The Ant and Other Farm Stories: The Ant that Lives on Lauren’s Creek, illustrated by Jodi Maas

D4A828D0-D5E7-4DFD-A8C0-DC92E508E45B
Illustrations by Jodi Maas

There is a spot called Lauren’s Creek
on some land known as Cunningham Farm.
It’s a special place of which I speak
for although it’s quite small, it has charm.

On this creek, there lives an ant
who built his small house on its banks.
And as much as the walls made of mud tend to slant –
for his home, he gives plenty of thanks.

His name to human ears might appear
to make little sense whatsoever,
but if you read on, you will soon learn
of a practice that’s really quite clever.

For not all living creatures, you see,
have names like you and I.
They do not begin with an “s”, “a”, or “g”
and it’s not ours to always ask why.

Instead many animals use different sounds
to make their names known to their sort;
be it “baaahs” of the sheep, “woofs” of the hounds,
as well as the pigs that go “snort!”

Now as to the name of the ant mentioned here,
who presently lies fast asleep,
he’s known by all antfolk who live far and near
as the wise and most neighborly “Eeep.”

All cozy and warm in his house on the creek,
his six legs tucked snug in his bed,
Eeep’s nap is cut short by the start of a leak
that drips a big drop on his head.

9B6F8A75-B894-47E3-87E6-8E944763075A

His eyes flutter open and look to the roof
when the water begins to pour down.
It’s then that he hears a distinctly close “WOOF!”
“Blast that dog!” he declares with a frown.

Climbing from bed, now soggy and mired,
Eeep stomps to the door leading out.
“Go away, you big beast, for I’m dreadfully tired!”
he calls in his loudest ant shout.

But the dog, who regrettably doesn’t speak “Ant”
pays no mind to the ant’s plea to “Shoo.”
He just romps down the creek with a wag and a pant,
leaving poor Eeep rather blue.

2. The Ant

”Now I’ll have to rebuild,” he replies with a moan.
“Since that beast came I’ve worked day and night,
I wish that dumb dog would go chew on a bone.
Always ruining my house isn’t right.”

Now the dog, known as Noble, to folk on the farm
really isn’t as bad as Eeep guesses.
For truly his purpose is not to do harm,
but he sometimes creates little messes.

And really, their difference in size is so great,
it’s not fair to give Noble the blame.
Although the ant’s house is in quite a bad state,
it was too small to see – that’s the shame.

But what can Eeep do with a problem so grand?
It’s quite clear that the dog will return.
“I’ve got it,” he cries. “It’s a sheer brilliant plan.
All my bad luck’s now surely to turn.”

So up Eeep climbs, to the banks of the creek
where he toils and struggles and strains.
That obstinate ant works for nearly a week,
until all of his energy drains.

DCCD6D57-82CF-47B4-A454-00994CFA29C5.jpeg

“My work’s now complete,” the ant says with a smile.
“This time Noble I’ll surely outsmart.
I’ll wait here and watch for that hound to pass by.”
Thus, behind a large mushroom he darts.

Eeep doesn’t wait long for the dog to arrive
for soon out of the bush he comes leaping.
Then into the creek the dog makes a grand dive;
while very nearby Eeep stands peeping.

”Oh please, please, please, let my hard work succeed,”
the ant wishes with all of his might.
“A good night’s rest I terribly need!”
His little heart pounds with such fright.

Then with great joy, Eeep sees what he wishes,
the dread Noble is changing his route.
“Yippee!” cries the ant, “my house has been missed!
No thanks to that big, ugly brute.”

3. Noble

The reason, you see, that the dog is outsmarted
is that now the creek flows left AND right.
Eeep through his labor the water has parted
-securing his home out of sight.

His house now lies left, on the narrower side,
where the water just trickles a trail.
And Noble, preferring his creeks deep and wide,
was sure to go right without fail.

Content that his troubles are finally through –
for at last there is no dog to dread –
now that the creek is divided in two,
with great glee, Eeep heads straight for his bed!

CA676CA3-CC86-40A9-AA8E-2E659D20A32A

The Ant and Other Farm Stories: Noble’s Deeds, illustrated by Jodi Maas

3. Noble

Noble, a Labrador black as the night
oversees all life on the farm.
With the sun, he bounds across the land.
With the moon, he makes sure none see harm.

With great pride, he meanders across the old farm
sniffing out every scent to be found.
With a wag of his tail and a bark here and there,
he covers each inch of the ground.

