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Runaway Cow

"The rustlers are coming! Call the guards!"

The guards charged out. The rustlers were already starting to herd the cattle away. Fiercely the guards attacked the invaders. Snap! Crack! A rustler bit the dust. Then another and another. The frightened cattle huddled together on the corn leaf.

Finally the ant rustlers were all driven off. The defenders carefully checked their aphid cattle. They stroked them with their feelers. Soon the aphids settled down again to feed on the corn leaf.

Every now and then an ant herder came by to milk one of her aphid cows. She would stroke it gently until the aphid squirted out a drop of sweet, sugary honeydew.

The ant herders took good care of their aphid cows. They carried them to shelter when it rained. If a plant began to wilt, ants scurried about, moving their aphids to healthy new plants.

Most of the aphids were happy with their life. They had plenty of food to eat. They were glad to have ants to take care of them and defend them from enemies. But one aphid was dissatisfied.

Sadie looked just like all the other aphids. She was plump and green, with a long mouth like a needle. And all she had to do was to suck the juice of the corn leaf all day long.

Sadie was tired of this kind of life. She wanted to be free to go out into the world. She had a secret plan. And now she was about to put it into effect. At first it looked as though Sadie was not doing anything unusual. She continued to sip up juice from the corn leaf. She ate and ate, as fast as she could. She was hiding her secret weapon until the last minute.

Suddenly a shadow loomed over the corn leaf. A large green praying mantis alighted on the tip of the corn leaf. With a lightning sweep of his long forelegs, he scooped up an aphid and began to eat it. When he was finished, he reached out and snatched up another, and another. The mantis moved slowly down the corn leaf, chewing up aphids as he went. Ant herders scurried about frantically. But they were too small to bother the mantis.

Now the shadow of the mantis passed over Sadie. She looked up, startled. She was the next aphid in line!

Suddenly another shadow passed over the corn leaf. A butterfly was fluttering through the field. She did not notice the mantis. But he spotted her. He reared up on his four hind legs and made another lightning sweep with his forelegs. At the very instant he caught the struggling butterfly, one of his hind legs kicked out and knocked Sadie and four other aphids off the leaf and onto the ground.

The startled aphids wriggled and kicked on the ground. An ant guard on patrol found them there and headed back to the nest to report. Soon a group of ants rushed out of their underground home at the base of the corn stalk. Each one lifted an aphid carefully and carried it back up the corn plant. By the time the praying mantis had finished his butterfly meal and flown away, Sadie was sipping juice from another corn leaf. Now back to her secret plan.

Sadie ate and ate until it looked as though she would burst. Instead she stripped off her outer green coat. Now she had wings. She tried to stretch them and fly away. But they were still too wet.

Just then one of the guards spotted her. The guard signaled to the others. A group of them ran toward Sadie. Sadie raced along the corn leaf as fast as her tiny legs could carry her. Now the guards had surrounded her. They were closing in.

Once more Sadie stretched her wings. She fluttered and fluttered them. An ant guard was about to pounce on her. She dodged out of the way and leaped up into the air. Her wings carried her up, up, and away, into the air above.

At last Sadie was free.

Sadie flew through the air. The sun sparkled on her lacy green wings. She flew on for hours. Suddenly she shot downward. Just ahead was what she had been looking for: a corn field. She picked out a juicy-looking corn leaf and landed on it.

For the next few days, Sadie drank corn juice. She grew fatter and fatter until her outer coat burst again. But when she wriggled out of it, she no longer had any wings.

One day, as Sadie was walking down a leaf, she heard a rumbling noise. It was getting louder and louder. Suddenly Sadie's leaf whipped violently back and forth. She was sent tumbling through the air. She landed on the cuff of Farmer Schmidt's pants. He was riding on a tractor that was weeding his corn field.

Sadie was so small that Farmer Schmidt never noticed her at all. That evening when he came home for dinner, she was still on his pants. While he was eating, she climbed up onto the tablecloth. In a moment she was walking across the table.

"Hey, look at that!" said the farmer's son Ted, pointing to Sadie.

"It's a corn aphid," Farmer Schmidt said gruffly. He reached out to squash her.

"Wait, Dad!" Ted placed his finger in front of Sadie, and she climbed up on it. "She's kind of cute," said Ted. "I'm going to put her in my corn patch."

"You'd better watch out, Son," the farmer cautioned. "You start with one and you'll have thousands before you know it."

Sure enough, the next day Sadie had her first baby. Each day after that she had another. Ted had fun for awhile, watching her and counting her babies. But then he forgot about his pet aphid.

Sadie was unhappy again. Each time it rained and she huddled miserably on her leaf, she remembered how warm and cozy it was in the ant nest.

Then one day an ant wandered up the corn stalk. Sadie shook with excitement. The ant walked over and sniffed at her, but then it walked on up the leaf. Sadie turned around quickly and shot out a drop of sugary honeydew, straight at the ant.

The ant stopped and tasted the sweet liquid. Then it turned and crawled down the corn plant as fast as it could go. Sadie waited anxiously.

At last a band of ants appeared, coming to carry Sadie and her children to a new home.



©1973, 2013 The Silversteins