Susie, Johnny and the Good Shepherd
by: S.C. Mathisen
Not so very long ago and not so very far away, Susie and Johnny were getting ready to go back to school after their Spring break. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in early spring with just a few high clouds, a temperature that made them begin to think about taking their coats off. This afternoon they had decided to take Susie’s little brother Stanley to the park so that he could play on the big toys. They were sitting on a bench, under a tree next to the playground where Stanley was playing with some other children.
They are talking about an overnight field trip to the Cascades Wild Life Animal Preserve and Park…with Mr. Christopherson who not only was their teacher, but also was someone from their church.
Johnny begins, “I just can’t wait until we go on that field trip tomorrow, Susie. I have never been to a place where the animals weren’t kept in some sort of cage.”
Then Susie said, “Neither have I Johnny, when I talked to my parents about it, they were excited too. They both grew up in Africa with all of the animals roaming free. But, they didn’t know about this park. They both told me to be very careful.”
Johnny chimed in with, “I just can’t wait to see all the animals. I heard that they have grizzlies, black bears, wolves, bobcats, lynx, cougars, owls, eagles and wetland animals. And they are all in their natural surroundings!”
“I think that Mr. Christopherson called their surroundings a habitat, Johnny,” Susie responded.
“That’s right, Susie.” Johnny said thoughtfully. “Mr. Christopherson also said that we would get to ride on special little trains….trams he called them.”
Just then their friend Andrea walked up and sat down with them and said, “I’m looking forward to the special hiking trails. Mr. Christopherson said that he was going tell us a lot about the natural history of the Northwest while we are there.”
“That’s right”, said Susie, “he is going to talk about the habitat of each animal and how they fit into the eco-system. I am going to try to sketch each animal we study and put together a notebook like Audubon did. I have been working hard on my sketching and am really excited to be able to sketch some live animals.”
Johnny was beginning to feel a bit left out and said, “I am also really looking forward to camping out at the campground at the state park next to the wild life park. We’ll be able to hear the jungle animals at night just like we were in Africa!”
The next morning found them at the school saying their goodbyes to their parents and loading onto a school bus and heading south for their field trip.
The school bus was full of happy, talking kids that were looking forward to a great adventure. Mr. Christopherson stood up at the front of the bus with a microphone to make a few announcements. He was a tall, muscular man with light, sandy colored hair, blue eyes and a voice that…seemed to command respect. “All right, you guys let’s hush up for a few minutes so I can remind you about the rules for this trip. Number 1: Always obey whatever I tell you to do…immediately. We are going to be in a wildlife preserve NOT a zoo. The animals are wild and roaming free. We need to respect that. If I feel that you are putting yourself or someone else in any danger, I will stop you. Now, since I cannot be everywhere at once, you need to listen for the sound of my voice. You all know what I sound like by now. Please pay attention and heed me if I call out to you, especially if I tell you to stop and freeze. Do you all understand me?” There was silence until a small voice from the back of the bus said, “Sir, yes sir…ummm…what are the other rules?” Laughter erupted amongst all the kids on the bus and then Mr. Christopherson chuckled and replied, “There is only one more rule. Rule number two: Obey rule number 1.” The kids started laughing again and Mr. Christopherson said, “…one and one more thing – HAVE FUN!!” With that, he began laughing loudly and sat down to enjoy the rest of the trip.