by L. H. Hall
January 19," Sarah announced, as she marked off another date on the
calendar. "Your birthday will finally be here tomorrow, Julie. What
do you want to do on your birthday?"
been anxiously awaiting her birthday. It was not any fun being
five. She wanted to be six, so she would be big. Almost every day
since the first of the year, she had asked, "How many more days 'til
"I think we
ought to have a holiday," I announced. "Birthdays are important.
All of our birthdays will be holidays. We won't do any work we
don't have to. There won't be any school. Whoever has the birthday
gets to be the M.I.P. That means the Most Important Person for the
day. Everyone else will try to make the M.I.P. as happy as
possible. That way we'll all have happy birthdays. What would make
you the happiest, Julie?"
and Daddy to come and get us." Big tears formed in the corners of
Julie. We all want that more than anything else, but we can't give
you that," I sympathized, and Sarah gave her a comforting hug.
"What's the next best thing that would make you happy?"
Jesus to let Mommy and Daddy be here for my birthday."
"I'm sure He
will, if He can," I sighed, "but sometimes we ask for things that
Jesus can't do."
do anything." Debbie was obviously offended by my statement.
right, Debbie," I agreed, "except that He gave us all the right to
choose what we want to do. He won't ever make us do something we
don't want to do,"
and daddy wanna come and get us!" Julie exclaimed.
do!" I agreed, but lots of times people want to do things, but they
don't know how. Your momma and daddy don't know how to find us.
They probably think we're all dead at the bottom of the ocean."
tell'em I'm alive on this island?"
sure He could, if they would listen to Him, but they don't listen.
People get so busy thinking about other things. Maybe your parents
are so sad their little girls are lost in the ocean; they don't even
think about anything else. They don't even hear Jesus when He tries
to tell them that you're alive. He can't make them listen if they
choose not to. Remember, they have a right to think and do what
they want. If they knew what Jesus wanted to tell them, they would
listen, but they don't, so they're too busy to listen." I also
wanted to tell her that her parents might be dead, and would not be
able to come, but that would upset her too much.
do you want, Julie?" Sarah asked.
I'm gonna be big. Can I jump off the patio into the water, Timmy?"
big jump. Won't you be afraid?"
tomorrow! I'll be BIG!"
be as big as Debbie or Sarah. It's so high, they're still afraid."
I tried to discourage her.
"I won't be
afraid tomorrow," she insisted.
well enough," I admitted. "Do you think you can jump that far, and
still land on your feet in the water?"
can. I'll be big."
"If you turn
over in the air, and land on your belly or back, it would hurt awful
"I can land
on my feet."
I looked at
Sarah. She was scowling. I knew she did not like the idea. "I'm
afraid you might land on your belly and get the breath knocked out
of you. That hurts bad."
you showed me how to swim, you said if I wasn't scared, I could."
"I did say
that, didn't I? I'm afraid you're going to have to get Sarah's
permission. She's the momma of this family."
scowled at me then. She did not like to be put on the spot, but why
should I be the villain? I thought she could do it all right. She
could swim like a fish, hardly making a splash, and she often jumped
from the diving rock three or four feet above the water.
to jump from that high, and I'm afraid for you to do it too." Sarah
took up the argument.
I'm the Most Important Person on my birthday, and you're supposed to
make me happy."
wouldn't be happy if you got the breath knocked out of you and
couldn't breath, would you?"
"I won't get
hurt! I'll be big tomorrow! Please?"
to think about it. I think you ought to wait until I'm big enough
not to be afraid. We still have a whole day until you're big, and
won't be afraid."
do it," Debbie put in.
nothin'," Jamie bragged. "Its fun. You and Sarah are just scaredy
reminded him. "We don't tease people about being afraid. They
can't help it."
you with the dishes this morning." I picked up some of the floppy
handle skillets, we had used for plates, and some canteen cups.
sick? Haven't you got some men's work to do?" Sarah asked.
me. It won't hurt me to help with these for once."
up the rest of the dishes, and followed me out to the edge of patio.
"Look down there, Sarah." I nodded at the lake. "It's a long way
down, isn't it?"
gives me the creeps just to think about jumping off."
