Walking in the woods was the perfect way to spend the first day of spring. Ally had roamed their land ever since she was twelve. She knew every stream, rock, and gully. Her dad had said she was more of a woodsman than any boy. He had taught her how to mark a trail, how to build a lean-to, and how to light a fire. She even had her own compass and hunting knife.
"Ally! Wait for me!" Nicky, her six-year-old sister tried to catch up.
"C'mon, Pokey-pants." Ally hoisted the backpack higher on her shoulders. It was filled with two sandwiches, a few apples, and her survival kit with Band-Aids, her compass, some paper, and a box of matches — just in case.
They squished over the muddy paths for miles. The squirrels chattered and chased each other through the pines. The chickadees chirped their happy songs. Even though the snow still lay in patches in the shadowy places, bigger stretches of bare ground showed signs of spring. Green shoots peeked above last year's dead leaves.
"Ally! Wait for me!"
Ally stopped and looked back. Nicky was straddling the fallen log which she had so easily hopped over. She had forgotten how short Nicky's legs were.
"Ally! My boot got stuck and fell off." Her mittens were off, too. Ally hoped she hadn't lost them.
She sighed and backtracked to help her sister. It reminded her of the time when she had fallen in the creek and Dad had carried her home. He had always been so patient. Nicky didn't remember Dad. Ally guessed it was up to her to teach Nicky all about the woods.
They found some deer and rabbit tracks and ate their sandwiches on the big rock near the creek. Ally didn't dare cross the rushing stream today — not with Nicky. The melting snow tumbled and swirled around the boulders, carrying branches and chunks of eroding sod downstream. One slip and a person would be swept miles before they were rescued, if they survived the ordeal.
Ally squinted up at the sun. It dropped fast this time of year. It would be behind the hills by five o'clock. "We better head back." She wished she could stay out longer, but Mom would have a fit.
Going home was harder, since it was mostly uphill. Ally stopped to catch her breath. She turned around to check on Nicky. She was crouched and staring at something on the ground.
"Look, Ally, I found some huge deer tracks."
Ally trotted back and examined the soft ground. "Moose!" They were gigantic— at least eight inches long. Ally liked moose, on postcards or in movies, but meeting one face to face in the woods was a different matter — especially in rutting season and with a little sister to slow her down. "Let's hurry. It's almost dark."
Just then, they heard a loud snort in the bushes. Ally pulled Nicky to her side. A bull moose, the size of a horse stepped into view.
Nicky clutched Ally's arm and whispered, "Ally, I'm scared!"
The moose snorted again and pawed the ground. Ally scanned the area. "Quick, climb that fir tree. Go!" They scooted up through the prickly the branches about twenty feet. The moose circled the ground below them. His wide antlers were still shaggy where the fuzz clung to the bone. He rubbed them back and forth against the rough bark.
Nicky peered down through the branches. "We're going to be up here forever!"
Ally leaned against the trunk. She could see all the way down to their farm. Her stomach grumbled, so she dug around in her backpack for the apples. A breeze picked up. They shivered there for hours before that big moose finally rambled off. The sun set, leaving a rose-colored glow to the air, but Ally knew her way home. She knew she would be scolded for being late.
Mom was waiting at the back door window when they arrived, and she did yell a little; but after she heard the whole adventure, she hugged them, and all was forgiven. "There's supper in the oven for you."
Nicky scooted into a chair. "I'm starved. Apples don't fill me up very much, but it was fun throwing the cores down to the moose."
Mom shot a look at Ally and caught the slight smirk on her lips. "Well, if I didn't know better, I'd think . . ."
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