Late one summer evening, deep in the Canadian wilderness, near a narrow dirt road. The sun was dropping almost below the horizon, and the sky was streaked with purple and red. The air was heavy and humid. Insects buzzed, small animals rustled through the underbrush, and birds sang their evening songs. Just then, a loud pick-up truck with patches of missing paint and a cracked side mirror drove up and pulled up to the edge of the road. an older man stepped out of the truck. The man had a long duffle bag slung on his shoulder. the man walked a small way into the woods. He stopped at a wide clearing near the edge of a small pond there. He set down his bag, then kneeled down and started taking out a set of large bear traps, which he began to set up around the shore of the pond. As he did, a large and strong-looking stag stepped into the clearing. Even when the stag saw the older man near the pond, it was calm. In this area, people were rare.
The man, on the other hand, took one look at the stag and quickly set down the two bear traps and his bag. The stag did nothing as the man reached inside the bag and pulled out something long and metal – it was a rifle. The stag stood still, looking at the man as he pointed the rifle and pulled the trigger. The stag fell dead. The man looked at the dead stag as if it was nothing and went back to setting up the bear traps
A short time later, the truck with the man driving headed down the road again, now with the stag and his magnificent set of antlers tied to the front grille.
* * * * * *
Nearby, Theodore, Johnny, and Susie Jackson were on a camping trip with their parents. They were camped on the edge of a clear, cold lake. Theodore was a smart boy with red (actually, orange) hair; Johnny was a fun-loving 10-year-old boy, and Susie was a lively little girl with long brown hair.
The next morning found the kids floating around the lake in their family’s inflatable boat. Johnny was paddling from time to time with a plastic oar. The Jackson kids’ parents had gone for a two-day hike, and Theodore was in charge while they were gone. Suddenly, the largest bird the kids had ever seen swooped out of the sky and dived toward the lake. The bird pulled an enormous fish out of the water. The silver fish wriggled and flashed in the sunlight as the bird flew upwards again, holding the fish in its talons.
“Whoa, look at the size of that bird!” cried Theodore. “I didn’t even know birds that big existed,” he said.
“It’s as big as the mini-van,” said Johnny, referring to their parent’s car. And he was right; the bird was as tall as the minivan.
“It’s a hawk!” said Susie.
The bird slowly flapped its enormous wings, heading away from the lake toward the forest. Just then, the kids saw a man in camouflage clothing step out of the brush that lined the lakeshore. They watched, horrified, as he pointed a long gun at the bird.
“NO!” screamed Theodore and Johnny. Susie just screamed.
The bird, alarmed by the noise, veered sharply away and flew toward the forest. The hunter pulled the trigger. The gun exploded with a puff of smoke and a loud clap, but the bird was out of range. The hunter shouted in anger. The kids watched as he lowered his gun and pointed it toward their boat. This time, they all screamed, and Johnny paddled frantically toward the opposite shore.
There was a loud bang and a loud pop, followed by a hissing sound. A dark, burned place appeared on the side of their inflatable boat.
“That guy’s crazy. He shot the boat,” yelled Theodore. “We’re going down.”
Susie was crying. Johnny was paddling with the oar, and Theodore was paddling with his hands, trying to get closer to the shore. But there was no time. The boat started to shrivel and shrink before their eyes, and water started to pour in over the sides.
“I’m scared,” cried Susie. “I can’t swim. Help! Help!”
The kids were too panicked to notice a boy appear on the opposite shore from
the hunter. The boy was dressed in rough, simple clothes, and his hair was long. He put two fingers in his mouth and gave a loud, sharp whistle. The huge bird, minus the fish, flew back into sight and headed for the shoreline. The boy lifted his arms, and the bird slowly flew down within his reach. He grabbed the bird’s leg and hoisted himself onto its back. “Up!” he cried.
The bird flew up and over the lake to where the Jackson kids were now in the water, clinging to their boat as it shriveled into a limp, orange, and blue plastic circle. The birds’ huge shadow blocked the sunlight. The kids saw the boy’s head poke out over the bird’s broad back. “Get on! Grab her legs!” he yelled. One by one, the kids clutched the bird’s legs, and the boy hoisted them onto its back. “Up!” the boy called, and the bird, very slowly now, carried her heavy burden toward the shore.
