by Connie Peck
Illustrated by Pricilla
“Peep! Peep, peep. Peep?”
A squeaky sound came through the bushes beside the barn. Midnight pricked his ears to hear it better. Just then his rider, Annie, poured oats into his feed bin, but he didn’t even look.
“I think someone is lost in the field,” Midnight nickered.
Annie scanned the grassy area. “I don’t see anything. Eat your breakfast now so we can go for a ride.”
“Peep? Peep, peep, peep.”
“Okay, but I still hear someone calling for help. I’ll eat fast. I love my oats for breakfast. Will I get hay too?” Midnight tossed his head and scooped up a bite of oats.
“Of course silly, a little, and you can have more when we get back from our ride. We’re going to visit Mary and Ginger today.”
“Ginger is my friend. It will be fun to ride with her,” said Midnight with his mouth full. “Before we go, can we try to find whoever is out in the field? I’m very worried. Can’t you hear her calling?”
“No.” Annie held her hand to her ear. “I still can’t hear anything. We’ll conduct a search after breakfast. Then, we’ll go for our ride.”
Annie ran inside her house and sat at the table. A plate filled with scrambled eggs and toast waited for her.
“Did you make me some oatmeal, too? I love my oats as much as Midnight does.”
“Of course, dear, here you go. Today I put in some dried cranberries and brown sugar,” Mama said. “Drink your orange juice first, or it may taste sour.”
“Thank you. I like the way you fix my oatmeal,” Annie said. She picked up her spoon and gobbled down her breakfast.
Midnight whinnied and Annie opened the window. “What’s wrong, Midnight?” she hollered. The pony wasn’t calling her; he was looking into the field. And he was pacing back and forth along the fence, tossing his head.
“Mama, I think Midnight sees something out there. He’s upset.” She called to her pony, “It’s okay, boy. I’ll be out soon.”
He whinnied again, but Annie couldn’t understand what he was thinking because she wasn’t touching him.
“Calm down, Midnight,” Annie called. “I have to help clean up the kitchen. We’ll go in a minute.”
Annie carried her bowl and plate to the sink.
Mama stopped her. “Why don’t you go on out. Your pony needs you right now. I’ll finish washing the dishes.”
“Thank you, I’ll do something extra for you later.” Annie always helped with the chores, but today she had to help someone else.
Midnight’s bridle hung on a nail inside the barn. She grabbed itand ran to him. When she secured the bridle on the pony’s head, she wrapped her fingers in his thick, black mane and jumped on his back. “Let’s find whoever is lost.”
“I can’t hear her anymore. Her calls were so quiet that I’m afraid she might be hurt,” Midnight told her. Annie could understand him now, because she was riding. She also sensed his deep concern.
“I will have to try and find her scent.” Midnight held his head high and sniffed the breeze. “I smell flowers and freshly mowed grass from Mrs. Green’s yard next door.”
He turned to the left and took a few steps. Lifting his head high, he sniffed the air again.
Annie pinched her nose shut. “Yuck, now I smell something. A skunk! I hope that’s not who needs our help.”
Midnight snorted the stinky musk out of his nostrils and turned to the right. He walked toward some trees and sniffed the air again. “I smellthe squirrels, and the acorns on the ground, birds in their nests, and also a
family of mice.”
“You can’t really smell all of that, can you Midnight?” Annie sniffed the air too, but all she could smell was fresh air. “At least the skunk went away.”
“Of course I can smell those things. We ponies can smell almost anything and from far away, too,” Midnight said. “As for the skunk, I didn’t think she smelled so bad this time. She has a new baby and didn’t want us to come too close.”
“I understand better since you explained it. You can see all around you because your eyes are far apart. I can only see things in front.”
Ever so carefully, Midnight walked through the grass and weeds. He tested the air with his sensitive nose.
“So, I understand why can’t see in front of you. But why can’t you smell the one who called before?” Annie was perplexed.
“The scent of many creatures is in the air. If she would call again, I might be able to tell where she’s
Annie urged the pony closer to the big oak tree. “Maybe if you whinny again to let her know we are here to help, she will answer back.”
Midnight whinnied softly then held his ears up, listening for an answer.
A single tiny squeak came from the bushes.
Midnight turned his ears and flared his nostrils. “I hear her!”
He sniffed and curled his lip to understand the scent. “I cannot see her, yet, but now I can smell her. I think she is a young bird. Why is she on the ground and not in her nest?”
