Richard Rabbit Goes Swimming
Richard Rabbit Goes Swimming
When my kids were little I used to make up stories for them about some animal friends. We had a number of hand puppets and we used them in the telling of the stories.
Richard Rabbit was the principal character. He would go off with his friends into the woods and have rather remarkable adventures. Alas most of the stories we told are gone but this one remains. In it Fergie Frog teaches Richard how to swim. But Richard has an adventure he wasn't expecting.
Don't get wet reading it!
For Jennifer on her birthday, 1992
Richard Rabbit Goes Swimming
Far away through the forest, at the edge of a river, underneath the branches of a large pine tree lived the Rabbit family. There was mother Rabbit, father Rabbit, and there was Richard Rabbit. Their home was a comfortable burrow, dug into the sand bank alongisde the river.
Every morning when Richard woke up, his mother would give him breakfast. This morning the sun was shining and the sky was blue with an occaisional fluffy white cloud floating by high up. As he ate his breakfast Richard thought about what he wanted to do that day. His friend Fergie Frog had been promising to teach him how to swim.
"Mother", said Richard. "May I go swimming today?"
His mother looked up quite surprised. "Why don't be silly! Rabbits don't swim", she said.
"Well", asked Richard, "Why can't they?"
"They just don't do it"< replied his mother. :Rabbits don't have webbed feet or flippers. You would sink."
Richard thought about that for a while then he said, "May I go out and play?"
His mother nodded yes so he went to the door of the burrow, where he stopped first, carefully looking outside to see if it was safe. Richard knew there were many things in the woods that would like to eat a little rabbit for breakfast. After a while he hadn't seen anything so he scuttled out onto the sandy ledge outside the burrow and headed for Fergie Frog's home.
Fergie Frog lived next to a tall clump of reeds and grass growing right at the edge of the river. The ground was always damp and muddy there. When Richard arrived he found Fergie waiting for him.
Richard asked, "Do you think I could learn to swim today?"
Fergie looked at him, then at the river, up at the sky, and finally back to Richard again. "I 'spose today is as good as any", he finally replied leading the way to the water.
"Watch me", he commanded. Fergie waded out in the water a little way and began to kick with his legs. "The first thing you must learn is to kick. This will make you move. Be sure not to get out too far though, the water gets deep and the current runs very swiftly."
Richard waded into the water just a little way and tried kicking his back legs.
"Not bad", said Fergie. "Now try paddling with your front feet", and he demonstrated.
Richard tried that too. After he had practiced a while Fergie said, "I think you're ready to try it in a little deeper water."
Richard waded out a little farther until the water was up to his chin and began to kick and paddle. To his surprise he began to move. "Look!", he shouted. "I'm swimming!"
Fergie nodded his head up and down. "Don't go out too far", he warned. But it was too late. Richard had swum out away from the bank and was caught by the river's current.
"Help", cried Richard when he realized what was happening.
He was now near the center of the river and it was rapidly carrying him downstream. He tried to swim back but the river was moving much too fast for him. Fergie hopped along the river bank shouting instructions but either Richard was too scared to pay attention or was too far away to hear. Finally the river swept him around a bend and he could no longer see Fergie or his home.
"Well", said Richard to himself. "This is a real mess you are in now" and he kept swimming. After a while he began to get tired but not too far away he noticed a log floating which he managed to swim to climb on top of and there he sat, a very cold and scared little rabbit. Actually if anyone had seen him they might have thought it quite funny to see a rabbit going down the river on a little "boat" but to Richard it didn't seem fummy at all.
The trees along the river continued to move past as he was carried along to the log. "I wonder how far I've come from home?" he thought. Soon though he forgot about home for a roaring sound was growing louder.
Up ahead was a rapids, a place where the river was narrower and began to run much faster. There were a lot of rocks. Richard began to remble. If he went in there it was almost certain he would be thrown off his log and he didn't think he could swim much more he was so tired.
As he approached the rapids though, he saw that a tree had fallen down and lay partly across the water. When he was carried under it he jumped up and landed on it. He turned and watched as the log he had ridden on crashed onto the first of the rocks and then disappeared from sight.
"Boy, I'm sure glad I wasn't on that log", he said.
Much relieved, Richard began to make his way up the fallen tree toward the river bank. Once he was back on solid ground he heaved a sigh of relief. Now to get started for home! But which was was home? After thinking a little bit he decided that home must lie in the direction he had come from and so he started out, going hippity-hop along the river bank.