The kids collapsed in a heap on the shore. The strange boy stood beside them; the bird flapped toward the heart of the forest. “Are you OK?” the boy asked.
Theodore nodded. “Thanks! Thanks! Who was that man? We need to call the police. He shot our boat he was trying to shoot us!” The boy didn’t answer.
A few minutes later, Theodore asked the boy, “Who are you? Are you camping nearby?”
“I live nearby,” the boy said.
“Who was that bad man,” said Susie.
“The hunter!” said Johnny, “He tried to kill us.”
The boy’s face grew serious. “Yes, I know,” he said. “He’s a very bad man. That hunter has been hunting all over the forest for years, and he wants to shoot Swan.”
“You mean the bird? It’s not a swan?” said Susie.
The boy smiled fondly, “Your right, she’s a hawk,” he said, “but I only call her swan because she likes that name.”
“What’s your name?” asked Theodore.
“Ernest,” said the boy. “Nice to meet you. My name is Theodore,” said Theodore “This is my brother Johnny,” he said, “and my younger sister Susie.”
A short time later, the Jackson kids were lying in the sun, drying themselves and their clothes the best that they were able. “So, what’s with the bird?” Johnny asked. “I’ve never seen a bird that big.”
“She’s the last of her kind,” said Ernest. “The very last one. Not many people even know these birds exist. She had a mate until a few weeks ago. But the hunter got him,” he said sadly.
“Who is that guy?” asked Theodore.
“I don’t know,” said Ernest. “He showed up here a couple of years ago. Since then, he has come a couple of times a year and hunts every animal in the forest. I think he keeps them as trophies.”
“You mean he kills them so he can hang their heads on his wall?” asked Johnny.
Ernest nodded. “Or he stuffs them,” he said.
“Where does Swan live?” asked Theodore.
Ernest pointed up towards a nearby cliff. “Up there,” he said.
“Can we see her nest?” asked Susie.
Ernest considered for a moment. “O.K.,” he answered, “but we have to be careful. She has eggs, and she’s very protective of her nest right now. She won’t even let me get too close.”
The kids followed Ernest through the underbrush near the lake and then deep into the forest. He followed an almost invisible path through the trees.
Then Ernest stopped. And said hold on, watch where step.
“Why”? said Johnny.
That’s why. said Ernest pointing to the ground and covering the ground where large metal traps of all kinds were.
“That hunter must have set them,” said Theodore.
“Let’s go around,” said Ernest.
After carefully stepping over the traps. The small group kept on going.
The ground grew steadily steeper, and soon the Jacksons were sweating and breathing hard. At last, the trees thinned, and they saw a narrow clearing at the top of a cliff.
At the edge of the woods, Ernest told them quietly to wait. He walked gingerly toward the edge of the cliff and carefully looked over the edge. They heard a loud “screech!” from somewhere over the edge. The boy lay down on his stomach and stayed very still for what seemed like a long time. Then, he motioned to the kids to join him and held his finger to his lips. “Shhhh.”
The Jacksons hurried over to Ernest and lay down on their stomachs next to him, looking over the cliff.
“Whoa!” said Johnny. A breathtaking view of the forest and the lake spread out below them. Just below and to the right, on a narrow ledge, they saw an enormous pile of sticks, grass, and feathers. Swan lay on top of the nest, watching them warily. “Screech!” she cried loudly, and the kids jumped. Her dark brown eyes watched the kids every move.
They were so busy trying to catch a glimpse of Swan’s eggs that they didn’t see the hunter up behind them creeping until he was near to the edge of the cliff. He was creeping slowly forward, aiming his rifle in front of him.
“HEY!” Ernest yelled. At the same moment, Swan screeched and rose up into the air, her giant wings beating the air. The hunter raised his gun toward her chest.
Quick as lightning, Ernest picked up a stone and threw it, hitting the hunter neatly on the side of his head. “Aaah!” he yelled, whirling around and pointing his gun at the kids. The Jacksons screamed in unison and threw themselves to the ground. Meanwhile, Swan soared angrily overhead. She swooped toward the hunter with her talons extended. Swan rammed directly into the hunter full force with her talons, thrusting him backward onto the ground. Swan then flew upward, curving around in the air, ready to soar down at the hunter again. The hunter, who was clearly still disoriented, quickly got up, then turned and ran toward the forest.
