Just for Kids / Follow the Leader


By Margo Wayman


Sameera was grazing in the fields of tall barley and amber colored wheat. She loved munching on the grasses that grew between the strong, slender stalks of grain. She heard a noise above her, and looked up into the deep blue sky. There was a heron, flying gracefully through the puffy white clouds. Not far behind the heron were a group of ducks, flying in a v-formation, heading north, towards the Nile delta. She watched them in amazement as she stood chewing the grass.


Suddenly, to her surprise, the duck at the head of the group, fell from the sky. The other ducks, following their leader, all fell too. They landed in the field of wheat, not far from where Sameera was standing. She couldnt believe it. She heard them hit the soft brown earth. Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop! Plop!


Sameera walked over to where the ducks had fallen and saw them all lying there, wings, bills and webbed feet sticking up everywhere. One by one each duck stood up, confused, and staring at their leader, Faisal, who was shaking the dirt out of the feathers on his wings.


Sameera let out a loud moo. "What are you doing?" she asked Faisal.


"I fell asleep," he answered. "I woke up when I hit the dirt. I was very tired. It has been a long flight from Aswan. Uh, sorry guys," he continued, looking at the flock.


The other ducks were stunned. "You fell asleep?" Azzam asked angrily. "Why didnt you just tell us you were tired. One of us could have taken the lead. Now look at us. Were all covered with dirt. We have wheat kernels stuck to our feathers and woody stalks coming out of our bills."


"Sorry," Faisal replied.


Sameera looked at the other ducks and suggested, "Well, since you are here, why dont you stay for a while. There are ample grains to munch on and the river isnt too far away."


"Thats a good idea," Faisal said. "I think we could all use a rest. How about it guys, is that all right with you?" he asked the flock.


"Sure," mumbled Azzam.


"OK," another duck answered.


Sameera urged them on and they followed her through the fields of wheat and barley until they came to a grove of trees. "Figs!" Azzam cried out with delight. "I love figs!" he exclaimed.


The other ducks waddled over to the trees and began to pick figs up from the ground. Many had fallen during the last windstorm. The ducks ate and ate and ate. The more they ate, the fatter their tummies got.


"Follow me," Sameera suggested, seeing how hungry the flock of ducks were. "There is a farm just over the hill. You can eat whatever you want, just dont let Farmer Mahmoud find you. Hell pluck your feathers and eat your for dinner," she warned. "MOOOOOOOO!"


The ducks waddled behind Sameera as she walked to the top of the hill. There, before them, lay fields and fields of fruits and vegetables that seemed to go on for miles. Faisal quacked loudly and ran down the hill towards the beets. He loved beet greens. Azzam ran towards the onions. His favorite thing to eat was onions, especially sweet ones. One duck headed for the radishes and turnips, another for the lettuce, another for the grape vines, heavily laden with huge, ripe, juicy, purple grapes, and yet another ran for the beans that grew long and thin among the thick leaves. They gobbled them down voraciously.


Sameera stood at the top of the hill munching on the sweet tender grass. She learned a long time ago not to go into Farmer Mahmouds fields.


The ducks ate and ate and ate until they were so full that they couldnt fly. In fact they were so full they could hardly walk. They managed to gather together and waddle down to the river to get a drink. After that they found a patch of soft grass under a beautiful blooming poinciana tree and all fell asleep. Sameera wandered down to where the ducks lay and stood silently, chewing on the grasses.


The poinciana tree was in full bloom. It was aflame with massive clusters of yellowish-orange flowers. Sameera looked up at them and noticed all the bees buzzing from one flower to the other. She reached up with her mouth and tugged a few of the long leaves off and munched on them. "MOOOOOOO!" she went, enjoying the taste.


Out of the corner of her eye she saw something moving. She became very alert and sensed danger. Then she saw it. It was a huge crocodile with sharp teeth and it was heading towards the ducks. "MOOOO! MOOOOO! MOOOOOO!" she called out.


The ducks woke up and looked at Sameera. They saw the crocodile heading towards them from the river. They jumped up and stared, unable to move with fear. They tried to flap their wings and fly but they were too full from the figs and vegetables theyd eaten earlier. The crocodile moved closer. The ducks flapped and flapped and finally they were able to get a few feet off the ground, high enough to fly up to the branches of the poinciana tree. All seven of them stood on the branch, gazing down at the intruding crocodile. It moved closer and closer to the tree. It stood at the base of the tree trunk, looking up at the ducks with its jaws wide open, ready to catch one of them if they chanced to fall. They held on tightly to the leaves and twigs, not about to let go.


After a while the crocodile tired of waiting and headed back to the river. It slipped into the murky water and swam away. Sameera, who had wandered away to safety, came back. "Maybe you guys had better keep flying in the direction you were headed. I dont think its safe for ducks here. There are too many crocodiles just waiting to eat you, and lets not forget Farmer Mahmoud. Hed like to have you for dinner too," she mooed.


Faisal said, "Shes right. Lets go. Weve had enough beets, onions, radishes, turnips, lettuce, beans, figs and grapes to last us for a long time."


Azzam replied, "Yeah, and enough crocodiles too."


The other ducks began to quack. Faisal flapped his wings and flew off into the sky. The other six ducks followed behind him, once more in v-formation. They waved their wings at Sameera. "Dont fall asleep again," she mooed, then went back to nibbling on the tender blades of grass sprouting up under the poinciana tree.




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