Adventures of Ranger Rick: Elmo Armadillo has heard horrible news. Can he and the gang save the whole earth?
Ranger Rick Raccoon flicked his fishing line into the lake, leaned back against a willow tree, and breathed deeply. The warm air was full of rich, earthy smells. And from all around, Rick could hear the little rustles and chirps and hums of animals scurrying and fluttering and buzzing about. Spring had come to Deep Green Wood.
He glanced over at his little friend Chester Chipmunk and frowned. Chester was supposed to be helping him by looking for fishing worms. But the chipmunk had lifted up an old log minutes ago and was still staring underneath it.
“Having any luck?” Rick asked impatiently.
Chester kept staring under the log. “This is so cool, Rick,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe how much is going on under this one measly log. There are centipedes, millipedes, pillbugs, a couple of snails, and who knows how many insects–even termites. The termites have a whole kingdom under here,” he said, smiling.
Rick chuckled softly to himself. He knew how much fun it was just to sit back and watch nature. The worms could wait, he decided.
He flicked his fishing line backward to recast it–and heard a “Hey!” behind him. It was Elmo Armadillo, with a fish hook stuck in a joint between two of the armor plates on his back–Rick’s hook.
“Sorry, Elmo,” Rick said, getting up to help.
“No time for that now,” Elmo said excitedly. He started walking quickly around Rick in tight little circles. As he walked, the fishing line began wrapping around Rick’s legs. Rick held on to his fishing pole and stared curiously at Elmo.
“We’ve got problems, big problems,” Elmo said. The more the armadillo paced, the more the fishing line wound around Rick.
“Hey, Elmo, stop moving,” Rick told him.
But Elmo wasn’t paying attention. “Get your bags packed,” he told Rick and Chester. “We have to go fast! ”
“Elmo!” Rick shouted as the fishing line wound tighter and tighter. “Stop! Just tell us what’s making you so upset.” And with that, the fishing line ran out-and both animals fell in a wrapped-together heap.
With Chester’s help, Elmo and Rick finally from the fishing line. But frantic.
“I don’t know where to begin!” the armadillo whined, pacing in circles again. Rick and Chester both pulled the fishing gear out of the way. “Almost all the rainforests have been cut down!” Elmo told them. “So all the animals are going to die–the lions, the tigers, the chickens….”
“The chickens?” Rick asked. “Elmo, I don’t think chickens are in any danger,” he began.
“Well, maybe I got the names wrong, but lots of animals are in trouble. And all the wetlands and oceans are gone. Or polluted. I forget which. But it’s really bad. Rick, we gotta do something,” he whimpered.
Chester gave Rick a look. “Who told you all this, Elmo?” Chester asked.
“Gus Grimace, the enviro news guy on the Channel 5 news. He says we have too much ozone. Or maybe it’s not enough. What are we going to do about the ozone, Rick?” Elmo asked.
“Elmo, slow down. You’re all mixed up. Yes, there are lots of environmental problems. But not everything is as bad as you think. And you don’t have to solve all of the Earth’s problems,” Rick said, patting the armadillo on his armored back.
“But Gus Grimace says. . . ” Elmo whined.
“I know it can be scary to hear lots of bad news about the environment,” Rick told him kindly. “But there are many folks trying to solve those problems. And there’s plenty of good news too. We all just need to do our part.” Elmo rubbed his chin in thought. “Do my part,” he mumbled. “Do my part. Yes! Rick, I’ll do it!” he shouted. And with that, he scurried off.
“Well,. that seems to have solved that,” Rick said, dusting off his paws.
“I wouldn’t be too sure,” Chester warned.
Two weeks later, Rick was playing “Blind Animal’s Bluff” with his friends Scarlett Fox, Becky Hare, and Chester. Rick was “It,” so he was wearing the blindfold. He could hear his friends giggling as he zigzagged around the meadow, trying to get his paws on one of them. Then he heard their cries of surprise as something raced by. It seemed to just miss hitting him.