Swan screeched and returned to her nest and eggs. Meanwhile, Susie looked on angrily at the fleeing hunter. She jumped up and ran after him. Her brothers yelled for her to stop, but she ignored them. Theodore, Johnny, and Ernest hurried after her.
At the edge of the forest, just within the cover of its trees, the hunter leaned against a tree, wiping sweat from his brow. Susie ran up so that she was standing in front of him, she stood with one hand on her hip and the other pointed at the hunter. Susie shook her finger at the man. “What do you think you’re doing? Don’t you dare hurt Swan, mister! You’ve got no right to shoot her. She never did anything to you. Besides, she is very rare.”
A greasy smile spread across the hunter’s face. “I know she’s rare, you stupid girl. That’s why I want her. I have no use for common birds.”
“You can’t kill her! She’s the last of her kind,” said Johnny running up to them.
“I know she’s the last. I got her mate about two weeks ago,” the hunter said, lifting a huge hawk feather tied to his belt. “I need her to complete the set.”
“But she has eggs. She’s going to have babies!” Susie said.
The hunter laughed. “No, she’s not going to have babies. Those eggs are going to fetch a very fine price for me!”
Out of nowhere, Ernest lunged at the hunter, pushing him and knocking his gun to the ground. “Monster!” he shouted, “Leave her alone!” The hunter violently pushed Ernest off of him. He then picked up his gun and straightened his jacket. “Don’t ever do that again, or I promise you, I’ll use this,” he said, nodding at his gun. Ernest didn’t move but glared angrily at the hunter.
The hunter walked back toward the direction of the cliff and Swan’s nest. Johnny began to reach down to grab a large rock, but Theodore slapped Johnny’s hand, shaking his head.
“Don’t be stupid. This guy is nuts he’ll shoot you for sure,” whispered Theodore.
“Well, we have to do something. We can’t just let him shoot Swan and get away with it”. Hissed Johnny back at his brother.
The hunter began to approach the cliff with his rifle pointed out in front of him. “No!” Susie cried, but the hunter ignored her.
Just then, the kids heard a tremendous crashing in the brush to their right. They turned and saw a huge grizzly bear burst out of the woods. The bear stood momentarily on its hind legs, roaring so loudly that the ground seemed to shake. The bear was massive, nearly ten feet tall. Its thick brown fur was edged in silver. At the same time, Swan took flight from her nest once again. She was looking very angry. Swan screeched loudly at the hunter. Now panicked, the hunter looked back and forwards from Swan to the bear, unsure of which he should shoot at. Clearly making a hasty decision, the hunter swerved around to aim his rifle at the bear.
Taking advantage of the hunter’s confusion. Ernest took aim and lugged Another rock that sailed through the air and hit the hunter in the back. The hunter now spun to face the kids and saw Ernest, already getting ready to throw another rock. The hunter’s face turned purple with anger, but in that instant, the grizzly bear charged right toward the hunter. Terrified, the hunter screamed and ran full speed ahead back into the forest with the bear charging after him.
Ernest headed after them. The Jacksons looked at each other and then followed, running through the brush and trees as fast as they could. “Shouldn’t we be running the other way?” Theodore called Ernest, but he didn’t answer.
Johnny and Theodore tried to help Susie, but she couldn’t keep up. “Stop! Stop!” Theodore called. Ernest reluctantly stopped, glancing in the direction the hunter and the bear had disappeared. However the kids could hear them crashing through the forest up ahead, but the sound was getting farther and farther away. “Susie can’t keep up,” Theodore said, panting and bending forward to catch his breath.
“I have to make sure the bear is safe,” Ernest said. He turned and started to run deeper into the woods.
“No! Please!” said Theodore. “We can’t find our way back to the lake without you.” He added, “I’m sorry.”
Ernest hesitated and looked again down the path of crushed branches and brush. “You’re right,” he said. “You’ll never find your way out alone.”
