Toklat


It was a beautiful day. Toklat, the grizzly bear cub, stretched. When he stretched, his jaws opened wide in a great yawn. His pink tongue curled back, but straightened quickly when his jaws snapped shut again.

Testing the wind with his ever inquisitive nose, Toklat smelled something strange. He was four months old now and had smelled many things. He knew the spicy scent of spruce trees on the hill across the creek. He had sniffed the pungent odor of new pussy willows, and he was familiar with the sharp odor of wild grass. But this scent was different. It was warm and animal. Some strange creature lurked nearby, and Toklat’s curiosity set him on the trail.

Leaving his two brothers dozing next to their mama, Toklat followed his nose through some trees into an open field. A hungry hawk whirled in the blue sky above the field. Its yellow eyes were searching the land below for food.

Toklat hesitated at the edge of the field. His nose told him that what he smelled was just on the other side in a thicket of willows. He had learned from experience that crossing open fields could be dangerous. Enemies like the lynx and wolf could see him. They would gladly have taken him home for supper as the main course.

Toklat sniffed carefully. His eyes were not good, as is the way with bears, but his nose told him much. There were no dangerous odors, so off he trotted toward the new and interesting scent.

He arrived at the willows and stopped, sniffing cautiously. Then, quite suddenly, he saw a creature. It was a rabbit, crouched into a small bundle. Its brown eyes were on Toklat. The rabbit’s pink nose twitched, and its long ears wiggled as Toklat stared. He had never seen anything like the rabbit before.

From high in the sky, a hawk also saw the rabbit. The bird’s keen eyes had no trouble picking it out in the willows. What a nice supper! he must have been thinking. Swiftly, the hawk began a long, slanting dive. Its yellow eyes did not leave the rabbit for an instant. They saw Toklat, too, but the cub was too small to be a threat, and the hawk came down quickly. The bird’s sharp talons were set to make a grab.

Toklat didn’t hear or see the hawk. He had no idea of the danger overhead, and he ambled playfully toward the rabbit. Does that creature with the long ears want to play? he wondered. When the little bear stuck out a tentative paw, the rabbit burst into a fury of action. It leaped into the air and when it landed again, its hind legs were still pumping. The rabbit wanted nothing to do with Toklat, who was much larger. Off it went, hopping with great speed. In seconds, the rabbit was out of sight, leaving Toklat puzzled. The creature obviously didn’t want to play.

At the instant the rabbit sped off, the hawk dove straight down, but its talons clutched empty air. The bird’s supper was gone. With a screech, the hawk zoomed into the sky again and circled over Toklat, still screeching, its yellow eyes blazing. Then it dove at the cub.

Toklat saw the furious bird coming, and uttering a frantic Youwp, he dove into the willows. Once again the hawk clutched empty air. Then it shot straight up into the sky, where it circled while searching for the cub.

But Toklat knew better than to show himself. He remained hidden until the hawk finally flew away in search of other food.

When he was certain that his enemy had gone, Toklat returned to his mother. His brothers were still dozing next to her large, comfortable body. With a sigh of contentment, Toklat settled down between them. He’d had enough excitement for a while. And besides, it was nap time.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Richard Hull