His name is quite apt, as you will see.
For his kindness and courage he’s known.
From the time he was only a wee, little pup,
a goodness he’s gallantly shown.

His coat is as shiny as silver and gold
His tongue is as pink as a rose.
His big, brown eyes watch with great care
all that goes past the tip of his nose.

BBB64429-E04D-4552-8F09-A7A377D90463

Now and again, there’s a rabbit to tease
or a chicken to chase ‘round the barn.
But then there’s a time to be sober and staid
when Noble must guard the old farm.

A few summers back, great trouble arose
when some children were playing with matches.
A bale of hay caught fire in the barn.
And we all know how quickly hay catches.

Now Noble, whose nose is as keen as they come
was the first to smell trouble nearby.
He raced to the barn and saw the great flames
and barked out a loud warning cry.

The children had found their way out of the barn,
but still left were two cows and a horse.
By now the thick smoke billowed out the barn doors
and the flames of the fire raged full force.

6701BA6D-04BD-41F7-8F75-FCCE5D3E9048

From the field Farmer Jim had run to the scene
and called for all hands that could aid.
He knew that he’d have to go into that barn
if those animals were to be saved.

The smoke was too thick to be able to see
and the farmhands were set to resign,
when into the barn ran the farmer, called Jim
with Noble, his dog, close behind.

With wondrous speed, Noble found the poor beasts
all huddled in fright in one section.
He “Woofed!” and he “Woofed!” as loud as he could,
thus guiding the farmer’s direction.

photo-13 copy

All were saved in the end, but the barn was destroyed.
All that’s left now are three walls of stone.
Yet oddly enough, it’s a functional spot
where Noble likes burying bones.

Like the barn, it’s most certain that things come and go
and sometimes the change is alarming.
In fact, on the day little Lauren arrived,
Noble watched his folk buzzing and swarming.

At first, Noble found this small creature a pest
as he sat there and watched her make faces.
But as the seasons gradually passed,
Lauren managed to earn Noble’s graces.

Now anytime little Lauren’s at play,
you’re sure to find Noble around –
giving wet doggy kisses on each rosy cheek
as they run, and they romp, and they bound.

Noble discovered change wasn’t so bad.
It adds more to the life that he tends.
Not only is Lauren a change that he loves,
she’s also his very best friend.

7A503CEE-F93D-44B5-A506-50A1B20A2023

The Ant and Other Farm Stories: Sweet Lauren, illustrated by Jodi Maas

06330C9B-E2A6-40E5-B47B-28AB504BEC57
Illustrations by Jodi Maas

Lauren was born on a cool autumn’s eve
as the stars made a home in her eyes.
When Lauren cries, the whole farm grieves
and when she laughs, smiles rise.

When Lauren gained faith in her two tiny feet,
all life on the farm stopped to see.
One foot, then the next, she’d step and she’d step.
“Sweet Lauren,” all urged, “come to me!”

Now Lauren well knows every inch of the land.
She explores whenever she’s able.
She knows the farm better than any farmhand
from the edge of the fields to the stable.

She seeks out adventures with Noble close by,
finding castles in old broken shacks.
She closes her eyes and imagines she flies,
swooping down toward the old railroad tracks.

Each day that she heads down this old railroad line,
Lauren finds a new life to befriend.
Just as the time that she heard a great whine
and sensed there was something to tend.

Giving ear to the cries, Lauren finally discovered
a fat cat that was stuck in a hole.
It seems the poor kitty got stuck in the ground
when chasing her lunch – a small mole.

2AE4DE8B-8A88-476D-B757-FD4F7B942C09

The cat squiggled and squirmed with all of its might,
thus hoping to squeeze its way out.
But all of its squirming had worsened its plight,
for the cat was quite clearly too stout.

When the stuck cat heard Noble she clawed and she wriggled
and her tail pointed straight in the air.
Then Lauren kneeled down to the poor cat and giggled,
“Don’t worry, fat kitty, I’m here.”

“There-there, little kitty,” Lauren said with a pat,
as she eased her new friend from the ground.
Her sweet, gentle voice soon calmed the poor cat
and a purr was the very next sound.

On this farm, there’s a pond used for fishing,
where the frogs like to croak until morn’.
It’s also a good spot for wishing.
One came true when sweet Lauren was born.

