Chapter 3

The Rule of the Forest

Puff continues steadfast on his way;
Along the deer’s path he will closely stay,
Careful not to run too fast, for he knows
In this world of surprise where high grass grows
To keep a steady pace till he reaches the trees,
Pulling him forward like a tempting tease.

Puff is now thirsty, mouth parched and dry;
He hopes there might be a stream nearby
To drink and rest his paws for a while—
Be a prince of the forest and relax in style,
Resting on mosses in a flowery knoll,
Lapping spring water from a crystal bowl.

Puff scans the forest from left to right
Before going in—seeing everything in sight.
Soft pine needles blanket all the ground,
Quieting each step to hardly a sound,
Reminding him of the soft quilt on his bed
And how he wishes he were there instead.

Puff stops as sadness catches his eye,
Thinking of home with a solemn sigh.
A soft crackle pulls Puff’s ear to the right,
Where something stands in a ray of light.
Puff stares at the deer now poised in place,
Preparing to speak with dignity and grace.

“Why the sadness, little one,
On this lovely afternoon,
Before the setting sun
And rising of the moon?
Have you lost your way?
You must be thirsty, I think.
There is a stream, if I may,
From which we can drink.”

Then with a gentle smile and a look of care,
He gestures with a front hoof pointed in air:

“The flowers turn away
When smiles hide, my friend;
Leaves forget to play,
Falling to their journeys’ end.
Butterflies flee and birds do not sing
When we keep our smiles inside.
All wait for the joy we bring:
Smiles we should never hide.”

The deer comes closer and bows to Puff,
Thinking a simple introduction enough.
“My name is Jumper, and now you can see
The stream over there—come, follow me.”

Jumper leads the way around the bend
As Puff catches up to his newfound friend,
A young buck with a proud antler rack
And tall white tail with slender brown back.
He jumps in the stream with a perfect leap:
Puff eases down the bank—a bit too steep.

The water climbs nearly to the deer’s knees,
As he bends and drinks with comfortable ease.
Puff leaps to a rock at the bank of the stream,
Feeling as if he has entered a dream.
Jumper watches Puff watch him in return,
Realizing the cat has much to learn.

He must guard Puff until it is time to go,
It will cost him more than he will ever know.
Leaping back up and onto the path,
He gestures Puff to finish his bath,
Wondering if the way ahead is too rough,
While the cat announces, “The name is Puff.”

Together they stroll along the way
Of the path on which they will closely stay.
Jumper points to a tree stump nearby
He wants Puff to climb to be eye to eye.
Then looking at the cat like his young heir,
He offers a bit of wisdom there.

“A promise, little friend,
Before we leave here,
Then a truth to lend
To your furry ear.
We must get you home,
Which we will do in time,
With a new path to roam
As your steps follow mine.

“And what I now must say
Might be hard to hear,
But the truth is that way
Though you have nothing to fear.
You will make it home,
Yet not today, alas.
Hear the tractor moan:
See the farmer cut grass.”

Puff watches the tractor cutting grass,
Leaving no safe place left for him to pass.

“There is a place to stay
We can reach by sunset,
But you cannot stray
From the path or fret.
Do just as I say
As we move along;
We should be okay,
Though the distance is long.”

Puff carefully leaps to the ground
Then follows Jumper without a sound,
As the deer prepares to explain with care
The rule of the forest to his feline heir.
Puff now must learn as fast as he can
This different world set apart from man.

“The forest is living
And I should mention,
It is constantly giving
Yet demands attention.
Look up at the trees
As they shelter our stay,
Swaying in the breeze
In their graceful way.

“They house living things,
From caterpillar to raccoon,
As the nightingale sings
By the light of the moon.
Where the grey squirrels rest
So does the eagle too,
And you will pass the test
If he is blind to you.”

Puff moves closer as Jumper stumbles to walk,
Nearly kicking Puff as he continues to talk.
Kathy comes to mind as Puff slows down his pace.
Jumper’s words muffle; Puff’s thoughts wander to space.
Puff remembers Kathy’s books of all kinds,
From stars to rocks one finds in mines.

“Are you listening, Puff?
There is no time to waste!
We are only fast enough
With speed and haste.
The sun is going down;
It will soon be dark,
So wipe off that frown.
We must swiftly embark.”

So through the woods they move with care,
As Jumper straightens with a princely air.

“It is about respect here—
That is the forest rule.
There is no need to fear
If you honor this tool.
Show others you care
And they will value you.
Be kind and share,
And they will too.

“Do you see that bird
On the bough of that tree,
Sleeping without a word
So peacefully?
He is a horned owl;
Flies mostly at night.
A most graceful fowl,
Full of wisdom and light.

“You will hear no sound;
He is as quiet as a feather,
Gracefully falling down
On a soft bed of heather.
Saved him years ago
When hunters came by:
He needed to know
It was time to fly.

“So here, little friend,
We watch each other as one.
Respecting each to the end
Is how the forest is won.
You will be safe with me
If you heed what I say;
Follow close and you will see
What you need on the way.”