Vol. 11


No Shoes, No Guardian,
and No Protection

1893; near Waterville, Pennsylvania, USA

Two girls walked along a dirt path in the Pocono Mountains. They had no shoes, no guardian, and no protection. The older girl, Nina (NYE-nuh), my great-great-grandma, was nine, and her sister Dorothy was six. Nina had long brown hair, which she always tied up into a neat ponytail. Dorothy’s hair was the same, but she let it hang loose.

The two sisters were heading home — home for them was a tent — after gathering berries for lunch. This was usual for them. They lived on the side of a mountain range in Pennsylvania. They grew all of their own food and pumped all their own water.

It was a clear day. The sun was shining, with a slight breeze in the treetops. The dirt road was as dusty as ever. It was a perfect day for gathering berries.

“Do you think this is enough berries for mother?” Dorothy asked, looking up at her big sister. She knew the answer — anything they could gather was enough.

“I think we’ll be fine,” Nina said in her sweet, calming voice. “Mother will be delighted.”

Dorothy let out a small sigh of relief, though she didn’t need it. Five minutes and they would be home and ready to have these delicious blueberries for lunch. The girls walked along in silence for a while, unaware of what was coming up to give their young hearts a jerk.

Nina and Dorothy turned the corner on the mountain range trail. There they saw, staring at them, a great big black panther — only feet away. His big green unblinking eyes were fixed upon them as if he was ready to pounce at any moment. Nina felt Dorothy give a small jump, but not enough to alert the panther.

Nina thought, “Stay calm,” as though trying to send the message to her little sister. Dorothy appeared to receive it, or else it was just common sense. Then Nina remembered something she had learned a while ago: If you sing to an animal, it won’t attack you.

So, doing the only thing she could think of, she grabbed her sister’s hand and began to sing a hymn. They skirted around the huge panther, knowing that at any moment it could pounce. Nina’s hand sweated with every step she took. When they finally got around the panther — after what felt like forever — they let out their breath. They looked at each other, then took off at a run. They would have an exciting story to tell their waiting mother when they got home.

Fiona Hayreh; Missouri, USA



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