Once upon a time there was a forest fire in a big, big forest. All the little animals that lived there ran as fast as they could to get away from the hot flames. Squirrels, raccoons, foxes, snakes, turtles, rabbits, mice and many other animals had to find new homes. Some of them went to other forests, some of them went to parks, and some of them actually had to make their little homes in the yards of human beings, or, people.
Far, far away from the fire was a house where three little children lived. Their names were Thomas, Kathy, and Carrie. They all went to school but on this September day it was Saturday. They had been playing all morning. Now it was lunchtime. They were hungry. They asked their mom if they could have lunch, and she said, "Why don't you have a picnic in the yard"?
That sounded like a great idea, but WHERE in the yard? So Mom told them to lay a picnic cloth in the green grassy grass near the scruffy old juniper bushes. While they were doing that, she would make some celery sticks, carrot sticks, and some yummy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
When the kids had spread out the picnic blanket, they ran into the kitchen and asked if lunch was ready. Mom told them to take the carrot sticks and plates out to the blanket, and to take their drinks also. So Thomas, Kathy and Carrie took these things out to the blanket and arranged them carefully. Then they ran as fast as they could, huffing and puffing, back to the kitchen and said to Mom, "What else have you made so far"? So she said, "I've got your celery sticks cut up for you now – run these out to your picnic blanket." So out ran the three kids as fast as they could go to add these to the carrots on their plates.
But when they got to the blanket, something was wrong. Where were the carrot sticks? They were all gone! "This must be a trick," said Kathy. "Let's leave the celery sticks here and see what happens!"
Then they ran as fast as they could back to Mom, who by now was making the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They told her that someone had stolen the carrot sticks. She said, "You're kidding!" and they said "Come on – we'll show you!"
Mom hurried out with them to the picnic blanket. But now, not only were the carrot sticks missing, but the celery sticks were gone, too! Mom said, "Maybe one of your neighbor friends is hiding them just to be silly."
So everyone spread out and looked behind trees, bushes, and just about everywhere. Unfortunately, they couldn't find the carrots, the celery, or anyone hiding.
Finally Mom said, "Well, your drinks are still out here. Let's get your sandwiches. You guys go ahead and eat them out here and maybe something will turn up."
So Thomas, Kathy and Carrie sat down to their picnic and they ate their sandwiches. Of course, while they sat there, they couldn't help but look around for the sneaky celery and carrot thief.
They were just about finished eating when Carrie looked over at the juniper bushes and saw something move. She softly said, "Shshsh!" to Thomas and Kathy. "There's something wiggling over there! See the bushes moving?" So everyone sat very still, and a little brown animal came to edge of the bushes and looked at them. It was a rabbit. Quietly it went back into the bushes.
"I have an idea", said Thomas. "Let's get more celery and carrots, and see if that rabbit is our thief. We'll put them at the edge of the bushes, and watch from the window."
They quietly went back into the house and got Mom to cut up more celery and carrots. They carefully put them down near the bushes and walked back to the house. As they watched, the little rabbit came out and grabbed the vegetables in his mouth and carried them back into the juniper bushes. Mom had watched, too, and she said that she had never seen a rabbit in the yard before. She thought that maybe because of the forest fire, he had needed to look for a new home.
"Maybe we can keep feeding this rabbit, and he will stay here for a long time," said Mom.
That is just what they did. They fed the little rabbit every day. A few weeks went by. The weather turned cooler and finally winter came and they didn't see the rabbit. Sometimes they would take food out to the edge of the bushes, and sometimes the food would disappear, and other times it just stayed there. All winter they worried about the rabbit – was he cold, was he scared, did he move somewhere else?
Finally, spring came. They watched for the rabbit day after day. In early April, the day before Easter, when the trees had just a few leaves, Thomas, Kathy, and Carrie took the food out to the bushes, and as they watched, the little rabbit came out and grabbed it! Whatever he had done during the winter, he was OK now!
The kids continued to feed him, and one day, the little rabbit came out to get his food, and he had four little rabbits with him! Their rabbit was a Mommy rabbit!
So from that time on, the kids fed the rabbits, and year after year, there was always a little rabbit family that lived in their scruffy old juniper bushes.