25 Mar Nature’s Storytellers – Youth Prose Winners
Our 2019-2020 Nature’s Storytellers Writing Contest was super fun! We’re publishing contest winners here.
Below are the Youth Prose Winners.
1st Prize, Youth Prose
by Sara Steingas
Up high in a pine tree was a bald eagle’s nest. This nest belonged to a pair of eagles called Rose and Flame. Inside the nest lay three cream colored eggs, and inside one of them was Lily. Once it came time, Lily was the last to hatch and was also the smallest of the three eaglets. Her brother, who was the oldest, was named Spark and her sister, the second oldest, was named Orchid.
The eaglets names had been inspired by their parents. Flame had been rescued from a wildfire and Rose had been untangled from a wild rose bush’s thorny grip. They had both recovered from their injuries at the same place and had been released at the same time, in the same place. They had raised four other families of eaglets before Lily and her siblings hatched.
Lily had a pretty nice life. She got plenty of food, even though her siblings got more than her. Their diet was mainly fish and sometimes a small mammal such as a rabbit or squirrel which their parents carried up to the nest. Lily and her siblings stayed very healthy and grew stronger.
One of Lily’s favorite things to do was watch her parents hunt or steal fish from the osprey by the lake. Her nest was high enough that she could see the lake and the surrounding forest easily. At night Lily would listen to the animals’ sounds. She could hear the wolves’ long ghostly howls as they hunted, and the foxes’ sharp cries. She also liked to listen to the soft calming sounds of the stream that filled the lake in the distance. Then she would fall asleep listening to the sounds of the forest.
In the morning, Lily would wake up to her dad taking off to hunt. She liked to watch the sun rise and the sky and clouds become vibrant colors until the sun was all the way up. Her siblings were awake by then and the parents would come with their breakfast.
Lily had started as a small gray fluffy eaglet, and now she was a medium sized brown and black young eagle. The young eagles were starting to grow their flight feathers. By now the nest was becoming smaller as the young eagles grew.
Finally the day came! It had been almost twelve weeks cooped up in the nest and now the young eagles were ready to test out their wings. Spark was the first to leave the nest and start testing his wings on the nearby branches. Soon all three eagles where testing and learning how to use their wings. Each day the young eagles did larger jumps until they were able to fly to the surrounding trees.
Now came the day when the young eagles were ready to leave the trees surrounding their old nest and fend for themselves. Instead of being last, Lily was the first to fly across the river and perch on a tall, healthy tree that she could survey the whole area from. Soon she spotted a rabbit grazing in a small meadow. It took almost the whole rest of the evening to catch a meal but she finally did it and ate the meal triumphantly.
Over the next few months, Lily moved around to different lakes, ponds, and rivers while staying ahead of the coming frost. She liked to stay near water where she would catch opportunities to steal fish and other catches from osprey and sometime even other eagles. She had rabbit, fish, and other small animals often. Sometimes she would find other animals’ catches and would take their leftovers.
Over the next five years Lily grew a little bit and got her adult plumage. She now had a white head and a brown and black body. She also found a mate whose name was Leo. Leo was smaller than her and he seemed to be a perfect match for Lily.
Lily and Leo found a tall, sturdy tree with strong branches for their nest. It was located by a lake that was filled by a small river. The river was smaller than the one Lily had grown up by. Both eagles brought materials to the tree for the nest. When they where done Lily and Leo’s nest was almost four feet in diameter and three feet deep. This was their first nest, so it was not as big as the nest Lily grew up in. It would get bigger as they added to it for the next few years.
Once the nest was finished Lily laid two creamy white eggs in the nest that were almost three inches long each. When incubating the eggs Leo and Leo would take turns. Lily almost always had longer turns so Leo could hunt.
Lily and Leo were very careful when it came to predators around the nest. Once a potential hazard for the eggs entered within a certain range, Lily or Leo would chase it off. There had been a few times when a predator had gotten to the nest, but only with seconds between it and an eagle!
