Bravest of All


McLear was different from most deer. Most deer are timid, but McLear wasn’t afraid of anything!

He would go into the haunted house or jump off the high bridge over Blueberry Creek. He would even walk past the mean bull in the back pasture.

He could run faster down the slope and climb higher up the bluff than anyone else. So naturally when little Betty Bobcat climbed too high and was afraid to come down, everyone thought of McLear.

“McLear will rescue her,” cried Reggie Rabbit. He ran to get McLear.

“Come quick!” he shouted. “Betty is stuck on the bluff, and no one can get her down.”

When they reached the bluff, McLear saw that it was very steep and that the little bobcat was on a very narrow ledge. But he bravely climbed up and brought her down.

After that everyone said that he was the bravest deer in the whole world. And pretty soon he began to believe them!

But Willy Weasel did not like all the attention McLear got. One day Willy said, “I’ll bet you’re not brave enough to pick up Sulky Snake.”

“Pooh,” bragged McLear. “I’m not afraid.” He grabbed Sulky by his tail and held him high.

“Oh! McLear is the bravest deer in the whole universe!” cried Milly Meadow Mouse.

“Humph!” sniffed Grandfather Bear. “That’s not brave. That’s foolhardy. Some day he’ll pick up the wrong snake. Then he’ll learn that it’s sometimes smart to be afraid.”

McLear just laughed and took every dare his friends could think of. Once they dared him to sneak up on Sammy Skunk and scare him. Then they wouldn’t play with McLear for a week because he smelled so bad.

Another time Willy dared him to eat a red pepper in one bite.

“Don’t do it McLear!” cried Reggie.

McLear had never tasted a red pepper. But he didn’t want Willy to think that he was afraid, so he popped the whole pepper into his mouth and chomped. Suddenly he felt like he was on fire! He nearly drank Blueberry Creek dry, hoping his mouth and stomach would stop burning.

Willy and his friends rolled on the ground. They laughed until tears ran down their cheeks. McLear knew that they weren’t laughing because he’d been brave.

The next day the forest animals saw Percy Porcupine sleeping under a tree.

“McLear,” said Willy, “I dare you to sneak up and pat Percy’s tail.”

McLear looked at Percy’s prickly tail. Then he looked at Willy. Willy had a sly grin on his face. McLear gulped hard. “No!” he shouted. “You just want to see me get hurt so that you can laugh at me!”

The forest animals gasped.

“I never thought that McLear would be afraid of anything,” Reggie said sadly.

“I guess he’s losing his nerve.”

“You’re wrong, Reggie,” said Grandfather Bear. “That’s the bravest thing McLear has ever done. It takes more courage to say no than to take a foolish dare.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney