The winners of March 1999

Congratulations to the winners Kelsey Low & Clara Reyes and Adam Dolf Killebrew

The Winning Entries Are

Why Raven Doesn't Sing by Kelsey Low & Clara Reyes, students, Houston, TX

The Great Spirit created the world and all the creatures in it. When He created the birds, He tried to be as fair as possible: birds who had dull feathers could sing well, and those who had bright colors could not. Raven, completely black, was one of the greatest singers. Parrot, even though he was one of the most colorful birds, was jealous of Raven. He plotted a scheme to steal Raven’s talent. One morning, just before the sun rose, Parrot went to the place of the Great Spirit. He said, “Raven is mocking you in his songs, and teaching the birds to worship evil spirits. He is obviously possessed by one. I would advise you to remove his talent before it’s too late!” The Great Spirit immediately took away Raven’s voice, and as a reward, He gave it to Parrot. Unaware of what had just happened, because he lived far away, Raven started his morning song. He was shocked to hear a rough, scraping “CAW” instead of a beautiful melody. “What has happened to me? Why have I lost my voice?” Thought Raven. He flew to his wise friend, Owl, who had once been the messenger of the Great Spirit. Raven asked, “What could have caused the loss of my voice?” Owl considered for a moment, then replied, “I can only think of two reasons: one, that you have a frog in your throat; or two, the Great Spirit is punishing you. I highly suspect the latter.” Raven did not know what “frog in your throat” meant, and was wondering if Owl’s years were beginning to show, but agreed with him. “I don’t know what I could have done to deserve His anger, but cannot doubt Him. I must try to find a way to redeem myself,” stated Raven. He resolved himself to be as kind as possible to all creations. He shared food with the orphan Coyote, visited the lonely Porcupine— an interesting, if painful creature—and helped care for the Snake who had tied himself in a knot. He found a new voice in telling stories about the history and mystery of the world, and about the deeds of the Great Spirit. Parrot, meanwhile, was going from bad to worse. He boasted about his great talent and beauty. “Look at me,” he said. “I’m the grandest bird in all creation. I have the colors of the rainbow and the voice of the wind.” He told the story of how he tricked the Great Spirit to his friends every night, pleased with his clever-ness. The Great Spirit heard of Raven’s kindness, and wondered if his punishment was valid. He spied on Parrot that evening, and heard his story. He was outraged at what Parrot had done. The Great Spirit brought the two birds to him, and decided to test them. He brought out a shallow cup made of a turtle’s shell and filled it with water. He said, “This is a magic cup. The one who has told a lie will drink, and the cup will drain. For he who has told the truth, the cup will remain full.” Parrot took the cup, drank, and it remained full. “See! I am telling the truth. Now you must punish Raven even more!” “Wait, Raven must drink,” said the Great Spirit. Raven took the cup and drank deeply, and the cup was empty! Raven was extremely surprised. “Now I know for sure Raven is telling the truth,” the Great Spirit said to a now bewildered and nervous Parrot. “It is just an ordinary cup, so Parrot, the liar, only pretended to drink. Raven, sure of his innocence, truly drank.” The Great Spirit took Parrot’s voice, but the ways of magic did not allow it to be changed a third time. The Great Spirit wondered what would be best to do for Raven. “I know,” He said. “I will bless you with adaptability. Whatever obstacle you encounter, you will be able to deal with.” Raven, thought it was even better than a beautiful voice. He still carries the blessing today. Parrot, with his bright colors, is hunted and trapped, and his specific needs make him vulnerable. Raven, on the other hand, is thriving on whatever he can get. Honesty, faith and charity in the face of adversity will always pre- vail!
***