On the thirty-ninth day of incubation both eggs hatched within 24 hours of each other. The first to hatch was Solar, then Luna pecked her way to freedom. Leo collected most of the food for the sisters, and Lily would rip off pieces of the catch and feed it to the sisters. Lily was also responsible for keeping the sisters warm. The sisters’ diet was pretty much the same as Lily’s had been as an eaglet, mainly fish, with the occasional small mammal.
It was a calm morning, the sun was bright, the flow of the nearby river could be heard, and the birds were singing. There was a slight breeze flowing through the tops of the trees. The sisters dreamed of breakfast while listening to the splash from the hunting osprey. Leo took off to go get breakfast for the sisters, while Lily kept the young sisters warm. At this time the sisters were only two weeks old.
It was not long until Lily heard Leo’s warning call. She immediately took off and looked around. It did not take long for Lily to spot the black bear climbing up the tree towards the nest. Leo had gotten there and was diving for the bear, so without hesitating Lily did, too. Upon contact with the bear Lily dug her talons into its back. The bear lost its grip and fell off the tree. That was when Lily noticed Leo lying on the ground by the bottom of the tree.
Leo had been hit by the bear’s large paw. Sadly, Leo died because of his wounds from the bears’ claws, and Lily was left to raise two week old eaglets on her own. It was hard for Lily for the first few weeks; she had to keep both chicks warm, fed, and safe without anyone to help. Once the chicks grew enough feathers to keep a little bit warmer, it became a bit easier for Lily to care for them. She had some more time to catch food and feed it to them.
The sisters grew and were healthy. After four months both of the young eagles flew off and cared for themselves. Lily found a new mate the next year and went back to the old nest. She and her new mate Rex added to this nest and built another nest or two. She and Rex raised a family every year. Lily died free because of natural causes at the age of about twenty. She lived a long wonderful life and prepared new eagles for the years ahead of them. Lily faithfully fulfilled her job in the life cycle.
2nd Prize, Youth Prose
Shells of Power
by Emil Miller
The sound of crashing waves echoed around the rocky beach. The ocean swirled around the looming sea stacks, covering the tidepools, and dotting the rocks like craters. Shelby watched from his place near the top of the northernmost stack, as the water rose higher.
“We might actually get to feed today,” remarked Terry. His shell was so small on him, he was threatening to outgrow it all together. Then he would be banished, and probably eaten. That would be sad for Shelby, as he was the only crab that had ever been at all nice to him.
“That would be nice,” said Shelby, “The water hasn’t risen this high in days.” The tide was now halfway up the stack, and didn’t show any signs of retreating. He dared to hope that maybe it would actually cover the stack. There had only been one other time since he could remember. Back when he was at the very top, with the very poorest crabs, with almost no shell to speak of. A wave broke, sending salty spray high into the air. The wind had also picked up, and a light rain was starting to fall.
They both watched the rising tide as it slowly rose, covered the barnacles and mussels just below them. “You know,” Shelby said suddenly, “It doesn’t seem fair that the king and his enforcers get to live down in the tidepools while we are stuck up here. Why should power be based on the size of our shell?”
Terry suddenly looked panicked. “You shouldn’t talk about that! If they hear you, we’ll both be banished!”
“Relax, there is no way anyone can hear us over this storm.” he gestured at the churning water. It was raining hard now, droplets pelting against the rocks.
This did little to calm Terry down. “You’re not supposed to question the great shell. It has always been this way. Why should it be any other way?” He didn’t seem to have really convinced himself.
“It seems wrong to deny us the shells we need,” Shelby continued, ignoring Terry’s protests. “It is not fair and you know it.”
Whatever Terry was going to say was cut off as a jagged streak of lightning lit up the sky. A deafening BOOM! echoed around the rocks. Out towards the ocean, a massive wave loomed out of the water, its crest white and foaming. It blasted over the stack, and Shelby was ripped from the ledge. He felt his shell ripped away from him. Suddenly he was flung against the rocks and everything went black.