"How do you
think Julie will feel tomorrow when she looks down there before she
jumps, even if she is big?"
scared! But, what if she isn't, and jumps?"
gets through falling, she'll land in the water, right side up,
hopefully. What'll you bet, she won't go through with it."
she said. "You've solved my problem." She took the dishes and went
into the cave.
I went to
the goat pen. I did not need to worry about being attacked any
more. I could play with the kids, without the nannies getting
upset, but there was only one I could milk, and she did not like
it. Three others would let me come close enough, so they could
smell my fingers, and allow me to scratch their noses. The other
one would still bolt, and run to the other side of the pen, when I
That day was
the same as usual. Sassy, as I called her, a solid white goat with
long curved horns, would not let me come near her. I talked softly,
and moved slowly. I even tried to box her into a corner. I could
not get within three feet of her before she would bolt away to the
other side of the pen. I kept trying. It would have been easier if
she had needed something only I could give her. I had thought about
fixing another fence to cutoff the stream, but I had decided against
it. I would just keep working with them until they were all like
Star. Star was the first nanny we captured. She was dark gray with
small white spots all over her, and one white star in the middle of
her forehead. She was so tame; I could always pet her. Sometimes
she would come to me and nuzzle her nose against me to be petted.
All the kids wanted me to pet them.
got an idea. I got a vine and tied Sassy's baby, Frosty, close to
the fence so Sassy would have to come to check on her. At first, I
thought I had made a big mistake. Frosty did not like being tied,
and when she started crying, Sassy came flying across the pen with
her head lowered. I jumped out of the way just in time. The nanny
crashed into the fence. When I picked myself up off the ground, I
saw that she had one horn hooked around a bamboo pole in the fence.
I was afraid she would tear the fence down. I grabbed a big vine I
had hanging on the fence, and tied it around her neck, and tied the
other end to a nearby tree. Then, I twisted her head to free her
horn. She turned and ran to the other side of the tree until the
vine stopped her. I tried to approach her, but she moved away from
me. I continued. She stayed as far away as possible. Round and
round the tree we went. She did not realize that each step she took
away from me, the shorter her vine got until she could not get away
from me any more. Her head and neck were tight against the tree.
She could not move.
I began to
pet and scratch her neck and back. She bucked and kicked and cried,
but she could not get away. I continued to caress her, talking
softly to her all the time. Finally, she calmed down and stopped
shaking as I stroked her. I was in no big hurry. Several minutes
after she settled down I worked my way to her bag. She did not seem
to offer too much objection as I stroked her bag and squeezed a
little milk out of one of her points.
I ran to get
the milk pail I had brought into the pen with me. When I got back,
she had started to unwind, but wound herself up again as I
approached, and started shaking again. It only took a minute or two
for her to relax this time. I put the pail under her, and milked
one point dry. The other I left for Frosty. I did not untie her. I
decided to make friends with her one way or another.
I got as
close as I could to the others. I almost caught Stinker, a black
and white nanny, that would almost let me catch her; then, she would
take off. That's why I named her Stinker. Finally, I tied Star to
the fence, milked her and left the pen.
told Julie that she could jump off the cliff the next day if she was
not scared. That was about all Julie could talk about. She would
not be scared because she would be big. I wanted to tell her to be
quiet about it, but a little girl is six only once in her whole
life. She finally shut it off, and went to sleep.
morning I was cleaning the rabbit, and Sarah was starting the fire
on the fire rock when the others got up. They went, as usual, to
take their baths. We did not pay any attention to them until Jamie
said, "C'mon let's go," and ran off the end of the patio.
right behind him, "Hellllll . . .!" SPLASH!
screamed, Sheba barked, and I followed as fast as I could, diving to
the rescue. Sheba and I hit the water about the same time. When I
came up, Sheba was barking angrily. The two kids were swimming to
the shallows, laughing. "What do you kids think you are doing?" I
I could, if I wasn't afraid, and I ain't scared. It was scary
coming down, but it was a fun kind of scary."
"I told her
not to look down. Just to run and jump like I do, and she wouldn't
get scared again, cause if I looked down, I wouldn't never, never
jump off that thing." Jamie admitted.
make a new rule!" My voice, still louder than usual from fear,
provided the emphasis I wanted. "Nobody goes swimming; unless,
Sarah or I know about it first! Okay? You about scared me to
"Let's do it
again, Jamie." Julie started for the bank.
