BOB AND THE TRAP

 

Bob and Bernice had lived beneath the roots of the great oak tree for many years. They had learned just about everything there was to know about living in the forest, just as the rabbits that lived in the great warren in the clearing knew just about everything there was to know about living in the open.

But every once in a while, Bob and Bernice learned something new. And when they did, it wasn't unusual for them to learn it in a dangerous way. Unexpected things can get you killed in the forest.

One day Bob was out for his morning walk. As Bob got older, he found that it was hard not to get fatter, because he knew how to find lots of good things to eat, and he loved to eat them. All of a sudden, there was a dreadful snap and a clang, and Bob felt a terrible pain in his back leg. He was caught in a big metal trap, which was chained to a log nearby.

Bob didn't know anything about traps. He had never seen one before. He had no way to know that the kind of trap he was caught in was meant to catch foxes. Even if he had, he would not have felt kindly toward whoever set the trap on the path, even though Bob favored removing as many foxes as possible.

When he was a young rabbit, Bob might have tried to get his leg out by kicking back and forth. But Bob had learned to think before he acted, and he could see that if he did this his leg would only be hurt more, and the trap was too tight to pull out of. So, Bob sat down as comfortably as he could, and began to think about what to do. He decided that he must call for help.

But that had its own problems. In the forest, it is dangerous for a rabbit to sound hurt. The animals that eat rabbits would hear and come quickly for an easy dinner. So, he tried to sound as calm as he could when he called for Bernice. It was hard, because he was very frightened.

Bernice usually got up before Bob, and hurried around the burrow until he got woken up. She liked him to think that she was very busy. But, as soon as Bob left for his walk, she went back to bed for a nap. When Bob came back, she woke up and looked busy again.

For some reason, she had not felt like taking a nap this morning. She went to the door of the burrow and laid in the fall sun instead. That was how she heard Bob calling. As hard as Bob tried to sound normal, Bernice could tell something was wrong. She hurried to find him.

When Bob heard Bernice coming, he called for her to be careful. He was afraid that she would be caught in a trap, too. She slowly came forward, checking under each leaf. When she got to Bob, she was frightened to see how hurt he was. But she sat down and together they worked out a plan to get him out. They decided that they must wait for whoever set the trap to come and open it, since neither of them could. Then, when it was opened, Bernice would jump out of the bushes and scare the person, and Bob and she would run away. It was a dangerous plan, but they could think of nothing else.

Then Bernice had a horrible thought; what if the person came too late, and foxes or wolves, or Mack found Bob first? She knew she had to do something to hurry things up, and she had an idea how. She knew Bob wouldn't like her plan, as it was dangerous. So, she told him that she would get some food for him, and headed off carefully to do just that. She returned with the best sweet rutabaga she could find in the larder. Bob was feeling quite hungry from all the that was happening, and he quickly ate the whole thing. Bernice suggested to Bob that he take a nap while she waited in the bushes for the trapper to come back. Bob agreed, and soon he was fast asleep. Then Bernice quietly left to carry out her plan.

She slowly went down the path, looking for more traps. It was hard to find them, as they were hidden very well. At last she found one. She picked up a long stick, and touched the far end to the trap. Nothing happened. She did it again; still nothing happened. But when she touched the trap in the middle, it snapped shut, holding the stick tightly. Bernice kicked the leaves away from around it so it was easy to see. Then she went on to find the next trap.

Bernice got good at guessing where the traps might be, but it still took her some time to find them. She had to be careful not to go too fast and get caught in one herself. She found seven of them before she came to the place where the path left the forest and went down to Farmer Brown's farmhouse. Bernice hoped that whoever set the traps would see that the last one was sprung and come to investigate the others. Bernice turned back to the forest. She still had to find the traps along the path on the other side of the forest and get back to Bob, and the sun was high in the sky.

Then Bernice heard barking far behind her. She knew immediately it was Mack, Farmer Brown's dog. She looked back and saw Farmer Brown coming up the path from his house, with Mack running in circles around him. Neither of them had seen her yet, and she quickly hid behind a bush.