The ground below him felt unusually soft against his chest plate. Something was moving him gently back and forth. Something seemed wrong. He opened his eyes. Everything was tinted oddly green. Oh. I’m underwater! he realized. The memories came flooding back. I have to get back to the stacks! He looked around. Light was rippling across the surface, casting wavy patterns on the sand. All he could see was more green in every direction. The storm was over, so he must have been out for a while, and who knew how far he had been washed?
“You look lost,” said a voice behind him and he nearly jumped out of his shell. Where was his shell anyway? He looked around wildly to see where the voice had come from. It seemed to be coming from behind one of the rocks. No! Not a rock, a shell. Was this another hermit crab that had been blown off in the storm? A moment later, though, the figure poked its head out farther and he saw that it was… a snail? That was impossible! There hadn’t been any snails around since before the shell wars!
“If you don’t want to get eaten, you should probably come with me. This is a dangerous place to be without a shell.” Shelby could now see that this snail was incredibly old. He did not seem particularly large, but his shell was worn with age, and he moved extremely slowly. Since he didn’t see any alternative, he followed after the ancient snail.
After a while, they reached some boulders that propped together to form a sort of cave underneath. Light from a crack in the top illuminated the space, but it was well sheltered from large predators. The old snail rummaged around in the back of the cave and pulled out an old, black spiral shell. He rolled it over to Shelby. “See if this fits. I’m afraid I don’t have any others. Shells are in short supply right now.”
Shelby stared at the shell in awe. It was old, surely, but shiny and perfect, and it was big enough to bring up his rank to at least middle class. He had never imagined ever getting his claws on one. He wasn’t sure what how to thank him.
“So, what are you doing around here?” probed the snail. “We don’t get many hermit crabs around here anymore. Not since the war.”
Shelby was stunned by the implications of this information. “Wait! You were alive during the shell wars?”
The snail smiled sadly. “When your kind tried to wipe us out? Yes, I remember that. I knew your king personally. I saw his thirst for power, but I did not believe he would actually try it, much less succeed. You can call me Henry. What about you? How did you get here?”
“It’s Shelby. I was blown here in the storm. Where is here anyway?”
“We are a ways out from the sea stacks you live on. You got washed a long way. The storm was last night. You were unconscious for quite a while, you were lucky I was the first to find you.”
“How are you alive? I thought all the snails were wiped out during the shell wars. Also, what do you mean about knowing the king?”
Henry sighed, and paused a bit to answer. “Oh, he tried. There are only a few of us left. As for how I know him, back when hermit crabs and snails still lived together, I was his teacher.”
This was too much information for Shelby to process. He opened his mouth to say something, but could only manage a stutter, “You- taught The King? But I thought… What?”
The old snail studied Shelby’s face for a second, then burst out laughing. “Do they teach you nothing about history? The shell wars happened less than a decade ago!”
“But… what about the the Great Shell…”
“Is that what he has been brainwashing you with? He found that conch shell on the beach a few years back. There is nothing ‘divine’ or ‘great’ about it.”
Shelby wondered how his world could have been turned upside down so quickly. I was right! It hasn’t always been this way. “If this is true, we need to stop him! You know him better than anybody, how can we defeat him?”
Henry shook his head. “There is no way, I’m afraid. He has the entire hermit crab population to fight for him, and the snails are almost wiped out. There is no way we could win.”
“We can’t just give up!”
“We’ve lost. It’s no use.”
Shelby saw the pained expression on the old snails face and was instantly sorry he had brought up the topic. “I’m going outside.”
He left the cave and the moping snail behind. Outside, the setting sun was casting a reddish glow over the rocks. He marveled again at the shell he had been given. His face stared back at him in the glassy surface. It fit perfectly. He thought back to what he had said during the storm. Why should power be based on the size of our shell?
