Adventures on Lilac Hill
by Anna Weaver

What Is a Fennec?

Chop, chop, chop went the four hoes as Mother and the three children went up one row and down another. Mother and Allen hoed carefully around each plant while Joseph and Daniel hoed between the rows.

Allen leaned over, picked up a handful of soil, and squeezed it between his fingers, letting it sift to the ground. He said, "I sure can't see why anyone would not like gardening. It's so interesting to watch things grow. I even like the fell of the soft ground. Sometimes I wish we'd live on a farm."

"Yes," agreed Mother, "Living on a farm would be nice. But it takes a lot of money these days to buy or rent a farm and still more to get all the machinery and other things needed."

"I suppose so," sighed Allen. "But I hope I can be a farmer someday. That is what I think I'd like best."

"That would be nice," agreed Mother. "But I'm thankful we can have such a big garden and raise a lot of our own food. I'm glad for the chickens, too."

"So am I," replied Allen. "Why, this is only June, and already we are eating a lot of fresh vegetables from our garden--lettuce, onions, spinach, and radishes."

"May we have some of those long, skinny onions for lunch?" asked Daniel.

"And some red radishes?" added Joseph. "I like the red ones best. Of course I like the long, white ones, too. But the red ones are so pretty."

"Yes," agreed Mother. "I think that would be nice, and lettuce, too."

"And chocolate milk?" wondered Joseph.

"And canned peaches and cookies?" added Allen, grinning.

"Well!" exclaimed Mother laughing. "I see I don't even need to plan lunch. Yes, lettuce, onions, and radishes for sandwiches, with chocolate milk, peaches and cookies for dessert sounds like a good lunch."

"When will we can peaches again?" wondered Joseph. "I like to help can peaches. They look so pretty in the jars."

"Yes, I enjoy canning peaches, too. We will probably do that in August," replied Mother.

"August--that is two months away," remarked Joseph.

"Two months will go fast if we keep busy."

"May I help, too?" asked Daniel.

"Indeed you may. You may wash the peaches for us and help put them in the jars," said Mother.

"What do I see?" exclaimed Allen as he stepped carefully across the rows. He leaned over, examining the peas, then walked up the row a short way with this head down, looking carefully. He picked off two pods and brought them to Mother. "Aren't these ready to pick?" he asked, breaking them open, displaying two rows of shiny green marbles.

"It looks that way. Are there many that full?"

"Quite a few. May I pick some for supper when we are finished hoeing?" he asked eagerly.

"That's a good idea. It will also give us a better idea how ready they really are," responded Mother.

"Won't Father be surprised? I'll help shell them," offered Joseph. "I wish I'd be fourteen like Allen. Then I could pick peas, too."

"Well, you are getting older every day and learning fast," said Allen. "Maybe you could carry the bucket for me, and even pick a few if I tell you which ones are ready."

"Oh!" exclaimed Joseph hopping from one foot to the other. "Oh, Mother, may I? Please say I may."

"Yes," chuckled Mother. "You may if you pick only the ones Allen says are ready."

"Oh, thank you, Allen. I'm glad I have such a nice big brother." Joseph dropped his hoe and gave Allen a big hug.

Allen returned the hug, laughing, and said, "And I'm glad I have such interesting little brothers."

A few days later as Allen set the fourth basketful of peas on the porch, he said, "That'll keep us busy for a while."

"Mother, will you tell us a story while we shell peas?" asked Joseph.

"Yes, I think I can do that. What would you like the story to be about?"

"Tell us about animals that don't live around here," suggested Allen.

"Yes, yes," agreed Joseph and Daniel.

Mother had put Joel in the playpen on the porch. Now he looked up and said, "Da! Da! Da!"

"Oh, you want to hear the story, too," laughed Joseph.

Joel laughed and repeated, "Da! Da! Da!"

"All right," agreed Mother. "I'll tell you about a fennec" (FEN ik).

"What is a fennec?" wondered Allen. "I never even heard of it before. Where does it live? What does it look like?"

"A fennec is a tiny fox. Its lives in the deserts of North Africa. It has a face that looks like a kitten."

"Oh, I like animals that look like kitties," Daniel said as he reached for a handful of peas. Then sitting on a low stool he began to shell peas as fast as he could.

"But," continued Mother, "Its nose is long and pointed like most foxes, and it has enormous pointed ears that seem too large for such a small animal."

"How big is it?" asked Joseph.

"About eighteen inches long. That would be the size of a small dog."

"What does it eat?' asked Daniel reaching for more peas.

"Mice, lizards, beetles, and some kinds of fruit. They are very fond of figs. When they come out at night to eat, they like to search under the fig trees for any fallen fruit."

"Do they always eat at night?" wondered Joseph.

"Yes, they sleep all day, curled up in their tunnel. They look like a ball of fur. They come out of their tunnel about sundown."

"What color are they?" wondered Daniel.

"Almost like the sand," replied Mother. "Their color helps protect them from their enemies. They also need their sharp noses and large ears. When a fennec leaves its home, it sticks its head out very cautiously to see if it can smell or hear any danger. Then it trots along with its nose to the ground, ears pointed and listening."

"What kind of danger?" asked Joseph.

"Men and some animals are his enemies. The jackal is one of its worst enemies."

"Would the jackal kill it?" wondered Daniel.

"Yes, it would kill the fennec and use it for food. The jackal can run much faster than the fennec. But the fennec has a trick that helps it escape from the jackal."

"What is that?" asked Allen. His keen interest in the story had not slowed down his pea shelling.

"Remember, the fennec lives in the desert where there is lots of sand. When it sees it can not get away from the jackal, it quickly starts to dig with its powerful front feet. It digs so fast, all the jackal can see is flying sand. The jackal tries to dig it out, but the little fennec digs faster, going deeper and deeper into the sand until the jackal gives up and goes away,"

"How does the fennec know when to come out?" wondered Joseph, his dark eyes wide with interest.

"It will stay buried in the sand for several hours. Then very cautiously it peeps out. If it hears or smells any danger, the fennec will quickly run for its tunnel where it curls up into a ball for another nap."

Joseph took a deep breath. "I'm glad the fennec can hide in the sand. I wouldn't want the jackal to eat it."

A special thanks to The Wallings for typing up this story for Anabaptists!

A chapter from Adventures on Lilac Hill
© Copyright, Christian Light Publications
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