The winners of March 1999
Kelsey Low & Clara Reyes
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
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-
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
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
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.
P. O. Box 223226
Carmel, CA 93922
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