By Margo Wayman
Ali, the big gray elephant, ripped a few leaves off a baobab tree with his long, thick trunk and then put the leaves into his mouth, chomping them hungrily. He stood, munching away, his eyes wandering around the landscape. He gazed up at the azure sky, then over to a herd of water buffalo standing around a shrinking pond, each fighting for a spot to get a drink. He turned his head and looked in the other direction. He saw a pride of lions, lazily lying in the tall grasses. A few hyenas ran past them, but none of the lions seemed to care; it was too hot and they were just too tired. None of the other animals ever bothered Ali. He was so big that none of them dared to get in his way.
The sun was hot and beating down on Alis tough gray hide. He began to feel bored. He wanted to do something different. He wanted to see something different. He quickly made up his mind, ripped off a few more leaves from the baobab tree and then walked towards the rising sun. He walked and walked and walked, all day long. The tall savannah grasses felt soft under his heavy feet. He enjoyed the way they swayed back and forth in the gentle breeze.
By the time the sun was ready to set that night, Ali found himself at the banks of a great river. It was very wide and the deep blue water was flowing fast. He stuck his trunk in and gathered water. He then raised it high above his head and sprayed the water all over his body. It felt refreshing to the tired elephant. He gulped down gallons or water and walked into the river until it was up to his neck. It felt so good. He stood, enjoying the coolness as the river swirled around his big gray body, washing all the dirt and dust off his tough hide.
He looked all around him. There were tall reeds lining the banks, many waterfowl flying overhead and some bobbing up and down on the gentle waves. Ali smiled. He knew that he was going to like it here. The trees lining the river were filled with bright, colorful flowers. There were no lions, no water buffalo and no hyenas. He felt very happy. He decided that he just might stay at the river for a while. Feeling content, he shut his eyes and fell asleep. The midnight sky was filled with stars and a bright, glowing moon.
Ali woke up to some grunting noises behind him. He turned his big gray body around. There were several wild pigs standing in the mud. They dropped into the mucky mess and started rolling around in it. They were soon covered with thick black mud. Ali couldnt even tell what color the hair on their bodies was. There was so much mud. Suddenly he started laughing. What a sight that was to see all those dirty pigs. He filled his trunk up with water and blew it onto the wild pigs. The mud washed off of them. The pigs werent happy. They snorted and grunted angrily and ran off into the bushes. Ali laughed as they disappeared from his view.
As he followed the running pigs with his eyes, he noticed something dark olive green moving in the reeds. He climbed out of the river and moved towards the bank. He saw that it was a crocodile. It was yawning and Ali saw its sharp, pointed teeth. Warning bells went off inside his head. Crocodiles were dangerous. He stood and watched with relief as the crocodile slipped silently into the water, slithering off into the deep river.
Ali continued up the bank. He passed a flowering jacaranda tree and several eucalyptus trees. He reached up and ripped a few leaves off both trees. He didnt like the taste of them. His tummy started to rumble. He was beginning to get hungry. What was he going to eat? He found a few acacia trees. He ate some of the leaves and enjoyed the taste. He ripped off some more and some more until there was none left on the empty branches. Ali was still hungry. He couldnt see any more acacia trees and wondered what he was going to eat now.
He stomped along the banks of the river a little further. There were several hippos in the river, swimming around. He stopped and watched them for a little while. Some of them were eating vegetation off the bottom of the river. Their mouths opened wide and their huge teeth looked dangerous. Ali didnt think hed like river plants. He stuck his trunk down to the river bottom and yanked a few plants off. He lifted them to his mouth and munched them down. He didnt like them at all.
He walked on. All day long he looked for food but found nothing. That night when he lay down to sleep, his tummy growled and groaned with hunger.
The next morning, after the sun had risen over the horizon, Ali was starving. His tummy was making loud hungry noises. He decided that even though it was boring where he lived, at least he had food. He went down to the river and drank a few gallons of water, then headed back home. He found a few leaves to nibble on during his journey.
It took him all day to get there. The first thing he did was go to the biggest baobab tree and rip some tender leaves off. Yummy; they were delicious. He munched and chomped until he was full. He looked around him. He smiled when he saw the water buffalo at the water hole. There were no crocodiles and no hippos. He smiled when he saw the pride of lions and the hyenas. He was home, and he actually felt happy and content, and very glad to be back where he belonged.
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