BOB'S TRAIN

 

Alongside a pleasant lake there grew a great forest. Near the middle of the forest there was a large area where no trees grew, just grass and flowers. And in this clearing there lived some rabbits. Well, more than just some rabbits. There were lots of rabbits. Lots and lots of rabbits.

All the rabbits in the forest lived in this clearing. All of them,that is, except one. His name was Bob.

Bob wasn't like the other rabbits; he wasn't shy and he wasn'tafraid of new things. He lived just one tree into the forest,under the roots of the big oak tree. He was perfectly happy, anddidn't miss the clearing hardly at all.

New things interested Bob. One of the things which interested Bobmost of all was the farmer who lived next to the forest. Bob knewthat going there was dangerous, because the farmer didn't likerabbits and neither did his mean dog Mack. But, Bob visited oftenanyway, because the farm was so interesting. New things alwayswere happening there.

Farmer Brown loved to farm. He loved growing plants, and he loved fixing the machines which he used to grow them. But farming was not what Farmer Brown loved the most.

One nice fall day, Bob decided to go over to the farm and see whatwas new. Mack was loose in the garden, so Bob didn't go under thefence for a snack, as he usually did. He wasn't in the mood forbeing chased by that big dog. The farmer had harvested most of thebest vegetables, anyway.

He decided to go around to the front of the house. Bob was justcoming around the side of the front porch when he heard a roarcoming up the road. He quickly scooted under the porch.

Very soon, a machine rolled up the gravel driveway and stopped infront of the house. It looked like the machine that the farmerused to go up and down that road, but smaller and shinier. A dooron either side opened, and two more people got out. Bob had neverwondered whether there were more people like the farmer. He hadalways thought of him as the only one.

One of the people was tall like Farmer Brown, and he stood by themachine. The other was small, only a little over half as tall, andhe ran shouting from the machine up the porch steps. Bob drew backfurther under the porch. He heard the front door open as the smallone pounded up the steps, and he heard Farmer Brown laugh andshout, too. Bob couldn't recall ever hearing Farmer Brown laugh orshout before.

The other person came up the steps, and Bob heard more laughing,and then the front door shut. After a long time, the door openedagain, and the tall man walked back to the machine, opened thedoor, and turned to wave. Then he got in and the machine turnedand rolled away down the road. Then the front door shut again.

Bob waited a long while before he felt it was safe to leave. Then,he quickly ran back along the side of the house to the woods, andheaded towards home. But he knew he had to come back to learn moreabout the little farmer.

Farmer Brown's visitors were his son and grandson. It was themthat he loved the most, especially his grandson, who had come tovisit him for a week. Bob came every day, and saw them playing andlaughing. Then, one day, the machine came back and the little onegot in and went away.

Farmer Brown loved his grandson. His grandson loved trains. Assoon as the farmer was alone, he went down to his workshop andstarted working. His grandson was coming to visit again, and hehad a lot of work to do before that happened. Bob did not see himmuch after that, and the farm wasn't very interesting withoutFarmer Brown around, so Bob looked for excitement elsewhere in the forest.

The farmer could build or fix anything. It was part of being afarmer, because all the machines that he used to farm keptbreaking, and he had to keep fixing them. All winter he worked andworked every minute he could, which was a lot because there were nocrops to take care of in the winter. When he was done building, hecleared the rug and all the furniture out of the front room of thehouse, and put what he had built in there. Then, he waitedimpatiently for summer, and his grandson's visit.

At last the day came; the shiny machine ran up the road and stopped, and after a bit of handshaking and "how-have-you-been"ing, Farmer Brown and the boy went into the house.

The boy could hardly believe his eyes. In the front room, thebiggest room in the house, was the most fantastic train set he hadever seen. It filled the room, so full that there was only room tosit or stand around the edges, right against the wall.

The train rolled through farm fields of real seedlings planted inreal dirt. It ran into an evergreen forest, and out again intomore fields. There was a railroad bridge over a river made of realwater flowing into a lake in the middle of the train set. Thetrain ran along the lakeshore past cottages and stores, and thenthrough a little town where everything looked as though it wasperfectly real, except smaller. Then in was back out into thefields, around and around. The train ran on electricity, and therewas a box with a big lever on it that would make it go faster orslower.

