”
“What do you know about my mother?” Little Bear asked smugly.
Old Crow lifted his wing and poked at his side with his beak, “Hmpf!” he said. “Not only does he not listen, he has lost his manners as well. I know many things little boy. I am known as Little Black Eagle to some among you and I am the smartest bird in the forest, smarter than you to be sure. Now if I were you I would turn around and go back home before your mother misses you and finds out where you have been. And as for your father, maybe you will get by with a swat on your backside.”
“My fath-, you know about my new father?”
“As I said, I know many things.” Old Crow paused for a moment ruffling his feathers.
“The forest is no place for you today. I feel something. I feeeeel…….” Old Crow turned to look to the Northwest. “I feel you should not be here today. Go home, where you will be safe.”
“Thank you for the advice, Mr Crow,” Little Bear said, remembering his manners. “I promise, I will not be in the forest long. Bye!”
Old Crow looked again to the Northwest. His old bones told him something was wrong but he just couldn’t figure out what it was. As he watched Little Bear walking away he said, “Have a care young boy, have a care.”
Little Bear was on a mission. He realized that he could talk to and understand certain animals, but he didn’t know why. He had spoken to the Shaman, Many Winters about this and was told not to say anything to anyone. He was told that in time, he would know. But he had told his mother about meeting Coyote and White Wolf when the mysterious new cook pot had appeared and he wasn’t sure she believed him. That was probably good because he wasn’t supposed to say anything. He didn’t know who else to ask about it so he decided to ask White Wolf. If anyone would know, it would be him.
As he walked along the forest path looking for White Wolf he noticed the air was becoming hazy and warm. It was getting to be a hot day. It had been very dry lately with little rain and his new father (That’s how Little Bear still thought of him) said if they didn’t get rain soon, their gardens would wither. Strong Elk also said that they had to be extra careful with fire.
In the west the sky had become dark. Lightning could be seen flashing in the clouds. How far away the storm was Little Bear couldn’t tell but he thought he’d have time to find White Wolf. He could see many birds in the sky flying East as he walked and suddenly two deer came bolting out of the trees so fast they nearly knocked him down. The deer’s eyes were wide and they looked scared as they ran. Away through the trees Little Bear noticed other animals running East. Raccoons and Porcupines, Rabbits and Squirrels. Everything seemed to be heading east. The air was hazier now and hotter too. Little Bear was worried. Suddenly out of the trees flew Old Crow. He landed on a branch near Little Bear.
“Little Bear I’m sorry, I should have tried to stop you from going any further. You need to turn around and run. The forest is on fire!”
“What happened?” Little Bear asked. He looked around but saw nowhere that was safe. Now he could smell smoke and see sparks in the air.
“I think it was lightning,” said Old Crow. “You need to run boy before it’s too late.”
“But what about the animals? What about White Wolf and Cougar? The will need help! I’ve got to find them!”
Little Bear started to run and Old Crow tried to follow. “Wait Little-” was all he could say before he flew right into an Owl. Old Crow was knocked to the ground. When he got up and flew into the air, Little Bear was gone. Old Crow flew in every direction but couldn’t find him. So he flew high above the trees and kept searching.
Meanwhile, White Wolf and Cougar were helping the other animals escape. Some animals were so scared that they couldn’t find their way. Cougar was showing them how to find the river. If they got in the water they would be safer. Some animals don’t like the water so White wolf was leading them to safety.
Little Bear was getting scared. He was searching for his friends but couldn’t find them. If he had been thinking he would have known that White Wolf and Cougar would know what to do. They were wise animals and didn’t really need his help. He felt helpless all alone and the smoke and sparks were getting thick. He was running fast down a path when he tripped on a root and fell forward. Little Bear rolled down a small hill and hit his head on a stone. He was knocked out and the fire was getting close.
Old Crow continued to fly in circles above the trees searching for Little Bear. As he looked he spotted White Wolf on the ground and flew down to meet him.
“White Wolf!” he cried, “You’ve got to help me! Little Bear is in the woods searching for you! I lost sight of him and have been looking ever since. I fear for his life!”
“Stay with me,” White Wolf said. “We will find him.” White Wolf and Old Crow started searching the ground for Little Bear. They came closer and closer to the flames. Old Crow finally found him at the bottom of the hill.
“Here he is, White Wolf! Come quick, the fire is almost upon him!”
White Wolf ran down the hill and grabbed Little Bear by his shirt and began dragging him to the river. When they reached the water, White Wolf picked Little Bear up in his mouth and threw him in!. The shock of the cold water woke him up. White Wolf soaked himself in the river and then told Little Bear, “Climb onto my back! The water will help protect us.” Little Bear climbed on and grabbed handfuls of fur. As White Wolf started to run, he called out to Old Crow. “Show us the way!”
Old Crow flew as fast as he could. The smoke was stinging his eyes making it hard to see but he found the way. White Wolf, with Little Bear on his back ran as fast as he could. Finally, after what seemed a long time, they reached the edge of the woods. White Wolf bounded out from the trees and the flames with Little Bear tightly clinging to his back.
At the edge of the woods the grass of the prairie had started to catch fire. The People were there carrying buckets of water to keep the fire from reaching the village. They were shocked and surprised to see Little Bear riding on the back of a great white wolf! No one had ever seen such a thing before. White Wolf came to a stop and panting, he let Little Bear down. They were both covered in soot and exhausted from their ordeal.
“What were you doing in the forest, Little Bear?” White Wolf asked.
“I was looking for you,” he said. “I have an important question for you.”
“Well now, cosidering all we have been through,” said White Wolf, “maybe the question can wait for another time. Here comes your mother.”
Blue Star, Little Bear’s mother came running as soon as she saw him. She picked him up and held him tight. White Wolf backed away from the people so as not to scare them.
“Oh Little Bear, I was so worried! When we could not find you Strong Elk and some of the other men went into the forest to look for you. He has not returned.”
Suddenly, Strong Elk and the other men came tumbling out of the forest. They were covered in soot and coughing but they were all right. Strong Elk was glad when he saw Little Bear and he had a strange tale to tell.
“When we were in the forest looking for Little Bear we got lost in the smoke. We became all turned around and couldn’t find our way. Suddenly a Cougar appeared beside us. We were afraid because we thought the Cougar would attack. But he stood looking at us and then leaped away. When we stayed where we were he came back to us and leaped away again. Runs Fast thought that the Cougar wanted us to follow it. We could not understand how this could be but we decided to follow or else we might have died in the fire. The Cougar led us out of the forest.”
Little Bear ran to Strong Elk and leapt into his arms. He held him very tight and said,”Thank you for trying to rescue me, You are a wonderful father!” Little Bear knew that the “Cougar” was his Cougar.
Finally the storm moved over the area and the rain put out the fire. The village was saved and all the animals made it out. Some of them had to find new homes but the forest was big enough so there was plenty of room in the part that wasn’t burned. Little Bear looked around but couldn’t find White Wolf. At last he looked toward the woods and saw him just inside the trees. White Wolf nodded his head at Little Bear and then turned and walked into the forest. Little Bear, safe but very tired, walked home with his family.