You're not! Not now. We're going to have breakfast before anybody
does any more swimming." I was mad! I had been so frightened! But
I could not help laughing at their sneaky stunt. They had planned
it too. They had so nonchalantly walked out onto the patio. Then
at the last minute, before we could stop them, they jumped in.
When we got
back up to the patio, it was obvious that Sarah also realized a fast
one had been pulled. She was laughing, but got a stern expression
on her face as she said. "Happy Birthday Julie. You got your
birthday wish. Now I can ground you from the pool for the rest of
the day, and you too, Jamie."
I'm the M.I.P. Everybody has to make me happy. I can't be happy if
M.N.G., most naughty girl, of the day, trying to give poor Timmy and
me heart attacks, and Sheba too. You scared us to death."
Jamie piped up. "If we'd scared you to death, you wouldn't be
yelling at us."
ever do anything like that again, James Edward Davis. Scared or
not, I'll jump in right after you. I'll land on your back and hold
you down 'til you drown." She was trying to sound mad, but Jamie
had tickled her funny bone. She burst out laughing.
innocent Debbie was in on it too, but acted like she knew nothing
about it until Jamie asked, "Why'd you chicken out, Debbie?"
you talking about?" Sarah wondered.
s'posed to jump in too," Julie tattled, "but she chickened out."
of you ever do anything like that again!" I ordered. "Sarah, I had
to make a new rule. Nobody goes swimming unless you or I know about
it first, and we say it's okay. And nobody ever goes swimming
alone, not even you or me."
good rules," Sarah assented.
no teasing rule still stands. People can't help it if they're
afraid. Just because you jumped off the cliff, and your sisters are
older than you, doesn't give you the right to tease them."
Timmy," Julie concurred. "I won't tease 'em, but can I keep jumpin'?"
I looked at
Sarah. She seemed resigned to it. She nodded, but did not seem too
happy about it. "I guess so, as long as you are careful, and don't
get hurt. Now let's get back to breakfast."
do you want to do today, Julie?" I asked at breakfast.
jump in the lake some more."
what else do you want to do?"
"Can we play
with the baby goats?"
know about that. The mother goats know me. They don't care if I
play with them, but I don't know about you. They don't know you.
puppies go swimming with us?"
don't see why not, if they want to, but we don't want to make them
afraid of the water. We'll each take one in at a time, and let him
swim back to the bank."
"How do we
teach puppies to swim?" Julie asked.
automatically know how, but my dad said they get scared if they get
water in their faces before they learn to like swimming. We have to
be very careful. We'll only take each puppy in three times. Then
we can call them. If they want to come in, that's fine, but if they
don't, we'll wait until the next day to take them in again."
breakfast Jamie and I each got a club, and went into the goat pen.
It was the first time anyone had been in the goat pen with the goats
but me. The kids came running to us as they always did. I stood
guard with my club while Jamie knelt down and started playing with
them. Some of the nannies looked at us, but none of them seemed to
be alarmed or called their kids away, except Sassy. Still tied up,
she could not get to us, but Frosty ran to her. I got Frosty, and
told Jamie to hold her for a few minutes until Sassy quieted down.
When we had
been in the pen ten or fifteen minutes, I let Julie come in and play
with the kids. Jamie and I stood guard. None of the mothers seemed
to care. The kids loved having someone else to play with. A few
minutes later Sarah and Debbie came in together. Sarah also brought
a club with her, but she did not need it. Before long the goat kids
were hopping and jumping around while the children were running
around playing with them. Still Sarah and I stayed between the
nannies and the children.
A half hour
or so later, I went over to Sassy and held out my hand. She did not
try to get away. I scratched her nose and patted her on the neck.
She even seemed friendly, rubbing the side of her face against me.
I worked my way back toward her bag, and pretended that I was going
to milk her. She did not protest. She stepped aside a little, but
when I persisted, she let me squeeze a little milk onto the ground.
this one likes me." Sarah announced.
up. She had her arms around Stinker's neck. "That's Stinker! How
did you catch her?"
"I just held
out my hand, and walked right up to her."
never let me catch her. I can almost get to where I can grab her.
