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A New Chapter

Today’s blog is simple. I’m posting the new, improved Chapter One of Palo Duro Panic: A Moochie Mockingbird Tale. (For those of you who are first time readers, the series is for 3rd to 5th grade readers, but also makes a good “read-to-me” book for younger kids. Available on Kindle for 99 cents!!)Thanks to the constructive comments of several readers, I’ve seen the errors of my ways…well, at least as far as the book is concerned…and made a few changes.  So, without further ado, the revised (but unfortunately unformatted) first chapter of Palo Duro Panic:

PALO DURO PANIC: A MOOCHIE MOCKINGBIRD TALE
by Laynie King

Chapter One: Coyote Gets Caught
On this particular late afternoon in March, it was gloomily dark, bitingly cold, and very windy. In the heavy snow, Cody Coyote hunted along the rim of the canyon. His sharp eyes saw movement just off the path. Rabbit! A big old jackrabbit for his supper. Cody crouched for a jump. Just as he started to leap forward, his front paw slipped out from under him. He went sprawling forward on his chest. He thought he’d stop sliding right there, but Cody was wrong. As he slid, he dislodged a very large, very slippery piece of sandstone. The rock was covered with ice and once it started rolling, nothing was going to stop it. That rock, hundreds of small stones, and Cody went skidding along to the very edge of the mesa.
Then Cody stopped rolling, and he lay panting for breath. He could see over the edge. It was long way down to the canyon floor! The old coyote wondered why he’d stopped rolling and skidding where he did. Then he saw! That sandstone rock had also stopped rolling and skidding, slipping and sliding, too… stopped right on top of Cody’s left hind leg.
Cody could not move. He was trapped. Trapped under a sandstone rock. Trapped right on the edge of a canyon 820 feet deep. Trapped with no one around to hear his yelps for help. Trapped alone. He lay still and listened. He couldn’t hear the snow blowing, or the creak of the mesquite tree that jutted out from the canyon wall. He couldn’t hear himself panting. Cody couldn’t hear the hard beating of his heart. Couldn’t hear the wind. He listened again. He couldn’t hear anything! He touched his head with a paw and found a very sore spot under his ear. When he looked at the paw, he saw a faint smudge of his blood. He’d been hit by a tumbling rock.
Cody knew other animals that had lost their hearing after being hit in the head. But they heard just fine now. Cody hoped his hearing loss would be temporary. If he couldn’t hear, how would he ever be able to hunt? How could he find a squirrel hiding behind the cactus? Or hear a predator coming?
Cody Coyote lay his injured head down in the snow and thought. He was the oldest, wisest coyote in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Years of experience had made him a well-qualified teacher in the ways of the coyote, of nature, of other animals. It was Cody’s goal to make sure every pup born into his den could use its own good sense before it went out to face the canyon alone.
But all that knowledge wasn’t doing him any good right now. He couldn’t think of a way to get out from under that rock.
The old coyote remembered back a few hours that afternoon, just before the snowstorm hit. In a secluded cave under the canyon wall, old Cody had gathered the newest pack of young coyotes around him. He’d had to speak loudly to be heard over the howling of the wind outside the cave.
“It smells like snow! Stick your noses out into the wind and feel the cold and the damp. Feel the direction of the wind. That’s what snow smells like. It’ll be heavy on the ground before the afternoon is over. Now, I know how you like to jump and play while you’re hunting. And I know how some of you like to run away from the rest of the pack. But, for tonight, don’t ever go off on your own. When the weather is bad, y’all have to be more careful. Snow can make the rocks very dangerous. And where there’s snow, there’s usually ice. And where there’s ice, it’s slippery! I don’t want any of you hurt. So, be careful and be aware of your surroundings.”
Several of the pups had already started playing and weren’t listening at all. Casey Coyote stood up. “Y’all settle down now and listen to your elder.” Casey was a little older than the pups and sometimes he acted more important than he was. “Now, listen up!”
Casey was Cody’s grandson and he made the older coyote grin a bit. Cody remembered how he used to act important, too. He’d get a bit bossy with the little ones. Then those little ones would grow up, and Cody would have to deal with them being as big as he was! Casey would learn that lesson, too.
Then Cody had repeated his warning to the pups. “Stay together, two or three of you, and be careful. Good hunting. I’ll see y’all later.” The pups ran off into the canyon, each of them thinking of rabbit, squirrel, or mouse for dinner.
Now, lying on the edge of the mesa in the darkening dusk, Cody was a sad old coyote. He hadn’t listened to his own advice. Cody had started hunting alone and now he was trapped…and wondering what would happen next. He felt the snow fall into his thick fur coat. He felt the ice forming under his jaw, and the wind was making him so very cold. All through the long night, Cody waited in the silence. He couldn’t sleep, but he was very still. He had no choice but to wait for morning.

Copyright June 2011 All rights reserved

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