Bernice knew what would happen if Mack found Bob caught in the trap. She knew that she must keep him away from Bob. So, instead of running away, she waited until Mack was close to the forest, and then jumped out from behind the bush and began running along the edge of the forest. Mack was after her in an instant. Soon they were far from the path, and Bernice darted into the forest. Mack crashed in after her. Farmer Brown called for Mack to come back, but Mack ignored him.

The farmer shook his head and continued his walk alone. He soon saw a trap, just as Bernice had left it. The trap had a stick stuck in it, and the leaves kicked away. "Well!", said Farmer Brown to himself, "I don't think any trappers have been in thisforest for a long time!" He moved down the path, finding more traps as he went. Each one he found made him go further, even though he had set out for just a short walk.

Bernice, meanwhile, was dashing through the forest. She was careful to keep just the right distance between herself and Mack. If she got too far ahead, he would give up and go to look for Farmer Brown. If he got too close, he might catch her. Back and forth they went, through clumps of bushes and stands of trees.

Bob woke to Mack's barking, coming faintly to him through the forest leaves. He looked around for Bernice, then called to her in the bushes. But she did not answer. Bob was very worried.

Farmer Brown had found all seven of the traps that Bernice had uncovered. He was very curious about who had set the traps, and also who had uncovered them. When he came upon the trap in which Bob was caught, he was very surprised. "I'll be!, he cried. "Could it be you who was digging up those traps? I think you should have been more careful!" And he laughed at his joke, because he really didn't believe that a rabbit could have done what he had seen.

Bob was really frightened now. Bernice wasn't here to help with their escape plan. Bob was a little thankful that she wasn't; he could see clearly now how dangerous it would be for her. Farmer Brown came close to the trap, and slowly put his the sole of his boot on Bob's neck. Bob took a deep breath, and prepared to becrushed. He knew Farmer Brown hated rabbits. He had been chased out of the garden many times, and the farmer has set Mack on him many times more. But Farmer Brown did not crush Bob. This is a story about Bob learning new things, and not just about traps.

"Well, I guess you could use a little help", the farmer said, "But we don't want you biting the hand that frees you, do we?" And he laughed again at his second joke. Bob heard him laugh and was frozen with fear; he couldn't even breath. Then he felt his leg come loose from the trap, and the boot lifted gently from his neck. Bob looked up to see Farmer Brown smile. He was confused, but realized he could move again. Using three good legs and one hurt one, he moved as fast as he could into the bushes and straight towards home. He didn't stop until he was safe in the burrow. Then he collapsed panting on the floor.

Bernice was tiring out; she had led Mack on the longest chase either one of them had ever run. She knew she had to lose Mack soon, or he would catch her. But she would not do it in the forest; Mack might still find Bob then. She headed out of the forest straight toward the farmhouse, with Mack behind her. She ran around to the front of the house, up over the porch, and off the other side. Then she ran as fast as she could along the side of the house toward the forest. When Mack came around the corner, she was halfway to the trees. He knew he would not catch her now, so he decided that what he really needed was a nap. He laid down on the porch and fell right to sleep.

Bernice was as tired as she could ever remember, but she ran straight back to where she had left Bob. What if a fox had found him, or the trapper had returned? She had to get back fast.

When she arrived, she saw the trap, but not Bob. She was about to cry when she saw where Bob had run into the bushes. Immediately, she headed for the burrow; she knew that was where he would go. There she found him deeply asleep. She lay down next to him and fell asleep herself. They slept for a whole day.

Bob was lucky that his bone had not been broken, and that the trap had been too big to cut his leg more. Still, he took a long time to get better. He had a limp for almost a year. Eventually his body was all healed, but some things were never the same.

Bob continued to take his morning walks, but he never walked along a path. He still worked in his garden, and he still ate vegetables hungrily, especially rutabagas. But forever after, he only ate vegetables he grew himself. Although he couldn't tell you just why, he never felt like raiding Farmer Brown's garden again.