Celia's Parade

Near There: The Fairview of Marsha Taylor


Tough Ol' Birds

Blue Moon on the Wing

Trips to the Shed

The Exuberance of Birds



Preface & Reader Response

"It was a choice between Bluster, the demented dog, or the road-walkers; so we charged ahead as fast as our legs would carry us."




Otter Limits

Chapters: I | II | III | IV | V

by Jerry Murley

One cold, damp, overcast morning in mid-fall, the animals at the pond got a rare treat. Gandy, Bulward, and Redrick had started their early morning recounting of the previous day's events. Bullfrog, Trina, and Gwobbly were nearby. They heard the padding of little feet and panting, as if a determined, tiny herd of miniature bison were charging down the road from the hills in the north. To their amazement they saw three of the four river otters running toward the pond in a tight group. The otters had become road runners!

Putter, Motter & Potter
When the otters got to the pond they were breathless. Then the mother of the two pups, Motter, began to tell her story. About two weeks before, she said, "We lost little pup." The trapper had set his traps again in the farmer's creek in the part between the fork and the river. They were the same traps that had taken the legs off two large alligator turtles during the summer. "Little pup got curious around a trap and got his leg caught. He whimpered for hours, but we could not get him lose," she said with a sigh.

"Because of the danger of the traps, I have been taking the pups for early morning trips to the two ponds up creek for feeding and returning down creek before the sun. Well, today we were returning late because the creek was being hunted by that dog that Bullfrog calls Bluster. You know the dog that silently hides in the bushes when the road-walkers are nearby and there is no fence between himself and them – the one that snarls and barks incessantly at the road-walkers from behind the safety of his fence till they are almost out of sight.

"Sometimes we take a detour around that part of the creek and run on the road. It's much faster that way. This morning Bluster was chasing us around the first curve in the road when we came head-on to the young road-walkers. It was a choice between Bluster, the demented dog, or the road-walkers; so we charged ahead as fast as our legs would carry us."

The young road-walkers had been as shocked as the otters by the encounter. On their return walk, as they were heading around the curve toward the two yellow-rock posts, they saw the three river otters running toward them on the opposite side of the road. They recognized the family as the one they had seen before downstream closer to the river. But one of the four was missing. They thought the neighbors' wicked dog must have flushed them out of the creek.

They stood perfectly still as the otters charged forward in close formation. There were a few very quick hesitations, as the smaller otters sometimes seemed to consider a dash down the steep embankment to the creek. It was as if the walkers weren't even there at all. The otters' odd bodies, being very long and limber, made for swimming with short legs and webbed feet, caused their backs to hunch in a high arch in the middle like an inverted "U" when they ran They passed within five feet of the walkers and continued down the road toward the pond.

The young walker woman, called Ms. Road-Walker by Bullfrog, thought the otters had probably traveled the road before, finding it faster travel than the creek. It was a delight for the road-walkers to see, and the experience struck them as very funny. The determined otters and their strange transportation seemed utterly hilarious. What made it all the more amazing was the road-walkers' knowledge that the farmer, who had lived in the area for 80 years, had never even seen a river otter.

As the road-walkers rounded the curve their suspicions were confirmed. There was Bluster, the rude and unruly, but cowardly dog, out from behind his protective fences, on the side of the road near where the creek entered his owner's property. Ms. Road-Walker faked a voice like an old witch and cried, "I want me a tasty dog to take a bite out of." Bluster headed directly off the road and behind the hedges that lined the creek, never to be seen again. Ms. Road-Walker continued to project in her pretend voice toward the creek where he was hiding, "Where's me a juicy, rascally dog to take home for dinner?"

Of course, the animals at the pond knew nothing of these things from the road-walkers' eyes until they overheard the young road-walkers telling the tale the next day. Still the sight of the frantic otters was enough to lighten the day of all. That is except for Bullfrog. He asked in his deadpan and seriously uninterested and insensitive way, "Why didn't you see that it's a bad thing to ever leave your area for adventure? You all should stay put and then such frightening things wouldn't happen. Pure foolishness it is to wander around. That's why I stay right here in my pond and have no interest in the rest. See what my caution has done for me." Yes, all the animals, with very brief consideration, quickly saw all too well what Bullfrog's "wisdom" had done for him. Their sympathies were with the playful otters, who had a story worth listening to and one well worth retelling.


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