992806FD-B5B5-4440-B457-2393794D5435

The Ant and Other Farm Stories: Farmer Jim, illustrated by Jodi Maas

7fb36-img_0895

Farmer Jim’s a good, kind man who rises with the sun.
He works the fields from dawn to dusk, until his work is done.

It’s hard work but he likes it, just like his father had.
You see, he’s known the farming ways since he was just a lad.

He knows his farm is special and so do other folk.
“My magic elves do all the work,” the farmer always jokes.

This magic’s not like others, though, it has no spells or charms.
To Farmer Jim, the magic lives within his two strong arms.

His life is very fortunate, as most around agree.
He thanks his lucky stars and says, “My gosh, I’m glad I’m me.”

0f6de-img_9676

He always greets the morning with “How are you, Today?”
And when the moon returns each night, it hears about his day.

His tractor is his oldest friend that he depends upon.
In turn, the engine never fails to run until they’ve done.

His animals are family – each field a worthy mate.
And when some years don’t fare so well, he smiles, “Next year… just wait.”

It’s in the farmer’s nature to smile and look ahead.
For it’s the best way you can live when all is done and said.

That’s why his wife so loves him and stands right by his side.
There’s naught about this home of theirs in which they don’t take pride.

In turn, the farm yields treasures for the kindness it receives.
For Farmer Jim believes in his land, thus the land, in the farmer, believes.

2758A968-8C16-46A4-8097-EB69F56BE5EA

The Ant and Other Farm Stories: Garden Kingdom, illustrated by Jodi Maas

942215E5-67C2-451F-883B-A0549AE9611C
Illustrations by Jodi Maas

In a small patch of garden near the old farmhouse,
Lauren’s mother had some trouble with a troublesome mouse.

The reason for this conflict is as old as seas are deep.
In order for all life to live, all living things must eat.

Now feeling that the garden had enough to go around,
the little mouse saw little harm in eating what it found.

However, Lauren’s mother didn’t feel that this was fair.
It’s not that she is greedy and she doesn’t want to share.

It’s just that she works very hard to make the garden nice.
She also knows the mouse has other food that would suffice.

So, on the day she saw the mouse had gnawed at a potato
and then – as if this wasn’t enough – chewed up a prized tomato.

She stomped her feet and shook her head, “I’m lost without a clue!
How can I stop a mouse from doing what it’s born to do?

But if that naughty, little mouse continues at this rate,
I won’t have any food to put upon my family’s plate!”

Now Lauren, who’d been working in her own small garden patch
said, “Mother, I can help you if it’s Bess you want to catch.

She’s queen of all the field mice for as far as you can see.
It’s best if you just talk to her – invite her here for tea.”

ee334-img_0973

“I see,” smiled Lauren’s mother, “I must ask this mouse to tea?”
“Let me,” replied her daughter, “We’re as close as friends can be.”

“I’ll leave it up to you then,” smiled her mother as she turned,
“I’m sure she must be very wise with such a title earned.”

So Lauren went to find the Queen to bid the invitation,
while in the house her mother sighed, “That child’s imagination!

Imagine that! Invite a mouse for tea and conversation!…
And not just any mouse,” she laughed, “but one of such high station!”

6e462-crown2bpillow2btail2b252812529

All morning Lauren’s mother laughed about her daughter’s plan.
Yet some voice deep inside her said, I wonder if she can?”

She watched as little Lauren set the table for the tea,
clearly wanting everything as perfect as can be.

Her daughter set the table with her finest cups of all –
for it’s not everyday that one has monarchy come call.

At three o’clock that afternoon sweet Lauren came inside.
“Well,” she said, “I’ve done my best – at least I know I tried.”

“I’m sure you did, my darling,” said her mother with a smile,
“You must be quite excited for she’ll be here in a while.”

But Mother, you don’t understand. The Queen has come and gone.
She said that she was sorry, but she couldn’t stay too long.”

“She said she hopes to meet you when she comes again for tea
and promised that from now on, they will let your garden be.

e6b87-spilled2bteacup

Queen Bess has made a law for all the field mice on the farm.
They’ll be the cat’s next meal. she vowed, if any more is harmed.

Lauren’s mother hugged her and then whispered in her ear,
“That cat is really far too fat. Those mice have little to fear.”

And just as Queen Bess promise, all the mice stayed far away
and if you ask sweet Lauren’s mom, she’ll shake her head and say,

“Who’s to say that one can’t talk to life both big and small.
It seems that our girl, Lauren, knows the language of them all!”

