The Burro, The Llama & The Pony
By Kay Davis
It was a hot afternoon at the circus, upper 90s, no rain relief in sight. Barney, the burro, was nibbling dry grass. Close by stood Patty, the Shetland pony, and at the far end, Larry the llama chewed his cud.
Then a wagon arrived with slatted sides and two divided ends. Lewis, the old lion, lay quietly at one end of the wagon. Lewis nearly always rested. He was so old he didn’t even have teeth! Wild lion, indeed! At the other end of the wagon was a tiger named Tom who wanted to run free.
As Charlie the camel watched the big cats, he scrunched up his face into the funniest expression you ever saw. Camels are like clowns with buckteeth, a hump on their backs, big flat feet and knobby knees. They moan and complain more than any other animals.
Just then the man who looks after the animals put a dish of water into the lion’s end of the wagon and closed the door. “I suppose I have to get up to get a drink,” complained Lewis. Lewis hated getting up to do anything.
The man brought some water for Tom too, and he was about to close the door when Barney started braying. The noise distracted the attendant, and he left the door to Tom’s cage open part way. Tom took a long drink of water and waited patiently. No one noticed that the door was open.
Soon the attendant had watered all the circus animals and left. Tom quietly approached the cage door, put one paw under the bar that was partway open, and he was out. He skulked through the tall grass along the edge of the field. “So far, so good,” he thought.
A short while later Tom entered the main street of town. There were people displaying goods like sliced watermelons, red and juicy and sweet.
There were ladies at the beauty shop, getting things done to their hair. The place smelled awful.
There was the grocery store. Tom walked in, smelling meat. People shopping stopped, scared, while their grocery carts blocked the aisle. Tom jumped up onto the meat counter and roared. Then he grabbed a large steak in his teeth and ran off.
By this time there were ladies screaming, stacks of cans and boxes falling all around the store. People tried to see what was happening, but they were too late. Tom was gone. A policeman outside the grocery store blew his whistle. All the cars stopped. One car stopped too fast. The car behind ran into his back end, and there was a loud crash.
Tom ran across the road and was soon out of sight, heading up the mountainside.
The people in town, however, did not feel safe. There was a tiger on the loose! Some policemen got the jumbled cars out of the way so traffic could move again while others looked after the frightened people.
The police Captain went to the circus and told the owner that his tiger had gotten out. The owner of the circus gathered his men to hunt for Tom.
The circus animals turned to Lewis, the old lion. As a big cat he would know what to do. “Well,” said Lewis. “I think Tom might find a safe place to rest. He’ll come out again when it’s dark. Uhhh, you don’t need me to go along, do you?”
“No, Lewis,” said Barney. “We’ll look for Tom. Where do you think he will be?”
“If it’s up the mountain,” said Larry, “we llamas and burros can climb.”
“So can Shetland ponies,” said Patty. “On the northern islands, cold winds blow all year round, and still we climb the mountains in search of food. I can go, too.”
“OK, then. It’s a team of three.” said Barney.
And so, the burro, the llama and the pony all chewed through their ropes and walked quietly out the back way and up the mountain.
Larry was in the lead. Llamas live in the high mountains of South America where they are very cautious about where they put their feet. Patty came next. At the rear was Barney. And so they climbed higher and higher, looking for caves where Tom might sleep until nighttime.
Suddenly a wild cat howled, jumping down from a tree!
“I want that little horse with you,” said Phil the Panther. “She would feed me very well. What kind of animal are you?” he asked Larry.
“I am a llama,” answered Larry indignantly, “and no, you will not eat Patty. We can fight if you want to, but if you’re as smart as I think you are, you will find a rabbit or two. There are three of us and only one of you.”
“Never heard of a llama,” growled the panther. “But a burro and a llama do make it a harder fight. I prefer you just give her up.”
“Absolutely not,” said Barney.
“Oh, for goodness sake,” growled the panther. “I’ll settle for rabbit stew.” And off he went. The three friends could hear Phil muttering for the next few minutes as he complained to himself. But the panther had left them alone.
In all the excitement, Larry, Barney and Patty had passed very close to a small cave. So they looked inside, and there was Tom! He looked back at them and asked, “What are you doing up here?”
“The circus men are coming, and we were worried about you,” said Patty.
“Why don’t you tell us the whole story on the way down the hill?” suggested Barney.
And so Tom did – from the time he discovered the cage door open to grabbing the steak at the store and then his wild run up the mountain and finding a cave to rest in. By the time his story was finished, they were back at the circus.
Charley, the camel, opened one eye, grumbled a bit the way camels do and went back to sleep. Lewis looked up and watched while Tom went to his cage and closed the bar across the door.
The burro, the llama and the pony stretched out on the grass where they had been earlier. Lewis sighed with relief. He had worried about them all, but now everything would be OK.
The circus men returned and saw the animals resting peacefully, the tiger back in his cage. They were very tired but happy that all was good at the circus.
The police were glad the tiger was back in his cage, and the people in town had a very exciting story to tell everybody they knew.