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Little tales of the desert.
by Ethel Twycross Foster
Start of Story
Part 5 The dangerous pet.
MARY, with her mother, was taking a short stroll just before sundown. As
they were about to return they espied the largest and strangest lizard
they ever saw. It was nearly two feet long, with a perfectly round body,
a broad, flat head, short legs and a short, blunt tail. It was a chunky
little animal, all covered with a rough skin like an alligator and
dotted with square warts. It seemed very tame and followed Mary into the
tent where she made a warm nest for it in the corner near her bunk. It
was very fond of being petted and would lie and rub its head against
Mary's hand. When Father returned at night he was much pleased with the
strange pet and encouraged Mary to keep it, thinking, of course, that it
was some strange overgrown lizard. The question was, what should they
feed it? First they tried grubs and worms which were not touched; then
bread, meat, insects and all sorts of things, but nothing would he
taste. At last someone thought of eggs and that was apparently just what
the little fellow wanted, and that is what he lived on during the month
Mary had him for her pet.
At the end of that month big Ben, the foreman, came into Mary's tent to
repair the floor. The first Mary knew that anything was wrong was when
he gave a scream, calling to her to keep away from the tent. Her father,
nearby, ran to see what was the trouble; Ben pointed to the big lizard
and cried, "A gila monster, let us kill him quickly!" Mary and her
parents looked at him in surprise. They had never heard of such an
animal. Ben, however, had spent years on the desert and knew well its
dangers. But he had no gun and all he could do was to take a stick and
push the thing out of doors. Then a queer thing happened. When the hot
sun shone down on the gila monster (pronounced heela) it was no longer
tame and gentle, but would snap at anyone who came near and acted ugly,
continuing to hiss with his mouth wide open, on the lookout for the
first sign of an enemy.
A squirrel came out of the brush and ran a bit too near, when the big
lizard fastened its fangs in the poor little animal and turned over with
it in its mouth. The poison is in its lower jaw and when he turns over
it flows out. The squirrel died in a very few moments from the effects
of the poison in spite of the fact that Ben had meantime shot the gila
monster through the head.
Mary's parents were horrified when they realized what a dangerous pet
their little girl had been playing with for so many weeks. They
determined to seek Ben's advice hereafter before housing any more
But Mary was not in great danger for generally the little reptiles are
tame indoors, but out of doors in the sunshine they become cross and
ugly and their bite is more dangerous than that of a rattlesnake.