 

The Ant and Other Farm Stories: Nightfall, illustrated by Jodi Maas

c631f-photo-9

Night wraps around the land like a great, cozy comforter, as life on and around the farm settles down for another winter’s eve. A gentle snowfall coats the fields and farmhouse with a frosty, white layer – like icing on a cake.

The sound of the wind against the windows and through the trees makes Lauren snuggle further beneath her blankets and cuddle closer to Noble curled contentedly at her side. In the dark of her room, she tries to imagine the shapes of each tiny snowflake and soon dreams of a land with castles made of ice and people made of snow; while Noble dreams of chasing rabbits and diving into snowdrifts.

Somewhere in their sleep, the two friends meet and walk side by side across the farm, making tracks in the snow everywhere they go to say hello to life on old Cunningham Farm.

2A82F3CD-1DC3-4768-8014-281296765BCC

The End

Wisconsin Days: March

0BF6B682-D919-426B-B964-689C03C01AEA
Photo by ac frohna

The sun shines brightly through the bedroom window and beckons me to rise even before Eva begins her morning ritual of cooing me awake from the nursery next door. Stretching long and hard and hesitating before throwing the warm comforter aside I gaze out the window at the bright blue sky and bent, barren treetops. It has not been a very harsh winter, nevertheless it’s March and in the Midwest that means winter has already been two months too long.

Delaying the departure from my bed, I try to recall what the first days of spring smell like, instead of the stale odor of a house that hasn’t ushered in the outdoors for many months. Inhaling long and hard, I imagine the sweet smell of a newly mown lawn and the swelling winds just before a summer thunderstorm.

Closing my eyes and, rather than the same leafless branches I have seen since November, I picture the first tiny, bright green leaves about to unfurl all along the branches of the oaks, hickories, and maples in the neighborhood.

I even try to imagine a spring shower dampening my face and the cool moist dirt beneath my fingernails, and just as I am about to take a great, big, imaginary bite out of the freshly picked tomato, I hear my daughter gurgle and murmur and wrestle with her bunny. With a dreamy sigh, I toss back my covers expecting to be hit with a blast of winter cold, but much to my delight the late winter sun has filtered in and settled all around me. Climbing from bed, I make my way to the window and open it, hoping the day outside will be just as kind.

It takes no imagination to hear the enthusiastic morning warbles and cheeps, twitter and tweets of the birds already enjoying this happy hiatus from the cold. With a great big smile and an excited pang in my heart, I clap my hands and scurry to Eva’s room singing, “Spring is coming, Noodle, spring will soon be here. Let’s go outside and greet the day, for spring is very near!”

Rushing through our morning routines and happily neglecting my deadlines, I dress Eva and strap her to my chest, call for the dogs, and hurry outside to welcome the pleasant day. Although the cool winds still instantly summon thoughts of winter, there’s no mistaking a change of season is upon us.

I can feel it in my bones and smell it in the air.

As I wandered from one dormant garden to another, my excitement over the impending season is very powerful – so powerful that I feel as if I concentrate hard enough I can almost will the buds to spring from the earth before my eyes – and even find myself a little disappointed when nothing issues forth upon command.

Yet I know very well that life will soon stir without my urging.

As we slowly make our way over to the vegetable garden, I begin to make a lengthy mental list of all the things I’ll try to grow this summer and all that has to be done to prepare the beds for the coming harvests. I imagine Eva, now bundled up and bound to me, soon crawling across the sweet smelling earth and playing beneath the hot sun, taking her first steps across the dewy grass and chasing the summer-slim barn cats.

My smile grows even wider when I look ahead to the days when my daughter will have her own little garden patch where I will teach her the simple pleasures of digging in the dirt and making something grow.

With Timber and North at our heels, and Eva at my chest, I head across the prairie behind our home. Each time a blast of wind strikes our faces, I hear my daughter suck in the cold air and squeal with delight at being out of doors and out of our snowy asylum.

So on we continue, ignoring the remaining winter’s icy reminders.

Whispering in my daughter’s ear, I speak of spring; of swaying fields and stormy skies, of prairie grass and wild asparagus, of hillsides blanketed with wildflowers and woodlands scattered with secret patches of subtle flora, restrained and fleeting, of puddles of rain and fat, buzzing bees.

We walk and talk and throw sticks for the dogs all morning and in these hours, I, like the earth, stir toward reawakening.