Midnight took a step. Very slowly he walked toward the bush. He twisted his ears back and forth, listening for any little sound.
“Oh, Midnight, please find her,” Annie whispered. “And be careful not to step on her. I should get off you and help search.”
“That will be good, Annie. I can see many things beside me and almost everything behind me. I can see well when I’m watching something in front of me, even if it is far away. But, I cannot see in things which are close and right in front of me very well.”
“That’s because your eyes are far apart. I can see right in front of me, but I can’t see beside or behind me.”
Annie dismounted and bent low, searching through the tall grass around the bushes. She held Midnight’s mane so she could hear his thoughts. “Is the bird in the grass?”
“No, I don’t think so. She’s farther away. I’ll call her again.” The pony nickered then listened carefully.
Annie squinted into the bush. Butterflies filled her tummy and her fingers started to shake. “I’m so worried, Midnight, I hope she is still okay. If she is a baby bird she could be cold and hungry and so scared.” Annie
probed into the bush. “She’s not here. Do you hear anything yet? We have to find her.”
Midnight’s ears swiveled to one side. “Annie, she’s over here in this bush. Her scent is strong, now. Are you able to find her yet?” Midnight rolled a raspberry snort to let the tiny lost bird know they were close.
Annie released her grip on Midnight’s mane and spread the branches of the bush to peer inside. There on the ground was a tiny bird covered with fuzz. The leaves rustled and she raised her head, opened her mouth wide, and squeaked for a bite of food.
“Peep! Peep! Peep!” The baby bird cried, strong again with the hope of rescue.
“I found her! She’s newly born, I mean hatched. See? No feathers yet and she still has this soft yellow covering around her bill. This kind of baby bird is called a fledgling. Did you know that, Midnight?”
The pony touched the baby with his nostril. “Is she going to be okay?”
Annie cupped her hands around the baby and lifted the helpless bird from the ground.
“Mama and Daddy taught me never to bother a baby bird if I found one in a nest because the parents were flying around finding food. They might not come back to take care of their babies if they see me by their home. But this is an emergency. We have to find where this baby came from – and fast.”
“Peep.” The baby bird squeaked one more time and laid her head down in Annie’s hand.
“Don’t worry, baby,” Annie said to the baby bird. “We’ll find your home and you will be safe again.”
Annie examined in the bushes for a nest. She scanned the branches of a mesquite tree. She even looked in a low cactus plant. She couldn’t find a nest anywhere.
“Oh, no. What are we going to do? I don’t think I can catch the bugs and worms like the mother and father birds do to feed their babies. Midnight, can you help me figure out where she lives?”
The black pony pointed his ears at the high branches of the oak tree. “I see a squirrel nest. But I don’t think the baby can live there.”
Suddenly, a bird with a bright red breast flew to the tree and landed on a low branch. His bill was stuffed with worms. “Chirp!” He called to his babies, hopping along the branch.
“Look! A robin! He’s bright red, so I know he’s the father.” Annie finally saw a round bundle of sticks and dry grass at the very end of the branch. “There’s the nest. And Papa Bird is coming to feed his family.”
Annie stretched to reach the nest, but it was too high. “I can’t reach it. We have to get this baby home before the father bird reaches the nest so she will get some food.”
“Get on my back. I am tall enough for you to reach. Don’t stand up, though. I don’t want you to fall.” Midnight stood still while Annie climbed onto him. She was careful not to squeeze the baby bird.
“Peep, peep, cheep, cheep.” Three baby birds held their heads up with their little yellow bills wide open.
“These baby birds look exactly like the baby we found. I know this is her nest. Move a little closer, please
Annie raised the tiny bird to the nest, moving slow so she wouldn’t frighten the father bird.
“Chirp!” he squawked. The robin cocked his head and watched as Annie slipped the baby back into the nest.
“Don’t worry, Papa Robin, I’m not going to hurt your babies. See, this one fell and I’m just bringing her home. You don’t have to fly away.” Annie whispered to the Robin and backed the pony away from the
The robin eyed Annie and Midnight and with a big chirp, he hopped to his nest to feed all four of his babies.
Midnight tossed his head. “I’m happy we were able to save the one who was lost in the bushes. Shall we go for our ride now? I believe you wanted to go and visit Mary and I can’t wait to see Ginger.”