Farmer Brown's grandson stayed up late every night playing with thetrain, until he was so tired he began to fall asleep still sitting on the floor with the control in this hand. The boy's head andshoulders would slowly droop forward. As his head drooped, hishand would push the train's speed control forward, and the trainwould speed up. After a bit, his head would droop so much that hewas in danger of falling over, and he would jerk his head up. Hishand, still holding the control, would pull it back to STOP. Then his head would start to droop again.

After a while farmer Brown would come downstairs and carry hisgrandson upstairs, and put him in bed. He didn't even wake him upto brush his teeth, although he made him brush them after breakfastin the morning.

Bob had been busy with another adventure on the other side of theforest, and so he missed all the excitement at the farm. But, assoon as he noticed that there was someone else living with FarmerBrown, he came down to investigate. Bob came up to the porch andsaw the light in the front room. He hopped up on the ledge of theopen window to get a look inside.

He saw the train rolling around the track, gaining speed veryslowly. He did not see the grandson sitting against the wall. Itseemed to Bob as though this was a world just like that outside,but one where he could be a GIANT, not a little rabbit. And theseedling smelled delicious. Bob couldn't resist hopping down fromthe sill to get a closer look.

As Bob stood looking over the little world, the train stoppedsuddenly right next to him. Bob took that as a sign that he oughtto get on, and he climbed into the trains's coal car withoutthinking too much about it. As soon as he was aboard, the trainstarted to go again. Through the fields, forest and town he went,with his head poking up over the locomotive. Bob was very happy tobe on such a wonderful ride.

After a few trips around the track, Bob wanted to try some of theseedlings planted in the fields. However, the train had acceleratedenough so that Bob was not entirely comfortable jumping off, and sohe decided to wait until the train stopped again. But it kept ongoing faster and faster, until it was going very fast. Bobcrouched lower and lower in the car, until he was low as he couldget. Bob was now sorry that he had gone for this ride after all. He didn't know what would happen if the train went too fast, but hewas sure that it wouldn't be good. Bob decided that he had to jumpoff the train before whatever bad thing was going to happen happened. So, Bob carefully climbed onto the top of thelocomotive.

Then, as the train was heading toward the bridge, the boy's headjerked up, and his hand pulled back the control. The train stoppedjust short of the bridge. Bob went flying over the front of thelocomotive and crashed painfully into the bridge, which collapsed,sending Bob into the little river below. Bob tried to stand in theriver, but the bottom was too slippery, and he slid into the lake with the wreckage of the bridge. The lake bottom was slippery,too, and Bob splashed around the shallow lake trying to get out. He was soaked when his claws caught the lake's plastic bottomliner, enabling him to push himself onto the shore. Signs fell andlittle buildings tipped over as Bob sloshed through the tiny town.

The boy woke at the sound of the Bob crashing through the bridge. At first, he was too amazed to move or talk. He saw what lookedlike a lake monster crawl out of the lake and begin to destroy thetown. Then he was able to talk, or at least holler out a soundthat wasn't really a word, but was plenty loud enough to finallyget him noticed by Bob, and also to be heard upstairs by FarmerBrown.

As Farmer Brown headed downstairs, Bob headed for the window. But the boy was moving now, too, and he reached for Bob. Bob dodgedthe boy's hand quickly, but that made it too late to jump for thewindow. Bob headed across the fields, his wet fur picking upclumps of dirt and spraying it around. Farmer Brown reached thebottom of the stairs as his grandson clambered out onto the fieldsafter Bob. The farmer had just opened his mouth when the train setcollapsed under the boy with a loud crack.

For a second there was silence, except for the trickling of thelake water as it ran onto the floor. Then Bob leapt onto the boy's back, up onto the sill and out the window. Farmer Brown grabbed his shotgun beside the door, but by the time he got the door open Bob was already around the house and well towards the forest.

Farmer Brown and his grandson declared the train set a total loss and put the front room back the way it was.