Mom’s Horned-Toad House


I was excited! Spring was here, and I could play outside without a coat. Kindergarten was almost out for the summer, and I was getting ready to play ball and help Dad with the garden. But I forgot all about Mother’s Day. I didn’t remember until my Primary teacher reminded us the Sunday before. I knew then that I would have to have a secret meeting with Aaron and Jarom.

Aaron and Jarom are my two brothers. Aaron’s four, and Jarom’s only two, but he’s real smart. He can talk really good. In fact, he can do nearly everything Aaron and I can.

That night when we were in bed, I talked to Aaron and Jarom and told them that next Sunday was Mother’s Day and that we just had to get Mom a present. We knew Dad was going to give her something—he always does. But we wanted to give her a big surprise just from us.

We thought about giving Mom a motorcycle or a horse or a pickup truck. Those things would have made good presents, but we knew we couldn’t ever get anything like that till we were a lot older.

We finally decided that we would get all our money together and go to Brother Bob’s store to buy Mom something.

The next day after I came home from school, Aaron and Jarom and I walked to the store. We only had two dollars and three quarters and a dime and four pennies. It wasn’t very much, but we thought we could get Mom something she’d like.

Well, there really wasn’t much in Brother Bob’s store for Mother’s Day, because he sells mostly food and things like that. We looked at the bubble gum, but Mom doesn’t like bubble gum very much. We looked at some boxes of candy because Dad sometimes buys it for her. She likes candy, but just one of those boxes of chocolates with a big bow on it costs lots more money than we had. There was a real good pocketknife inside a glass case, but it cost over ten dollars. There was a watch inside the case too. It was just a little one, not like the big one Dad wears. We figured that since it was such a little watch, we probably had enough money to buy it. But when we put our money on the counter, Brother Bob said we didn’t have quite enough.

We were going to go to the big store by the ice-cream place, but that was a long way away. You have to cross the highway to get there, so we decided not to go. Instead, we each bought a sucker and went home.

On the way home we decided that if we couldn’t buy something for Mom, we’d make something. I remembered that Mom once said she’d sure like a rocking chair to rock Jared in at night. An old rocking chair wouldn’t be very hard to make. We had wood and nails and tools and everything at home.

Every day after school Aaron and Jarom met me at the corner. Then we ran around to the backyard and worked on the rocking chair. Jarom didn’t work much; he just kind of watched us. He’d get tired and go into the house for his blanket, but he always came back and sat on a box and rubbed his blanket and sucked his thumb. We still liked to have him there because it was his present too.

We had a hard time trying to build Mom that rocking chair though. We’d seen Dad hammer and saw, but he had bigger muscles than Aaron and I. I scratched my hand with the saw, and Aaron got silvers in his hands trying to hold the boards still. And I hit my thumb, trying to hammer in a nail.

We worked every day till Saturday, but by Saturday we still didn’t have a rocking chair. We’d hammered some boards together, but they were rough and had crooked nails sticking out of them. It didn’t look like any rocking chair we’d ever seen. It looked more like a table. But Mom didn’t need a table; she needed a rocking chair.

It was hot. Jarom had his blanket and was lying down on a box, sucking his thumb and looking at our rocking chair. I was thinking, and Aaron was over by the grapevine hunting for something. Pretty soon he yelled, “Hey, Alma, come here! Look what I found!”

I threw my hammer down, and Jarom left his blanket and ran over to the grapevine with me. Under the branches, sitting on some crunchy leaves, was a big, fat horned toad. He was brown and had little bumps all over him.

I’d seen horned toads before, because Aaron likes to catch them. But this one was one of the best horned toads I’d ever seen. Aaron picked it up and tickled its tummy and rubbed it against his cheek so he could feel the bumps.

Aaron said, “I know, Alma! Let’s give Mom some horned toads! She said that she thinks they’re cute and that they’re funny to watch when they run. Let’s look for some more, and we’ll each give her a horned toad for Mother’s Day.”

There’s an empty lot behind our house that’s covered with weeds and rocks and other good places for horned toads to hide. Jarom went there with us, too, but he had to leave his blanket behind, because it would get weed stickers in it.

We hunted for a long time, and finally we found another horned toad. It was almost suppertime. We were about ready to give Mom just two horned toads, when suddenly Jarom saw a tiny one. I grabbed it. Now we each had a horned toad to give to Mom.

When we went into the house, we didn’t let anyone see the toads. I found an empty shoe box and put some rocks inside so the horned toads would think they were still outside. Then we wrapped the box in newspaper and punched some holes in the top very carefully.

The next day, after the family came home from church and Primary, Mom started fixing dinner. After my brothers and I helped her set the table, we went out to the garage and brought in our present. I put the box on Mom’s plate so she’d know we hadn’t forgotten about Mother’s Day. Aaron and Jarom and I were grinning as Mom tried to guess what was in the present. She was going to shake it, but we told her she’d better not because it might break. She kept trying to guess, but she couldn’t. Not even Dad could guess what our present was.

After family prayer and the blessing on the food, I told Mom to open our present. I knew we couldn’t eat until Mom had opened it.

She took the paper off really slow, and then she took the lid off the shoe box. Her eyes got really big, but she didn’t say anything, and we weren’t sure if she liked our horned toads. We didn’t know if she thought they were too little or not the right color. But then she got a great big smile on her face, and she looked at Aaron and Jarom and me. Her eyes were sparkling like they do sometimes when she’s real happy. We knew then that she was glad to get those three horned toads.

She got up and gave us each a great big kiss and said, “I’ll never forget this Mother’s Day. Horned toads are the best Mother’s Day surprise I’ve ever received!”

After we’d all had a good look at the horned toads, Dad said we should take them out to the garage for a while. But Mom said it would be OK to put them on the chair by the telephone if we wouldn’t bother them while we ate.

After dinner, Mom looked at her horned toads and said, “I don’t like to see toads closed up in an old shoe box. Why don’t you boys build them a house outside where they won’t feel sad and where we can go to visit them.”

The next day after kindergarten, Aaron and Jarom and I went out in the backyard by the grapevine. We’d seen lots of horned toads there, so we knew that that was one of their favorite spots. We found a shady place where there were lots of crunchy leaves. We got some rocks and put them in a little pile under the grapevines, and that was Mom’s horned-toad house. The horned toads really liked it. As soon as we let them out of the shoe box, they waddled as fast as they could into their little rock house.

Those horned toads were our very best Mother’s Day present. And Mom said one of her favorite times of the day was when she went out to the grapevine with Aaron and Jarom and me and watched her very own horned toads.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Karl Hepworth