Up ahead, the hunter plunged through the brush and trees, scrambling to stay ahead of the charging bear. The hunter clutched his rifle in his hand but couldn’t get far enough ahead to turn and fire a shot. Suddenly, he felt a terrible pain in his left leg. Looking down, he saw a metal trap clamped painfully around his ankle. The trap was securely fastened to the ground with metal stakes. The hunter screamed. The trap was his own.
The hunter fell, dropping his gun as he crashed to the ground. The gun landed to his right, just out of reach. He twisted around to see the bear advancing toward him. The bear reared up on its hind legs, its enormous teeth bared. It thundered a few steps closer to where the hunter lay on the ground.
The kids walked slowly back the way they came. At the clearing, they looked over the edge of the cliff to check on Swan. A small (compared to its mother), dark baby chick sat amid pieces of eggshell. Another egg was shaking, and a sharp little beak poked through a crack in the shell. Swan gently rubbed her face against her new chick.
“Oh!” said Susie, “Look at Swan. She has a baby!”
They stayed for a few minutes watching Swan and her new family. As they watched, they suddenly heard a loud sound come from the forest. It seemed to come from the direction the bear and the hunter had run. But what was it? A loud roar, for sure, but another sound, too. A gunshot? A worried look came over Ernest’s face.
A short time later, the Jacksons stood at the edge of the lake and said goodbye to Ernest.
“Thanks,” they said together. Theodore opened his mouth to say more, but before he could speak, the boy had vanished into the brush without a word.
* * * * * *
Two months later, the Jacksons were back home in the city. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the Jacksons were visiting the Natural History Museum to see an exhibit called “Creatures of the Canadian Wilderness.” Theodore and Johnny grumbled as they walked through the galleries.
“This is for babies,” Theodore muttered, trying to make himself seem invisible.
“Yeah, babies,” Johnny agreed.
Susie ran excitedly from one exhibit to the next. “Look! Look!” she called to her brothers, “It’s the bear we saw in Canada!” She was stopped in front of an exhibit of grizzly bears. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a huge stone statue of a grizzly, rearing on its hind legs, with its claws extended as if it were attacking.
“Whoa,” said Johnny before he remembered that he was bored. “It does look exactly like the bear that chased that dirt-bag hunter into the woods.”
“Yes, but it never came out of the woods, did it?” said a voice nearby.
The Jackson children turned and saw a man dressed in camouflage clothing and a bandaged-up leg standing next to them. They looked closer and recognized the hunter.
Well, isn’t the world a remarkable place I never thought I’d see you worthless brats again, Chuckled the hunter
“If you ask me, I wish it was you who had never come out of the woods,” said Theodore. “What happened to the bear?”
The hunter smiled to himself, recalling the scene:
That mighty beast nearly had me. I even dropped my gun. I would have been a goner if the stupid bear didn’t take his sweet time. I then managed to stretch my arm just far enough to pick up my rifle and like that. Bam! one dead bear. explained the hunter to the Jackson Kids
So, wait, what did you end up doing with the bear? said Johnny.
“Why, you’re looking at that bear right now. It tried to attack me, but, as you can see, it failed and joined my collection instead. Some sculptor even paid me to come to my home and use the bear as a model,” he said, motioning with his chin toward the huge bear sculpture.
“The bear is at your house?” Susie asked.
“Well, it would be more accurate to say that its skin is at my house,” said the hunter. “He’s the centerpiece of my front hallway.”
Susie made a face. “That’s disgusting,” she said.
“Really?” said the hunter. “You know what I think is disgusting? Children running around unsupervised, where they don’t belong.” The hunter turned again to look at the sculpture of the bear.
“Come on guys, Let’s go find mom and dad,” said Theodore with a frown. The Jackson kids started walking back to their parents. Just then, they heard a loud crack. And then, a louder crack. They turned to see the giant bear sculpture come loose from its base and topple frontward onto the hunter. With a scream from the hunter, he disappeared under the pile of broken stone.
People screamed, and chaos descended on the museum.
The Jackson kids ran back to their parents while they did, Theodore was gasping with disbelief. Oh god, did you see what just happened?
“Of course we did. How could we not?” said Johnny.
“If you ask me, I think the bear got his revenge after all,” said Susie as the Jackson kids ran back to their parents.