Caboose the Stubborn Rabbit
Brenda E Holmes
Caboose was a very stubborn rabbit, the most stubborn in his whole family but it really wasn’t all his fault. He was the youngest in his family, indeed ,in the whole rabbit village,he was the very last born which had always caused the population to treat him like a baby rabbit even though, in his eyes at least, he was all grown up. It was always,” Caboose, don’t go out without your brothers!” or, “Caboose, let me get that for you,you’re too little to do that,let me help you!’ or his personal favorite,”Caboose, you need to grow up and quit acting like a baby!” which always puzzled Caboose as well as making him lose his temper because how could he grow up if every one persisted in treating him like he was a little baby rabbit,still eating liquefied lettuce which he actually still liked but he had all his rabbit teeth and could even clean up his very own little warren. It might not be as neat as his brothers but it still looked good. Maybe it would look better if all his toys weren’t piled up in the closet but putting them in neat little rows made no sense to Caboose because he liked them all higgledy-piggledy but his mother still gave him the look when she opened his closet and they all fell out onto the floor!
Caboose wasn’t too fond of his name either and it really wasn’t his real name, that was Cabot Wallingford Bunne but since he was the youngest and the smallest and was always trailing along at the end of the line,his bunny brothers started calling him Caboose and that was that! His oldest brother Bert,short for Bertram who really loved his baby brother, would always tell Caboose, when he started getting upset about the teasing about his nickname, how important the caboose was to the “family train” and how sometimes,being the last to reach the destination meant you got to enjoy the trip longer which never failed to make Caboose feel better. Being at the end and the last sometimes meant getting the biggest rewards like the end of the bread loaf which was his absolute favorite thing because his mama made bread from scratch and sliced as they needed it so ,sometimes the end was the biggest piece and besides, his Granddaddy Jeremiah always told him the end was the best because it had all the vitamins in it to make him fast and being a fast bunny was sometimes a very good thing. Today it was good because ,even though he had been given very clear instructions not to go into the woods at the end of the clearing, he was going!
After all, he was very fast and very brave and he was so tired of being told not to do anything,they acted like all he was ,was just a big baby and he most certainly was not! The woods were dark and mysterious and very interesting and to a very small and stubborn young bunny rabbit boy, that was more tempting than a whole bunch of carrots, which were his second favorite food!
A cool breeze ruffled the treetops and sounded like an invitation to come on inside so Caboose hopped closer to the edge of the forest and stopped,suddenly nervous and wondering if this really was such a good idea and then the morning’s events came back to him and he could hear Delilah his older sister by five years telling him to stay close by because he was too little and he might get lost and off he hopped.
The coolness of the forest and the dim light slowed him down a little as he entered the dark confines of the woods. Strange noises and smells unsettled him a little but he was a very stubborn rabbit and this was his adventure so on he went,even though his paws trembled just a little and his nose was twitching like crazy and his right ear ,which always bent to the right and quivered when he was doing something he knew he shouldn’t, was vibrating like crazy!! A pine cone fell right beside him and he jumped a foot high!
“Ha ha, you almost jumped right out of your skin Caboose,you silly bunny!” Penelope Possum giggled loudly from her upside down perch on the tree branch right above his head. “Did you think it was the big bad wolf going to eat you for his supper?
Caboose liked his forest friends and most of the time he had a lot of fun playing with Penelope but this was one time he wished she’d been hanging somewhere else. His little bunny heart was still beating a mile a minute and he just knew if he told her where he was going, and didn’t let her go too, she’d run tell on him and that would be that! No brave adventure, no exciting tales to tell, just a stern lecture and a sore tail and more boring chores to do to keep him out of trouble so, what to do?Penelope was the youngest in her family too and sometimes she really understood his feelings because she too received the same treatment simply because she was so little so ,maybe,just maybe she might go along with what he wanted to do and they could both have fun exploring in the big dark forest! Not to mention, her eyes worked even better in the dim light of the overgrown forest floor!
Just then, two pair of fluttering wings settled on the tree branch above Penelope and Caboose recognized his friends the Owlyn twins, Aloysius and Alissa .Suddenly his solo trek and adventure into the forest had gotten even better for the twins could twist their necks and look behind them so no body could sneak up on them!
” What are you two up to ,Caboose? Going to go into the forest? You know they say there’s a big scary monster living in the bushes around the Ancient Oak and he eats small ones like us for breakfast, lunch and dinner and use our bones to pick his big sharp teeth!”
Aloysius chittered as he watched Caboose and Penelope’s eyes grow big and round as they contemplated his words. Alissa elbowed him and ,looking down with kind eyes at the two younger animals on the forest floor, spoke softly. ” Don’t listen to Aloys, he’s just pulling your leg, he wouldn’t know if there is a monster because this is our first time in here too but our parents come in here all the time and they’ve never said anything! Do you mind if we come along with you ?”
Caboose looked at Penelope and Penelope looked at him and both had the same thought,there is safety in numbers and too, if they did have a great adventure, there would be more witnesses to back them up and ,just maybe, possibly their parents wouldn’t get so mad at them for venturing into the forest!
Nodding his head, Caboose looked up at the twins and smiled,” That would be great! Any ideas on which way to go next?”