Then she runs off. That's why I named her Stinker. 'Cause she's a
big stinker." I went over and scratched her nose, but as soon as I
tried to get closer, she ran off.
after her, and walked right up to her again. "She's my goat."
milk her then. See if she'll let you rub her bag."
her bag. She did not even move.
"See if she
will let you squeeze some milk out."
comes out of those points. Squeeze right above them."
squeezed. Nothing came out, but stinker did not seem to mind. Sarah
squeezed again, and again. Finally, she got the right action, and a
stream of milk squirted out onto the ground. "I got some!" She
it. Now we've got three goats to milk"
one of the kids bleated, and Star lowered her head as if she would
attack Debbie. I jumped between them and spoke to Star with my club
ready. The kid ran to her, and Star settled down. "What happened,
playing with her, and I tripped and fell on her."
"You have to
I didn't mean to hurt her."
"I know you
didn't, but Star is still pretty wild. She doesn't know you didn't
mean to. C'mon over. I'll introduce you. Let's see if she will
accept your apology."
I went to
Star first. She allowed Debbie to pet her, and began to rub her
head against Debbie's stomach.
"I got me
one too," Jamie claimed.
petting Tina, the smallest of the nannies. She was almost solid
black with a few brown markings. "Her name is Tina because she is
the smallest. Remember Tina Jergens? She told me that Tina means
tiny; so, I named the littlest nanny, Tina."
one's name?" Julie asked. She was petting Nanny, a white goat with
black spots, or a black goat with white spots. It was hard to tell
"I just call
her Nanny, which means 'Momma goat.' How did you catch her."
"I just held
out my hand and she comed to me."
trying to catch these goats for two weeks and haven't been able to
catch any of them except Star, until Sassy got caught in the fence
yesterday, and I tied her up. You kids come in here and walk right
up to them. I don't understand it."
weren't trying so hard." Sarah alleged. "We just let them come to
onto them. I'll get the milk bucket, and see how friendly they
I tied each
of them to a tree, and milked them all, except Stinker.
not hold still and quit kicking until Sarah tried. Then she stood
just as quiet and still as anyone could ask her to. It seemed to
take Sarah a long time because she had trouble getting the milk to
come, but she finally got all the milk out of one side.
was horror struck, as she and I stood at the edge of the patio, and
watched her little sister. Julie was in perfect control of her
body, sailing, straight as a board, feet first, through the air into
the lake twenty feet below, hardly making a splash. It was only a
few seconds, but it seemed like hours before the brown head bobbed
the surface, and she began swimming toward the shallows.
never do that!" Sarah shuddered.
to try it. It's fun." I pretended to try to push her off.
not!!!" She screamed. as she swung around and hit me on the chest.
in," Jamie had apparently he had seen the gesture.
not!!!" She ran, screaming, toward the cave. "You're breaking your
own rule about teasing!"
teasing you about being scared. I was just playing with you.
Don'tcha wanna have a little bit of fun?"
know I wouldn't push you in for a million dollars?"
you would too."
wouldn't. A million dollars wouldn't do me any good, here.
Besides, you might not land right, and get hurt. C'mon lets go
swimming. I'll meet you down there."
Debbie called the puppies down the path. The rest of us met them at
the bank. We each picked up a pup, and carried it a few feet from
shore. Rascal, Jamie's second puppy, did not like being left
behind. She whined a couple of times and followed us. She swam out
several feet, and then started, back to shore. When Jamie saw her
and called her, she turned around again and swam to him. The other
two pups did not like being left either, but were not brave enough
to come into the deep water.
carefully eased the pups into the water, I reminded them. "Be
careful. Don't get water in their faces."
started swimming already, and she ain't even all the way in the
water yet," Debbie squealed gleefully.
them alone, and let them swim where they want to," I instructed.
swam around a little and headed for the bank. Debbie started after
hers. "Get one that hasn't been in yet," I advised. "Then, let
them alone for a while. We'll see if they will come back when we
call them." After the first swim, Sheba nudged some of them into
the water, when we called them. Most of the time, however, Sheba
lay on the bank watching us. Only Bruno, Buster, and Cuddles had to
be carried back into the water for a second lesson, and only Buster
needed a third. The others seemed to be tireless swimmers,
especially Rascal, the runt of the litter.
playing with the puppies, and diving off the diving rock, Julie,
Jamie, and I made more than a few trips to sail off the cliff.