Change of the Rattlesnake by Adam Dolf Killebrew, 11, Penn Yan, NY

One day, as I was walking through the woods near my house, I heard a buzzing sound. At first, I thought it was a bee, but then I heard a strange sound mixed in with it. Then I realized exactly what it was. I looked down. I had been right. I stood there staring at three feet of very angry timber rattlesnake. I started to back away slowly, but I was too late. The rattler struck, but I got out easy. Or maybe not. It missed my leg by about two inches, but the force of the bite squirted some venom onto my leg. As the snake slithered away, I looked down to check my leg. That was when I started to notice the change. When I examined my hand, I noticed that I was growing triangular-shaped, keeled scales, just like the timber rattler. “Whoa!” I yelled as I lost my balance and fell down. Then I realized why. I was already fully snake; a three-foot timber rattlesnake to be exact. I flicked my tongue in and out. I then got a wave of information from my Jacobson’s organ on the roof of my mouth—by the way, a Jacobson’s organ is an organ in the roof of a snake’s mouth which sends the information received from the tongue up into the brain, where it is sorted out to make sense. A mouse was nearby. I coiled up, ready to strike at any moment. Since I was a pit viper, I could sense the heat of the mouse. “No, no, nol” my human mind screamed. Unfortunately, the snake’s instinct was too much for me. I struck, killed the mouse and ate it. After digesting the mouse, which took a few hours, I started to explore. Then I heard a crunching noise in the dry leaves. A human! I struck at him, but he had tough boots on. As he picked me up in his heavy gloved hands, he said “Try to bite me, you little devil?!?” Me!?! A devil?!? Just the contrary! I was just try-ing to defend myself from unknown dangers! Now, after that, he took me to his house and put me in a somewhat large cage. “You stay in there, you devil!” That insult again! Boy, was I ticked! I tried the door of the cage. Locked! “So he is taking precautions,” I thought. About an hour later he came back again! He unlocked my cage, reached in and pulled me out. “Devil. That’s what I’ll name you!” He exclaimed. “The name’s Adam,” I thought bitterly. Those thick gloved hands again. Then I remembered. I had not tried to bite him there. He had also made the mistake of neglecting to lift me by my neck. Instead he had me by my middle. Then I saw it, the perfect chance! I pulled my head back and bent my neck into an S- curve. Then I struck. I felt my fangs sink through the glove and into his skin. The boy cried out in surprise and dropped me. I was not hurt. As I slid away I thought, “The little turd is probably ratting on me by now.” By the time all this had happened, it was about 8 o’clock at night. Even though snakes only sleep for about two hours each day, I slept for about three. When I woke up, I realized that my parents must be very worried by now, so I decided to slither home. Unfortunately, I was not destined to make it home so easily. I heard a scampering noise in the leaves. A squirrel! I coiled up and ready to strike, rattled my tail rattle. The squirrel started chattering its teeth in warning. It circled me, trying to stare me down, just like a mongoose. Then I struck. I got the squirrel on the tail. The squirrel turned around and glared at me angrily. Then it started to slink away slowly. I guess my venom was starting to take effect. Well, after that incident was over, it was pretty late at night so I decided to start for home. After I had been slithering along for about an hour, I heard a very faint flap, flap, flap sound. With a little trouble, I managed to look up. That was when I saw the bat. It was a vampire bat to be exact. It must have been very hungry, because most vampire bats aren’t stupid enough to attack a three-foot timber rattle-snake. Then the bat swooped down, right at me. But to my surprise it didn’t go for my head or neck. In-stead, it headed for my tail rattle. That didn’t hurt me though, because rattlesnakes don’t have any nerves in their rattles. Then I turned around and struck. Even though I only ripped some wing membrane on the bat’s wing, it helped me ease off some anger. “Now we’re even!” I thought bitterly. A few hours later, around the crack of dawn, my house came into sight. A few minutes later, when I was closer, I saw someone playing in the yard. At first I thought it was my brother, but then I realized that it was me! I started to wonder how I could be over there, as a human, while I was over here, as a snake! Then I realized that while I had changed into a snake, the snake had changed into me! While I had been thinking, I was just sitting there, so I began to slither home again. About fifteen minutes later, I was at my house. I went right up to the snake in Adam’s form. Then I did to him just what he had done to me. I struck at him and missed his leg by about two inches. Yes, I had struck him forcefully enough to squirt some venom onto his leg. Eventually I was me again, and the rattler was a rattler again. I still have quite a few side effects from becoming a rattlesnake. For example, I can turn into a rattle-snake at will, I still have venom, I can grow fangs at will, I have excellent night vision, I can still get lots of information by flicking my tongue in and out, and last but not least, I can still slither around on my stomach with effortless ease, even though I don’t have scales. Well, I have learned something also. Being a rattle-snake is fun! Yes, I am human again, with an exception. The exception is me turning into a rattler, which you have heard about when I told you about the side effects. I bet Mr. Timber Rattler has some side effects of being human! I just love being a rattlesnake!

Brigitta Geltrich, Ed. & Pub.

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