That was it! Without his shell, The King had no power. He raced back inside. It took him a second to spot Henry, who was curled up in his algae colored shell, blending in perfectly with the rocks. “I have an idea! We need to steal the shell!”
Henry didn’t emerge. “It won’t work. You’re not the first one to try that. None that tried have ever come back.”
“You’ve just given up hope like that? If we never try, the world will never change.”
“That is exactly what the last snail said. We never saw her again after that.”
Henry sighed. “Nothing I say is going to stop you from trying. Still, the stacks are miles away. You’ll never make it.”
“You remember what it was like before he took over. It’s miserable now. The hermit crabs live in a dictatorship, and what is left of the snails live in hiding. If we give up, nothing will ever change. The last of the snails will be hunted to extinction, and there will be no one left that knew there was ever anything different.” Shelby was pleading now. “There’s got to be other snails that agree. Just because you’re too much of a coward doesn’t mean we all should be.”
This had the desired effect on Henry. He stiffened, finally jolted out of his hopelessness. “Your little revolution is likely to fail,” he warned, “But you’re right on all counts. I had given up hope. The last snail that tried to steal the shell was my daughter. When she died, I swore I would never let the same thing happen to anyone else.”
“Wait! How do you know she’s dead?”
“You just said she never came back. She could still be alive. A prisoner.”
This made Henry pause. Something seemed to change on his sad, wrinkled face. “Do you think so?” he said, with the first glimmer of hope Shelby had seen in him.
“The King doesn’t seem like the kind of crab to waste a valuable bargaining tool. While she’s alive, he still has power over you.”
“If there’s a chance…” he muttered. Conflicting emotions seemed to be battling inside him. Finally his face hardened into a look of determination. “I’m in.”
Shelby smiled. “Let’s go fix a kingdom, shall we?”
by Addison Blanchard
Meeting the Shinbers
“Wyatt, get your butt out of bed it’s 7:00 a.m. and the chickens need their breakfast!” hollered Pops. Wyatt was the youngest child in his family. He was only 7 years old. He had two older sisters, Lenny was 10 and Bailey was 17. They never treated him poorly but Wyatt never had anybody to play with. Wyatt stretched his arms and moped to his tall wood dresser. He pulled out a t-shirt and a pair of dark blue jeans, threw them on and ran outside to feed the chickens. He opened the cage door and dumped the feed in the small tin pan and ran into the house. Bailey, Lenny, and Pops were already at the dining table serving hash browns and eggs onto their plates. As Wyatt dished his plate and started to eat he blew up his cheeks and ran to the trash can, “mines cold!” “Well if you got up at 6:30 like the rest of us it wouldn’t be!!!” yelled Pops. “Whatever. Pops, can we get a doggy?” asked Wyatt. “No way, not after that psycho, Pablo!” screamed Bailey. Pablo was a dog they used to have. He was a massive Doberman. One day he got rabies and ran off. They were going to get another dog but Bailey was too shaken up from Pablo. They don’t really know how he got rabies and they don’t really want to know where he is! “So what are you guys doing today?” asked pops. “Um, I’m going to the mall with Cleo.” said Bailey. “And I’m going to the lake with Marley” said Lenny. “I don’t know yet.” said Wyatt. “Well the chickens need a new coop built, do you want to help?” “Yeah, that sounds fun” said Wyatt “Sure, fun…” mumbled Pops. Wyatt didn’t have any friends and got pretty bored. Wyatt usually just played down at the creek and chased bullfrogs all day. All he wanted was a friend…
A dog friend.
Wyatt’s birthday was coming up and all he wanted was a dog. He didn’t care what type of breed it was or if it was female or male. He just wanted a dog.