Sheba barked excitedly the first few times Julie jumped, and swam to
meet her to make sure she was all right, but eventually she settled
down and just watched for any trouble.
The sun was
already beginning to tilt to the west when Sarah looked at the sky.
"It's time for lunch."
"Is it still
kinda scary, falling into the water, Julie?" I queried.
it ain't as scary as it was this morning."
"I wish I
could do it," Debbie sighed.
can, I guess you can too." Sarah gave her permission.
a long way down. I'm scared."
Sarah nodded. "I'm scared too."
wish you wasn't?" Julie asked.
Sarah admitted. "It looks fun."
never know what your missing, until you try it," Jamie asserted.
ought to try it. You can't get hurt, if you land right." I agreed.
"If I land
right! What happens if I don't land right?" Sarah wanted to know.
"It stings a
little, like you got slapped real hard."
what you told Julie."
trying to talk her out of it."
not going to do it! And that's final!"
tired." Julie flopped onto the bed, when we got to the cave.
the bed all wet, Julie," Sarah told her.
Julie was already asleep.
"She's had a
full morning," I noted. "The bed will dry by bedtime. Let her
"I guess she
can eat when she wakes up." Sarah nodded. "We'll go ahead and eat."
I was on the
patio after lunch, putting some wood on the fire when Sarah called
me. "Timmy, Timmy, come here. Come quickly!"
matter?" I ran into the cave.
Sarah was laughing with tears running down her cheeks. "It sounds
like Julie got her wish after all."
"What do you
Bye Daddy. I'll be good, but I wanna go with you!" Julie was crying
in her sleep. "I need you, Mommy!"
That was all
I heard. Julie continued to cry in her sleep for several minutes.
We all sat around her, and Sarah stroked her back soothingly. With
tears running down her face, Sarah whispered, "She was giggling and
laughing in her sleep for a couple minutes. Then, all of a sudden,
she started crying, 'We're going too, aren't we?' Then, after a few
seconds, she said, 'I don't wanna stay here.' That's when I called
you. She was dreaming about Momma and Daddy."
"I do that
sometimes, and it makes me sad when I wake up," Debbie admitted.
"She's gonna be real sad when she wakes up."
Jesus to let them come today," Sarah sighed. "Maybe this is the way
Jesus answered her Prayer."
they left again in the dream, so she won't be expecting them to be
here when she wakes." I was thankful for that.
not." Sarah continued to stroke the sleeping girl.
continued to sob. We never left her, nor tried to awaken her. We
all wanted to be there for her when it was over. After several
minutes she awoke, and looked at us with a puzzled expression on her
looked at Sarah and said, "Mommy and Daddy are okay. They came to
tell me Happy Birthday. They said they love you and Debbie too. I
thought they came to get us, but they said they couldn't take us
right now. She said Jesus needs us to be here for a while, and for
me to be a good girl. They said I hadda do what you and Timmy tell
me to, 'cause you gotta take care of me. Somebody's gonna find us,
but it might be a long time. We might be almost growed up, but when
they find us, they'll still love us, and be waiting for us. Mommy
said we was gonna have a baby brother or sister. I wanted to go
with them, but they said I couldn't, and neither could you 'til we
was found. That made me cry. They was crying, too, because we
couldn't go. They gave me a big hug, and kissed me good-by. Then
Daddy told me to be a really good girl again, before they hadda go.
They said you and Timmy would take good care of me. They want us to
be happy here 'til somebody finds us. I knew Jesus would make'em
"It was a
nice dream." Sarah wiped the tears from her own face. "I'm glad you
got to see Momma and Daddy on your birthday."
"It wasn't a
dream! They was really here!" She would not accept anything else.
"And Mommy's gonna have a baby. You'll see. She told me she is."
good! I wonder what they'll name it?" Sarah pondered.
know yet, 'cause they don't know if it's a boy or a girl. I hope
it's a boy. I'm gonna call him Billy."
it's a girl?" Debbie queried.
