Big teardrops splashed down Bobby’s cheeks as he watched Freddie and Dick lug Freddie’s wading pool over to Dick’s house.
All the way home from school, the three boys had eagerly planned to make a jungle hideout in a pile of dirt behind Dick’s garage. Dick’s father had said they could.
Freddie’s wading pool would be their hidden lake. The green branches Dick’s father had pruned from his shade trees would be the jungle trees. They would use their stuffed toys and odd-shaped rocks and pieces of wood for animals. Bobby knew where there was a crooked stick, streaked brown, that looked like a snake. He planned to put it on one of the trees, pretending it was a huge python.
They were going to wear shorts and go barefoot. They’d creep through their jungle with bows and arrows, looking for wild animals. What fun they were going to have!
Bobby had rushed into his house to get a snack and to put on his cutoffs—and there, on the refrigerator door, was the note: DON’T FORGET, BOBBY! Love, Mom.
He was so disappointed he didn’t even look to see what she had left for a snack. Who’d feel like eating when he had to weed two rows of corn before he could play!
It didn’t help to remember that it was his own fault. He had fooled around all day Saturday while Dad, Mom, Susan, and Peggy did their weeding. Then, when he was about to start, who should come to visit but Aunt Alice, Uncle John, Nick, and Michael.
“We’ll let it go for now. We don’t want to disappoint your cousins. They have come a long way to play with you,” Mom had said, adding firmly, “but you may not play after school Monday until your weeding is done.”
And there was the note to remind him.
Bobby started to cry. He felt awful. He felt even worse when he saw Freddie and Dick go by with the wading pool. They were going to make the jungle without him. And it was his own fault.
Trudging to the garden, he began pulling weeds. He started working fast, hoping to finish in time to play a while before dinnertime. Then he remembered how Dad had told him to be extra careful not to injure the tender shoots of corn. He couldn’t work fast. He had to be careful.
When he looked down at the row of corn, it looked as long as a road that never ends. And he had two of those long rows to weed before he could play! He would never get through in time to play in the jungle with his friends.
Bobby started to cry again, which, of course, only made matters worse—no weeds were pulled while he cried.
He noticed a shadow approaching and looked up. His father was standing behind him.
Usually Bobby was happy when Dad came home. But not today. If Dad was home already, it would soon be dinnertime. That meant no time at all to play.
“My boy seems upset,” Dad said.
Bobby tried to sniff back the tears.
“Those rows must look mighty long to you,” Dad guessed.
“Yes,” Bobby said. His lower lip began to quiver. “And Dick and Freddie are making a jungle—and I don’t get to help.”
“I know a trick,” Dad said.
“What kind of trick?”
“One that makes long rows grow shorter,” Dad answered, his eyes twinkling.
“No trick can do that.”
“Try it and see.” Dad tossed a small stick a little way down the row. “If you don’t look one bit farther than that stick, the row will grow shorter. Go on. Try it.”
Bobby started pulling weeds. In no time he had reached the stick.
“Now throw it a little farther down. But don’t look up,” Dad said.
This time Bobby seemed to reach the stick even faster. Dad tossed the stick again, and Bobby weeded to it. Again. Suddenly Bobby’s head almost touched the fence. He had reached the end of the row! “Wow! The row really did grow shorter!”
“Now do the other row the same way,” Dad suggested.
Bobby tossed the stick, then weeded to it. Again and again he tossed the stick and weeded to it. Then, as if by magic, he was through!
“Now look at the rows,” Dad said.
Bobby was amazed. The two rows weren’t shorter at all. They were as long as the other rows in the garden, just like before.
Then Bobby understood Dad’s “trick”: To make a job go faster, do it a piece at a time and work as hard as you can. He looked up. The sun was still a long way from the mountain. Dad must have come home early. There was still time to play!
“Yippee!” Bobby shouted. He gave Dad a big hug, then got his “snake stick” and rushed to Dick’s yard to help transform a pile of dirt into a dark, mysterious jungle full of fun and adventure.