“What was that?” Rick cried, reaching for his blindfold. But before he could get it off, the thing had raced back–and knocked him down.
“Try to guess who I am,” said a muffled voice.
Rick heard lots of little chuckles all around him. “Yes–keep the blindfold on, Rick!” Chester said cheerfully.
Rick stumbled to his feet and moved closer to where the muffled voice was coming from.
“You’re getting warmer,” the voice said in a teasing way.
Rick stuck out his paws and waved them around as he plodded forward. Then he felt something–something woolly. Rick moved his paws over what seemed to be a piece of cloth tied in a knot. Like a scarf. “Scarlett?” he asked.
“Nooooo,” the muffled voice said.
Rick poked his paws about and felt a hard head and ears. The ears were too short to be Becky’s, he decided. And the head wasn’t as small and furry as Chester’s.
“I’ve got him fooled!” the voice shouted.
That made Rick angry. “I’m not fooled yet,” he told the creature. Then suddenly Rick felt a hard part of the body, like a leathery coat of armor. Armadillo armor. “Elmo!” he said sharply, and pulled off the blindfold.
The armadillo’s neck and face were covered with a woolly scarf, muffling his words. “Elmo, what are you doing?” Rick asked.
“I’m doing MY part for the environment,” Elmo told him proudly.
“Take that scarf off your mouth so we can hear you better, Elmo,” Becky said, coming closer to the two friends.
“No can do,” Elmo said, still behind his scarf. “The scarf is here to keep me from polluting the air with my germs,” he explained. “I’m also trying to take fewer breaths, so I don’t put out too much carbon dioxide. And I’m going to try to learn how to hibernate. That way I won’t use as much energy. And I’m — ”
“Elmo, what in the world is wrong with you?” Becky interrupted.
“Are these more ideas from that TV environmental news guy?” Chester asked him.
Elmo pulled a book out of his belt pack and handed it to Rick. All the animals gathered around to see it. The book was called What YOU Must Do Every Day to Save the Earth. Inside were long lists of things to do, with big warning signs that said, “You MUST do this EVERY day or the world will come to an end,” and “Remember — it’s ALL u p to YOU! ”
“Hmmmmm,” Rick said thoughtfully. The other animals looked at him.
“I think you’d better tell him, Rick,” Scarlett said quietly.
“No,” Rick said, “Elmo doesn’t need another lecture. This time, let’s show him, gang.”
Later that day, Rick slipped a worm onto a hook, flicked his line into the water, and handed the pole to Elmo. “So tell me what you saw when I took you around,” Rick asked the armadillo.
Elmo held onto the line and smiled. “Well, I saw the butterfly garden that Becky planted,” he said. “And I saw how you’re not using lead weights anymore when fishing, since you found out that lead can hurt wildlife. I saw the Ranger Rick lending library that Chester set up, so the magazines get reused. And I saw how Scarlett checks on Shady Pond every once in a while to clean up any litter that people have left.”
“And over at Sunny Suburb?” Rick asked.
“I saw the hillside that the kids’ group had replanted with trees, and I saw the recycling bins at their school Elmo said. And that soggy place–the wetland–thatthepeoplearesaving for the animals living there.” Elmo smiled. “So I guess a lot of folks are doing a lot of different things for the environment.”
“But everybody’s not doing everything, ” Rick pointed out.
“That’s true.” Elmo pulled up the fishing line, checked the worm, and tried casting. The line flew over the rocks in front of him and sank into the lake.
“It was funny the way all those people kept pointing at us,” Elmo said. “They got so excited seeing animals.”
Rick was tying one of his special flies onto another fishing line. “Yeah, some people really like seeing wild things and being out in nature. I can understand that.”
“Me too,” Elmo agreed. “After all, people are a part of nature. So being out in the wild must feel like coming home to them.” Then the armadillo’s eyes lit up, and he started tugging on his fishing line. “Look, Rick–I think I’ve got one!”
Together, they reeled in a fine, fat fish.