“Okay, I know you all have plans but you have to do your chores before you do anything else” said Pops. There was a loud groan and everybody started working. Wyatt walked over to Pops and asked, “Pops, all I want for my birthday is a dog!” “I’ll look into it,” said Pops as he walked away. The Shinbers lived with their grandpa in Packwood, Washington. Dogs were pretty cheap where they lived. After they were all done with their chores, Bailey went to pick up Cleo, Marty’s mom came to pick up Lenny, and then Pops and Wyatt headed outside to find a safer spot for the chicken coop. “Hey Pops, how come we gotta build a new coop for the chickens?” asked Wyatt. “Well, something has been sneaking in here at night and running off with the chickens.” “So now we are going to build them a safer coop and I am going to put up a perimeter fence so at night the predator can’t get them.” explained Pops. “W-what’s been snaggin em? Stammered Wyatt. “I dunno, some stinkin wolf probably,” answered Pops. “Now make yourself useful and go fetch my tool box.” “Okay, where’d ya put it?” questioned Wyatt. “In the shed were it always is!” shouted Pops. “Oh, right,” he said reassuringly. Wyatt ran over to their old wooden shed. They didn’t use for a lot of stuff just storage. Wyatt opened the creaky door to the shed and started scrounging around looking for the tool box. He wasn’t strong enough to move the lawnmower, but when he moved the spare garden hose he saw something that did not please him. “Pops!” yelled Wyatt.
“What is it boy. I’m trying to concentrate here!” “Ya might wanna come see this” Pops walked to shed and gasped at. what he saw…
A DEAD CHICKEN!!!
Out of the blue Wyatt asked, “hey Pops can I hit it with the shovel?” “Now why on earth would you wanna do that?” answered Pops. “Duh, so it don’t come back to life!” screamed Wyatt. “Oh, go ahead,” sighed Pops. Wyatt grabbed the shovel and started thumping the chicken. It made this twangy kind of noise every time he hit it and after a while Pops started to get annoyed. “Okay, the chicken is definitely dead so stop!” “How do you think it got here?” questioned Wyatt. “I don’t know, but the safest thing to do now is to go back inside!” replied Pops. “Aw man!” yelled Wyatt. The two of them came back inside just as Bailey was walking through the door. “Oh, hi” said Bailey surprisingly. “I thought you would still be working on the new coop!” “Well we were. I’ll explain later,” informed Pops. “Okay, then” said Bailey. She walked up the stairs into her bedroom.
“So, you ready for tonight?” asked Pops referring to Wyatt’s birthday party. Almost all of his family was coming. It wasn’t his real birthday but it was the only day all of his family could come. “Almost but my room is still a mess!” replied Wyatt. “Well then what are you doing here talking to me. Everybody’s going to be here in three hours!” yelled Pops. “Oh, right,” said Wyatt. Wyatt started to jog up the stars when he ran into Bailey. He went into his bedroom and started cleaning. “Is she ready yet” whispered Bailey. “Yeah, she’s in the garage,” said Pops. For Wyatt’s birthday Lenny, Pops, and Bailey pitched in to buy Wyatt a dog! She was a one year old yellow lab. They planned on giving her to him at the party. “Hey Pops, where’s the laundry basket?” yelled Wyatt from the top of the stairs. “In the laundry room!” Pops yelled back. “You know, sometimes I wonder what goes on in that boy’s mind,” Pops said to Bailey.
The doorbell rang and Wyatt ran to answer it. It was his aunt Betty. Soon after the rest of the family showed up and before they knew it; it was time for presents. Wyatt opened all of the gifts except one that he did not know about. Pops and Bailey came through the garage door carrying a large box. Wyatt excitedly opened the box as the yellow lab jumped out. “Oh my gosh is she mine?” asked Wyatt. “She sure is,” replied pops. “Does she have a name?” Asked Wyatt. “No” said Lenny. “You get to pick out a name.” “How about Dakota” suggests Wyatt? “It’s perfect,” said Bailey. Wyatt and his cousins ran around the house playing with Dakota. When the party was over Wyatt and Dakota were utterly exhausted.
