The Little Burro

by Joyce Chalmers Perry

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    Miguel raced down the street clutching a small piece of paper in his hand. His dark hair blew away from his face and his brown eyes shone with happiness as he ran upstairs into the apartment.

    “Look what Peter gave me,” Miguel said breathlessly. He handed his mother the piece of paper. It was an invitation to Peter’s birthday party.

    “May I go?” Miguel asked. “It’s tomorrow afternoon.”

    “Of course you can go,” Mother replied. She had not seen Miguel so happy in a long time.

    Miguel missed his old home since his family had moved to the city. The people were nice, but they had different ways and they didn’t speak Spanish. Miguel’s parents spoke some English, but mostly Spanish was spoken at home.

    When Miguel’s father came home that night, Miguel told him about the party. “What shall I take Peter?” Miguel asked. “Some of the boys said they were getting cars for his collection, but I don’t know what kind he wants.”

    Miguel wanted to take something very special for Peter. When Miguel had first come to school, Peter became his friend. Peter had not teased or made fun of Miguel as some of the other boys had done. In fact, Peter had even asked Miguel to teach him some Spanish words.

    After supper Miguel and his father sat at the table. Miguel watched his father pick up a block of pinewood and begin to carve with his pocketknife. His father carved small animals, and Miguel thought they were beautiful. But tonight Miguel was more interested in the birthday party and what he should take as a present than he was in his father’s carvings.

    At last Miguel’s father looked up from his work and said, “Do you think Peter would like to have one of my little burros?”

    Miguel looked at his father in surprise. “Oh, yes,” answered Miguel. “I’m sure Peter would really like one.”

    Picking up a burro from the shelf, Father asked, “How about this little burro?”

    The burro had large ears and a gentle expression on its face. It had strong legs and a firm neck. On the burro’s head and neck, Miguel’s father had glued thin strips of leather for a halter, and over its back was a harness. Fastened to the harness were two casks for carrying grain. Each cask had been carefully carved out of wood.

    Miguel was filled with excitement at the thought of taking such a present to Peter.

    The next day when Miguel arrived for the party, he smiled as he handed Peter the tissue-wrapped present and said, “Happy birthday!”

    “Hi, Miguel,” answered Peter. “Come in. We’re just about to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”

    As Peter put Miguel’s present on the table next to the others, Roger walked over and picked up the little white box. “Hey,” he shouted, “it’s so light I’ll bet it’s empty!” Then Roger put Miguel’s box right next to the biggest present there. It looked small next to the large package wrapped in bright green paper.

    After the boys played a few games, they all sat down on the floor to watch Peter open his presents.

    Miguel had never seen so many wonderful gifts. There was a sports car, an antique car, and a car-building kit.

    “Hurry and open mine!” Roger shouted.

    Peter picked up Roger’s present, tore away the green wrapping, and opened the big heavy box. Out came a bright, shiny blue metal car with a trailer and boat attached to it. The boys all crowded around to see the car.

    The boys were so excited over the car they forgot about the one small gift left on the table. But Miguel had not forgotten. All of a sudden he wished he hadn’t come to the party. His present was not like any of the others. He wished he had a shiny car to give Peter.

    As Miguel looked around at all the fancy presents, he thought of the little carved burro. A large lump started to form in his throat as Peter reached up and took the small white box. The lump grew bigger and bigger when Peter unwrapped the tissue paper and held up the little burro.

    Slowly Peter turned the burro around in his hands. “It’s beautiful,” he said softly.

    “What is it?” Roger asked in a loud voice.

    “It’s a burro,” answered Miguel quietly. “My father carved it.”

    “You mean it’s homemade?” laughed Roger.

    “Yes,” answered Miguel. “My father is the best wood-carver ever!”

    “He sure is,” said Peter. “I’ve never had anything like this before.”

    Miguel looked surprised. Peter really did like his present.

    All of the boys crowded around Peter and wanted to hold the little burro.

    “My father makes many little animals and figures,” Miguel explained. “And he is teaching me to carve also.”

    “Oh, Miguel!” exclaimed Peter. “Would he teach me too?”

    “Sure,” Miguel replied happily.

    The little burro was given a special place of honor on the table next to the birthday cake.

    As Miguel looked at the burro, he felt a warm glow within him. He was glad he had come. Being different wasn’t so bad after all!

    Illustrated by Dick Brown