The sun was high in the sky and it quickly dried off his fur as he went along. Soon he began to get hungy. He found and ate a tiny wild cabbage and that helped a little but still he was hungry. Richard decided to venture into the woods away from the river to search for some food. He found some berries and wild asparagus and quickly ate them. Some moe berries were visible a little farther on and he wandered along munching as he went.
Suddenly he remembered the river. But which way was it? He became very frightened. WIthout the river to guide him he would never find his way back home and he began to rush about looking for it but the more he looked the more lost he became until finally he sank down under a small bush and began to cry.
After a while he heard a rustling sound and stopped crying. From out of the bushes next to him came a little skunk. "Are you all right?" it asked. "I heard you crying and came to see if I could help".
Richard told the skunk, whose name was Stinky, all about what had happened. How he had gone swimming, and gotten swept away by the river, how he had ridden the log and his narrow escape from the river rapids. "And now I'm lost and can't find the river and I'll never be able to get back home again", and he began to cry again.
Stinky said, "Cheer up Richard, I don't know where your home is but I can show you where the river is. Follow me." And he began to lead the way. Richard followed along and presently they came back to the river bank.
"Oh thank you so very much" said Richard. "I'm so glad I met you."
After saying good bye Richard again started hippity-hopping along the river. The sun was now getting much lower and the trees in the forest cast long shadows across the river.
"I had better be finding a safe place to sleep tonight", thought Richard. He knew the forest would not be sae for a little rabbit after dark.
Just as the sun was setting he came to a thron bush that was just big enough for him to wriggle underneath and there he listened as the forest changed from day sounds to night sounds. Finally it was dark and the moon and the stars came out. Richard thought he was much too excited to sleep but after all his adventures that day he was quite worn out and it took only a minute before he was fast asleep.
The next morning he woke up cold and puzzled. WHere was his mother and breakfast? Then he remembered all that had happened. "Well I guess I better get started if I'm ever going to get home", he thought and with that he wriggled out from under the thorn bush.
SInce he was quite thirsty he went down to the river for a drink. But as he bent over the water he saw a terrible sight; reflected in the water was a large hawk and it was headed straight towards him with its claws extended. Richard threw himself to one side as quickly as hie could and the hawk zoomed by, flying so close to hime it seemed he could count every feather on the big bird's wings.
Richard came up running and made straight for the thron bush. The hawk circled around and was coming back again. Richard made on last big jump and dove underneath just before the hawk arrived. With his heart pounding Richard looked out. The hawk tried to get underneath the bush but was far too large. Then it tried to force its way through but the spikes and thorns on the bush stuck it until it gave up. Then it strode back and forth in front of the bush screaming insults at Richard but after what seemed like quite a long time it gave up and flew away.
It was over an hour before Richard dared to come out from under the bush again and he very carefully looked around but the hawk was gone. "That was too close for comfort!" he said to himself.
Mindful of the hawk he kept inside the woods and again began to hippity-hop along the river. He found some delicious roots and he made them his breakfast. As he was eating he heard a fustling noise and the sound of foot steps. He was very nervous and got set to run away but from behind a tree stepped a deer.
Richard looked at the deer and the deer looked back at him. Finally Richard said "Hello, would you like to share these roots?" The deer nodded it's head yes and together they finished the meal. Afterward the deer wanted to know where he came from so Richard told him the whole story starting from his taking a swimming lesson and finishing with how he was trying to get home.
The deer told him, "Your legs are short and it will take you a long time to get home but if you would climb on my back I could take you there quickly."
Richard lost no time in saying "Yes please!" and jumped onto the deer's back where he held on tightly. The deer began to run, going faster and faster, ntil the wind whistled in Richard's ears.
After a while the deer leapt from the woods onto the sandy ledge next to the river where Richard lived. He was home!
Afte thanking the deer over and over again Richard scrambled up the river bank to the place under the branches of the large pine tree where his burrow was.
"Mother, Father!" he called out. "It's me Richard. I'm home!"
His mother and father came hopping as fast as they could. WHen he had not come home last night they had been very worried and were afraid that Richard had become dinner for some other animal. They were overjoyed to see him and made him tell his story over and over. Richard told them how lucky he had been to have found his new friends in the forest. Afterward they all had a big dinner then Richard went and curled up on his bed. He was happy and content againg because now he was home and he fell asleep immediately.
From left to right are Cowabunga the cow, Fergie Frog, Richard Rabbit and Stinky Skunk.
They hope you enjoyed this story. Maybe you'll try making up your own stories too!
Richard Rabbit Goes Swimming is Copyright © 1992 by Charlie Comstock. All rights reserved.