The Story of a Snow Urchin Winterling
Winterlings -- The Snow Urchins
Snow Urchins are tiny creatures that come to live in the woodlands during the winter snows. They live in the underground caves and caverns in the mountain country where it is very cool all year round, emerging to play above ground in the winter when the first snows sugar the countryside.
Snow Urchins have an important job as caretakers of the tiny and helpless wildlife of the woodlands. They perform various important tasks which include feeding seeds and nuts to the winter birds, field mice and other fragile creatures. They also protect animal babies such as bunnies, opossums and yearling fawns who may have become orphaned by hungry foxes, bobcats or hunters. The Snow Urchins keep them warm, fed and loved in special burrows and hidden caves through the worst of winter weather. Some Urchins carry bags of seeds and nibbles as they move silently through the underbrush at night.
Snow Urchins have very strong healing powers and should an injured or sick animal be found during the daily rounds, a Snow Urchin will carry the little animal back to the caverns where herbal broths and concoctions are ministered to the little patient in order to restore it to good health.
Because they are very clever at moving about unnoticed through the snowy woodlands, Snow Urchins have rarely been seen by human beings. They are masters of disguise. However, on very rare occasions, and especially on Christmas Eve if it snows, the little Snow Urchins will allow themselves to be seen by children and the very young-at-heart.
Little Gregory is a Snow Urchin and a very special Snow Urchin. He has one regular-sized arm and one arm that is only a half-arm or what Gregory calls his “stump.” Now most Snow Urchins felt really sad that Gregory had only a “stump” instead of a full-sized arm but Gregory learned to use his stump just like a regular arm. When he was a baby and was learning how to walk, Gregory used a specially carved tree branch to help him balance until his legs were strong enough to carry him.
Sometimes the other young Urchins would tease Gregory or would leave him in the caves and not tell him when they chose teams to go into the woodlands to learn to hunt for baby animals to rescue. When Gregory was left behind, he wouldn’t cry but would go to his workshop deep inside the caves and learn to whittle wood and to use his stump to balance the wood. With much practice and patience, Gregory became a master carver of beautiful wooden animals and woodland creatures. However, he still wanted to join the others and learn to slip unnoticed through the underbrush. He loved the little animals and yearned to help them.
A Dangerous Stranger in the Woodlands
One day a very clever, greedy fur trapper named Dirty Jack came to the woodlands. Dirty Jack was one of the most famous hunters and trackers ever known. He was given lots of money for tracking and trapping animals and killing them for their beautiful fur. Dirty Jack delighted in the abundance of furry animals here in these new woods and tracked long hours in search of the best furs so the sale of them would fill his pockets.
On a sparkling crisp winter’s morning, a band of snow Urchins frantically returned early from their daily woodland feeding routine. The caves and caverns echoed with shouting and cries for help. Gregory hustled up from his workshop to see what all the excitement was about. The Urchins had gathered in a circle around the leader to hear the news.
The lead Urchin, Seamus, was flushed and nearly out of breath as he told how one of the little Urchins had strayed from the band to answer the cries for help from a trapped young fox. Her leg had been clamped in the sharp jaws of one of Dirty Jack’s traps and she was frightened and in much pain. The young Urchin named Peter had slipped away to help her. Peter cleverly released the trap and was bandaging the vixen’s injured leg when….. WHOOSH!! … A large burlap bag swooped down over him. EVERYTHING WENT DARK! Peter could hear the husky evil laugh of Dirty Jack as he snatched up the bag in delight and wobbled off to his cabin with his precious prize, Peter inside!! The little injured vixen hid in the thick underbrush until the Urchin band found her and she told them what had happened. Peter must be rescued and they must make a plan to get rid of Dirty Jack!
Little Gregory Has a Plan
As Gregory stepped forward to the center of the circle of Urchins, everyone became quiet. “I think I have a plan to help. I will go to speak with the Great Bear Warrior, Artos, who lives in the caves nearby. We have become friends and he will know what to do.”
So Gregory gathered his carving tools and his sack of seeds and nuts and some gifts for Artos in his pack and started out to find the great bear. About noon, Gregory discovered Artos sitting outside his cave feasting on berries and sweet roots. Artos was a huge bear, three times larger than most black bears and his gorgeous black fur glistened in the warm sunlight. Artos woofed a friendly hello when he saw Gregory and they sat and he listened as Gregory explained the kidnapping and the greedy killings Dirty Jack had done to the woodland animals. With a gruffly growl Artos agreed he would help the Urchins and would rid the woodlands of Dirty Jack.
The Secret Mission Begins
With the details of their secret plan carefully memorized, Gregory hurried back to his cave home and workshop. He called a meeting of all the Urchins and explained the plan to them. Gregory quickly got to work carving his greatest masterpiece. The Urchins scurried to the woodlands and brought back bundles and bundles of wood for Gregory to carve. Gregory worked diligently into the night by candlelight and by midnight all was ready. Gregory sent a message by the Snowy Owl, Sebastian, to Artos that all was ready.
The Urchins gathered in Gregory’s workshop and one by one they were each given a beautifully carved pair of rabbit footprint snowshoes which they would later attach to the bottoms of their red curly-toed boots. When night came and the lights in Dirty Jack’s cabin had been put out, the Urchin bands gathered outside, laced on their rabbit footprint snowshoes and began laying tracks that led from the cabin out into the woodlands to a special spot where Artos would be waiting.
When morning light came and Dirty Jack came outside to draw water from his well, he discovered hundreds of the largest Jack rabbit tracks he had ever seen!! Without even eating breakfast, Dirty Jack raced back into the cabin, grabbed his gun and as many traps as he could carry and dashed off into the woods following the tracks and dreaming of all the money he would receive for these hundreds of giant Jack rabbit pelts. Once he killed them and skinned them, he would sell them and he would be the richest trapper ever!!!!
As he lumbered along in the snow, Dirty Jack was so amazed at the size and number of tracks …. Hundreds ….. Thousands!!! They went on and on – he couldn’t stop because someone else might find this trail and then he would have to share the wealth ….
No, no, NOOOOOO!!!!
Deeper and deeper into the mountain country and higher and higher he trudged through the deep snow. Dirty Jack soon became tired and had to stop for a short rest to catch his breath. He sat down on a flat rock right outside the entrance to a large cave. “These huge rabbits must have a warren or burrow in the cave,” he thought. As he sat and rested, he imagined what a trapper’s paradise he had discovered. He closed his eyes to picture himself as a rich man.
Suddenly he realized he felt a cloud of warm breath on the back of his neck and then heard a great snort. His eyes snapped open and he spun around. There was Artos, his large teeth gleaming in the sun as he rose up behind Dirty Jack and stood like a giant black furry, growling tower. That was the last anyone ever saw or heard from Dirty Jack.
A Celebration and a New Beginning
Peter was found shivering with cold and frightened but safe and sound in a cage in Dirty Jack’s cabin. The Urchin rescue team bundled him up in warm woven blankets and carried him home to the mountain caverns. He was given some warm broth and put to bed in a warm nest of fluffy quilts.
The Snow Urchins celebrated their grand victory over the evil Dirty Jack in the great cavern hall with Gregory as the guest of honor and now their Great Hero!! After that day, Gregory was never teased again and was always asked out on daily feeding rounds in the woodlands. However, he didn’t go out very often because he was very happy and very busy carving special rabbit track snowshoes and bunny trail skis for all the Urchins to wear through the mountain woodlands.
Merry Christmas and the Happiest Blessings of the New Year
You and Yours!!