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Little tales of the desert Part 7 The road runner..

by Ethel Twycross Foster

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OF all Mary's pets she liked her road-runners best. Did you ever see a road-runner? It makes its home on the desert where you would find it impossible to get food, yet this little bird finds plenty and leads a happy existence. He looks much like a pheasant with broad wings, a long, broad tail and a crest that stands up very stiff and straight. The tail is very flexible, and many people who have lived on the desert a long time, say they can almost tell what the road-runner's thoughts are by the way he holds his tail. If you can make friends with the little bird and get near enough to it you can see the beautiful colors in its feathery coat. The olive green wings are edged with white, and the crest is of dark, deep blue. The bird is about twenty inches long, including the tail. A pair had built a nest in a clump of cactus a short distance from camp. The first time Mary espied them was the day after her arrival. One came up over a low ridge and stood looking at Mary with curiosity expressed in its long, flexible tail. This, of course, aroused Mary's interest and she hastened away to make friends. But it was not to be. Very quickly the bird retreated to its cactus patch. But it came again the next day and the next.

At first Mary was afraid of frightening it away, but one day it came as she was eating a thick slice of bread and butter and she tossed it some crumbs. As before, he scampered away to a safe distance, but there he stopped. Mary stepped back and waited and pretty soon the little fellow returned and rapidly ate up all the crumbs. He then gave a little toss of his tail as if to say "thank you," and went home. After this Mary and the little road-runner soon became fast friends, and later Mary taught him that Cousin Jack was his friend, too. He soon learned that the big horn that the cook blew three times a day meant something to eat; and was always on hand to get his share. He would always save a goodly part of this share and carry it home to his mate. Mary and Jack each had a burro and often they would take short rides to the nearby camps, for Jack was a steady, reliable boy and Mary's father knew he would take care to see that no harm came to her.

The trail led by the road-runner's nest and whenever he saw the little girl and the big boy coming along on their burros he would dart out into the road and rush ahead at full speed. He could always keep ahead, too. Try as they might Mary and Jack were unable to get ahead of him. When he grew weary of the sport he would turn suddenly and hurry into the brush until they had passed. In some ways, though, he was a nuisance. Mary's uncle had sent them a box containing a dozen chickens so that they could have some fresh eggs as a change from the cold storage eggs commonly found in mining camps. Now, the little road-runner would often try to slip into the chicken yard when no one was looking. He would wait indifferently, promenading up and down in a dignified manner until one of the hens cackled. He knew this meant a fresh egg and he would deliberately march up, peck a hole in the new laid egg and as deliberately swallow the contents.


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