The Chicken Chase
Wyatt’s birthday was two months ago and now it is almost time for him to go back to school. It was the week before school was supposed to start and Wyatt was feeding the chickens. He dumped the feed into the feeder pan and walked back inside without closing the perimeter fence. He sat down at the kitchen table with Pops. Pops wanted to quiz him on his addition facts. “8+6 ummm is 13?” Asked Wyatt. “Nope,” replied Pops. “It’s 14.” “I think I am done for today” said Wyatt. “Okay. Why don’t you go play fetch with Dakota,” suggested Pops.
Wyatt and Dakota went outside to play fetch only to find all of the chickens missing from their coop. Wyatt knew he would get into trouble if anyone else found out they were missing so he and Dakota ran off into the woods in search of the chickens. They were running as fast as they could not paying attention to anything around them. As they were running Wyatt tripped over a rock and couldn’t get back up. His ankle hurt pretty bad. It started to bleed and Wyatt didn’t know what to do. He grabbed onto Dakota’s neck and Dakota helped him walk over to a hollow tree nearby. Wyatt found some thin leaves that were big enough to wrap around his ankle. He sat there helplessly for a while then fell asleep. He woke up to Dakota licking his face. He looked around and couldn’t see anything it was pitch black.
Wyatt figured he would stay put until morning. He kept trying to go back to sleep but for some reason he just couldn’t. He just kept thinking of how mad everybody was going to be when he came home. Before he knew it the sun started to rise. Wyatt held on to the tree trunk and heaved himself up. Luckily he could still walk. Although he still had to hold on to Dakota for support..
He didn’t want to go back home so he kept moving forward in hope of find the chickens. Wyatt’s leaf bandage often fell off so he had take a detour to find fresh ones. He wondered if Pops, Lenny and Bailey where looking for him right then. He wondered a lot of things right then but had no answers. Eventually Dakota started walking another direction. She started to sniff the air. “What do you smell girl, is it the chickens?” Wyatt said as he let Dakota take the lead. They wandered around for a while until they came upon something terrible….. Pablo
Pablo was lying on the ground dead. From what Wyatt could see it was a gun shot. Pablo had scars and cuts all over him. Wyatt wanted to cry but then noticed white feathers on the ground around him. Pablo was the one who had been eating the chickens at night and the one who had been living in their shed! Wyatt wondered if any of the chickens were still alive. He didn’t know if he should turn around and go home or if he should keep going and try to find the chickens.
Wyatt decided to keep going. He was starting to get hungry. He figured Dakota was too. There was a river nearby, he thought that maybe he could try to spear a fish like he had seen on the television set. He first found a long stick and then a sharp rock.
He started carving a sharp point at the end of the stick. He limped over to the river and could see a few Rainbow trout. Wyatt got in a good stance and positioned his spear… a fish was swimming closer and closer to Wyatt, then Wyatt stabbed the fish and pulled it out of the river.
It was starting to get dark and luckily Wyatt knew how to start a fire. He started by making a circle of rocks. Then he stacked up some wood. Then he rubbed two rocks together to make flint. Wyatt cooked the Rainbow trout over the fire. He and Dakota laid against each other to stay warm.
Lost and found
“Wyatt! Wyatt!” Wyatt woke up to the sound of his name being called. It sounded like his family. He saw light coming towards him. He stood up though he couldn’t see because it was the middle of the night. He fumbled for Dakota’s collar and grabbed hold. He carefully walked closer to the voices and then one of the lights was pointed at him! He could see Pops, Lenny and Bailey. They all ran towards him. They hugged him so hard he couldn’t breathe. “Oh thank goodness you’re okay. I don’t know what I would of done if something happened to you!” yelled Pops,
“Well I may have done something to my ankle,” said Wyatt.
“We’ll take a look at it back at the house,” offered Pops.
When they had treated Wyatt’s injury Wyatt said “Pops I gotta tell ya something, I kinda lost all the chickens.”
“I know,” said Pops. “I’m just glad you’re safe.”