"I want it
to be a boy. They already had three girls. They need a boy, now,
and I'm gonna pretend it's a boy named Billy, 'til I find out."
pretend we're gonna have a baby brother named Billy," Sarah
assented. "You spent so much time talking to Momma and Daddy, you
missed lunch. Are you hungry?"
I'm awful hungry. All my birthday wishes came true, 'cept I didn't
getta go home."
"I wish my
folks would come and see me on my birthday." Jamie turned, trying to
hide his tears.
"Me too!" we
"What are we
going to do the rest of the day, Julie?" I queried.
out where the wild goats are, and get some fruit, mangoes and
papayas and bananas, and I'd like to find some pineapples, but the
wild goats prob'ly eat those before they get big enough."
there's some at the orange grove. The goats don't go over there."
use some breadfruit, and air potatoes from down there anyway."
"Can we go
both places, Timmy?" Julie pleaded.
don't get too tired."
don't have to carry that heavy bag either." Jamie grumbled.
We had tied
the neck hole of one of the ponchos shut, and tied the bottom to
two long bamboo poles. It made a large sack to carry fruit and
vegies in. I carried one end of each pole on my shoulders, and
Sarah and Jamie each carried the other end of one of the poles.
Sometimes we got such a large load; we would have to empty some out
before we got all the way home.
you like to take the puppies?" I asked.
Debbie chimed in, clapping her hands and jumping up and down.
Jamie exclaimed. "They'd get under our feet, and trip us on the way
back with a load of fruit."
outvoted four to one. The puppies went.
are big enough now. We ought to start taking them wherever we go.
Whenever one of us goes some place, his or her dogs need to go
along, even to the jungle bathroom. That way when they get a little
older, we'll be able to go in five separate directions, and have at
least one dog to protect us. They have to be trained to do that. "
getting pretty old. She has to be at least nine or ten, and that's
old for a dog. She might live ten more years, but she will probably
start acting tired and lazy soon. Besides, there are lots of wild
dogs out there. She ran them off once, but she is only one dog.
She might not be able to do it again."
been right. The pups were a nuisance. They did not get underfoot
so much, but we had to keep calling and yelling at them. They
nearly gave Sheba a nervous breakdown. They explored everything.
They thought it was great fun to pester the goat kids, until they
got rolled over a few times by the angry nannies. After that they
stayed clear of the goats.
We made it
back to the cave in time to rest a little, and still go to the
bad we don't have some sugar," Sarah commented as we passed a tree
loaded with big yellow lemons. "Some lemonade would surely taste
good on hot afternoons."
would taste good anytime," Jamie agreed.
find some sugar cane, if we keep our eyes open for it," I alleged.
"I've seen it growing, but I don't know for sure if I would
recognize it. It looks a little like bamboo, but it's kinda redish,
when it's ripe. I think."
also find a beehive," Sarah added.
"If we do,"
Jamie worried, "you get to go after the honey, but let me know first
so I can go to the other side of the island."
afraid of a few little ole bees, are you?" Debbie chided.
you can't tease me about it neither." Jamie admitted. "'Sides,
I'll bet you're scared of'em too."
say I wasn't, but I'm a girl. Boys aren't s'posed to be scared of
not to be scareda bees."
"If you find
a beehive, we'll figure out a way of getting the honey," I assured
them,+++ "one way or another."
some bees, but I don't know if they're the kind that make honey,"
Sarah reported. "Maybe it's too hot for honey. It might be all
runny and run out of the hive."
know, but I'd sure like to have some, and some bread and peanut
butter to go with it. I dreamed of my favorite sandwich.
feet, or so, before we got back to the cave from the orange grove,
Sheba barked two or three times, and the pups ran ahead to the
patio. Then, she looked at me, barked twice, and disappeared into
one of those hidden trails just big enough for her. More work,
I thought. At least she didn't take off toward the goats.
Back at the
cave we carefully made our way back past the milk in the stream and
stacked the fruit in separate piles on the big shelf in the cool
room. Sarah wanted it that way; so, she could feel her way, and get
what she wanted easily without a fire stick.
we went back to the lake until dusk. Julie had, had a full,
beautiful birthday. It was one of those rare days, when there had
not been a single cloud in the sky to drop its moisture on the
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.