Aloysius puffed up his chest and ,pointing his wing off to the right, said,” Let’s head towards that little stream running besides the big rock, there’s a path alongside it and that will make it easier for you and Penelope to walk .” He was a bit of a blowhard but it was mainly for show and it covered up a big heart and he really did like the little bunny.
The little group of youngsters moved towards the murmuring brook and were soon hopping, ambling and flying down the path beside it. The sounds of the deep dark forest surrounded them but since, this time, Caboose wasn’t alone, the twigs cracking and the sounds of mice and squirrels skittering along didn’t make his fur stand up and his tummy squinch so he was feeling pretty good. Alissa and Penelope were chattering about girl stuff and since Caboose was a boy, he ignored that silly banter and just paid attention to the directions Aloysius was giving as to the safest, easiest way to travel through the forest floor .
Alissa squeaked loudly all of a sudden and Cab’s little bunny heart about jumped out of his furry chest. “ I know where we should go! There’s a waterfall right at the edge of the forest, right before the big clearing where our daddy always says we should never go because dangerous animals come there to hunt and as we are so sweet, we’d be snapped up first!”
Penelope and Caboose both nodded their heads in agreement for it sounded like a lot of fun and not too dangerous, after all, they had no reason to venture out onto the clearing and judging from the sounds of falling water they were already hearing, it wasn’t much further to the falls. Little bunny and possum feet were getting a little sore and tired and that cool water from the falls would be the perfect thing to plop them in and get rested up for the trip back home. Caboose remembered his mom talking about the wild lettuce that grew by the falls and how sweet it was . His tiny tummy was empty for he had barely eaten any breakfast that morning in anticipation of the forbidden adventure to come and his mouth watered in reaction.
The group made their way through the tall tree trunks and across the damp moss to the opening beside the falls and mouths fell open as they looked up and up and up! It looked to Caboose like the top of the falls touched the sky it was so high up and the noise made by the falling water as it rushed down the side of the mountain thundered in their ears. Looking around , he spotted the lettuce patch and there beside it was a large swath of red clover. To Caboose, that was even better, he did love his clover and red was the sweetest and had the softest texture .
Penelope, being a possum and known to eat pretty much anything, followed in his wake and began to stuff her cheeks as fast as Caboose was. Grabbing fistfuls of lettuce and clover, the duo made their way over to the water’s edge and plopped down, sticking their tired feet into the soothing cool water, glad to be in one spot for the trek in had worn them out. After all, they hadn’t ever ventured this far into the big dark forest. Just then Penelope spotted the Ancient Oak, the one Caboose’s siblings had told him about that supposedly had a big scary monster living inside that ate tender little animals just like them. It did look very old and it was very big, bigger than any other tree in the forest that she’d ever seen. It had a lot of branches and some were broken and the trunk had scars on it from where animals like deer had sharpened their horns on it and a couple of spots that looked like maybe lightning had hit it in the past but what made her little heart skip a beat was the big dark hole on one side that looked big enough for a monster to walk through and grab up a tender morsel like her.
“Oh, Cabbbbooose,look there! It’s the Ancient Oak and there’s the monster’s door!” Penelope’s heart beat even faster as they slowly crept closer to the oak tree. Aloysuis and Alissa circled overhead and the tiny group approached the old tree. They paid little attention to the big moss covered rock sitting right beside the tree trunk, their eyes glued to what appeared to be a door set in the middle.
Caboose looked carefully over the door for a doorknob but the surface was smooth and had no handle or knob sticking out. How on earth were they to open the little door and venture inside if they couldn’t open it and venture inside,wondered Caboose to himself? He ran his small rabbit fingers over the door ,feeling for maybe a depression or a button to push that would cause the door to open wide but there was nothing. Sitting back on his hind feet , he looked at the others ,hoping that maybe they had noticed something but they looked as puzzled as he did.
Just then, the “rock” started shaking and creaking ,twigs and small pebbles falling from the top to land on the forest floor.
“And just who has come to see me today? What creatures be these who surround my old home ? Friend or foe? Come now, answer Old Hilly,for I am much too busy to bother with time takers,state your quest and be quick!”
She chuckled under her breath as she saw the wide eyes and trembling limbs. Old Hilly knew precisely who these little ones were for she knew all who inhabited her forest kingdom and had many times protected them from the ones from beyond who wished to harm them. Eons ago when she was young and the Ancient Oak but a sapling, she’d made a promise that if she were given safety and sanctuary, she would in turn, do the same to those around her.
Caboose, being the one who had started this adventure and not wishing to be thought a coward in front of his friends, though his knees felt like jelly and his paws shook, spoke up. “ We meant no harm Old Mother, we just wanted an adventure and we have been told a monster lived in that tree and meant to see for ourselves!”
“Little one, did you not stop to think that maybe, just maybe that” monster” of which you speak might just gobble up creatures such as yourselves for breakfast and use their bones to pick teeth?” Hilly didn’t want to scare them more but she knew ,more than any other creature in the dark forest what lay beyond her tree house and she had to make sure that when they went home today, they would never venture any farther than her dwelling and even that ,not very often for danger did lurk just beyond. Bravery was a good thing to have but foolish bravery was a dangerous thing…..