Marc and the Black Spruce Forest

One day Marc and his papa went to cut wood in the forest.

Before they got started, they paused for a lunch of turkey sandwiches with cheddar cheese and sweet black tea.

From their perch on the tailgate of the truck, Marc looked out across a patch of boggy grass and a beaver pond to the place where the black spruce forest began. "Are there bears in the woods?" he asked his papa.

"Yes," papa answered. "But, stick close to me and you have more to worry about from moose."

"There are moose in the woods too?" Marc eyed the woods warily.

"Yes," Papa answered. "But, if we keep our eyes open when we're walking in the woods, then we can stay far enough away from the moose that they don't get scared and try to trample us. Just be glad you're not a snowshoe hare!" He added.  "They have to worry about foxes and lynx."

"I'm not so much bigger than a snowshoe hare," said Marc, thoughtfully.

"Well, you're a lot fiercer than a snowshoe hare," his papa laughed.

When they were finished they stuffed the trash from their lunch back into the lunch sack that lay on its side in the bed of the truck.  Marc began collecting kindling nearby, while his papa carried the chainsaw over to a stand of birch.

Marc was concentrating so hard on his work, that he didn't notice the large black bird that came to inspect the remains of their lunch.  He only saw the raven as he spread his wings in flight, a Styrofoam cup clamped tightly in his beak.

Marc remembered his father honking and cursing as scraps of paper and plastic swirled up from the open bed of the pickup truck that drove ahead of them that morning down the road by the river.  "Hey, that belongs in the garbage!" Marc scolded the raven.  The raven landed half way up a tall white spruce tree and, cocking his head, contemplated Marc with one gleaming black eye. "Stop!" cried Marc.  The raven glided to another tree and looked back as Marc followed him into the black spruce forest.

For a while the raven hopped playfully among the crowns of the scraggly, improbably small,  evergreen trees.  Marc scrambled over tussocks of moss and lichen and tripped over fallen spruce polls as he called to the raven to return the scrap of garbage.

Marc had momentarily lost track of the raven and was concentrating on negotiating a particularly tippy patch of tussocks when the forest to his left stood up and took a few steps forward.  What had looked for everything like a patch of dense foliage a moment before was now a yearling moose and his mother.  The mother moose's head was low and stretched forward.  She held her long ears flat back against her head.  Marc had never seen this pose before, but he knew that it meant he was in trouble.  He backed slowly away from the pair of moose until he lost sight of them in the trees.

Marc headed in the direction of a black fluttering shadow he glimpsed through the tree tops. Suddenly, a snowshoe hare darted down the path ahead of him. It was followed a moment later by something much larger.  Marc froze as the lynx stopped, panting, and turned to look at him from a distance.  I am fierce, thought Marc anxiously as the lynx stretched her neck and tilted her head to get a better look at him.  "You are not so much bigger than a snowshoe hare," said the lynx.  "But I'm a lot fiercer!" Marc called back. Marc drew himself up, bared his teeth and growled ferociously.  "I better be safe and leave you alone this time," replied the lynx with a friendly laugh as she disappeared into the spruce.

By that time Marc had lost the raven and lost his way.  He stumbled upon an open grassy place.  Water collected there in a pond in the spring, but now the ground was dry and firm. Marc was standing on his tiptoes trying to recognize landmarks on the horizon when he noticed a soft, deep rumbling noise behind him.  The sound seemed to be coming from behind the upturned root ball of a long dead tree bleached light gray by sun and weather.  Marc slowly walked wide of the root ball to confirm his dreadful suspicion as to what was making that noise.

The enormous brown bear was reclining in the grass.  He saw him snap lazily at a dragonfly and rub his muzzle comfortably against the remains of the tree.  Then the bear must have noticed Marc; he raised his head wearily and focused his bleary blood shot eyes on the little boy. "You're right to be scared, little boy." Said the bear, with a chuckle.  "But, don't worry.  Today I'm full and sleepy and don't feel like experimenting with new kinds of food.  What are you doing by yourself in the middle of the forest?"

Marc swallowed hard.  "I'm trying to get a Styrofoam cup back from the raven. I don't want to leave litter in the woods."  The bear sat up straighter.  "You, little boy that you are, have wandered in here by yourself among these gloomy black spruce trees and dangerous animals because you want to keep our forest clean?" "Yes," answered Marc.

"Did you lead this boy in here on purpose, raven?" The bear asked.  Marc realized that the raven had landed behind him in the clearing. "I was just teasing; I didn't mean to get him eaten by a bear." said the raven.  "Or a lynx?" Marc demanded.  "Did you mean to get me trampled by a moose? Why did you take that cup?  Don't you know that litter belongs in a trash can?"  The raven hung his head as Marc spoke.  "I'm sorry little boy. I didn't realize you were trying to keep me from littering."  Then the raven perked up.  "Let me take you back to your father," he offered.

As Marc and the raven left the clearing the bear called a friendly goodbye.  "Don't poop on anyone's car today!" The bear teased the raven in parting.  The raven skipped jovially and winked.  "It's a little late for that," retorted the bird.

With the help of a bird it only took a few minutes for Marc to find his way back to the place where the truck was parked.  Marc found his papa walking among the spruce nearby calling his name with a note of panic in his voice. Marc and his papa shared a long hug before Papa stopped and looked quizzically over Marc's shoulder.

The raven was standing on the ground only a few feet away.  In his beak was the Styrofoam cup, filled now with freshly picked blueberries.  "I'm sorry," said the raven to Marc's papa.   "I thought it would be fun to tease your son by taking the cup.  I led him into the woods where he was almost trampled by a moose.  He nearly was eaten by a lynx and luckily the bear was full and sleepy.  I didn't mean to cause this kind of trouble.  I hope you can forgive me."  "Please have these blueberries," the raven added with a bow before  taking flight.  The Raven glided away over the trees of the black spruce forest.  "Sorry about the truck!"  he called as he disappear from sight.  Papa looked at the truck for a moment and scratched his head.

Marc and his Papa packed up their things to leave.  Papa was strapping Marc into his safety seat when Marc's eyes grew wide.  He was staring at something over his papa's shoulder. Papa turned around and contemplated a large goopy green and white mess that started as a splat in the middle of the windshield and dripped down in a streak from there.

Papa sighed.  Turning to his son, who wore a concerned expression, he smiled, "Don't worry Marc, we'll wash off the windshield with the hose when we get home."
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