“So what do you think, Bro?”
We were in the sewing room with Mom, and I hadn’t been paying much attention to Panda until I heard his question. I looked down at the chair below me and was amazed to see Panda, proudly showing off yet another new outfit! “Mom made it for me,” he remarked, as if I needed anyone to clarify that. “Cool,” I said. “Turn around, let me see the back.”Panda turned around. “Looks good!” I nodded approvingly. “Hey is that a… ” Panda cut me off in mid-sentence. “Yes,” he replied, “it is a real pocket!” A couple of days later I noticed something different about Panda’s outfit…“Seriously, she made you a hat, too?” I asked in amazement. “Does it come off?”
“Actually,” Panda responded, “a penguin gave it to me.” Incredulous, I waited for him to continue. “She saw this penguin at Target and she thought his hat might fit me. So she bought him and he was kind enough to let me have his hat.” I nodded thoughtfully. “That was nice of him,” I said. “So where is he now? I didn’t see him on Mom’s chair with the other stuffed animals.”
“Mom gave him to Meredith at church Wednesday night,” Panda replied. “He hit it off great with the panda Aunt Gail gave her for her first birthday.” “Well,” I replied, “as long as they don’t get in trouble for playing in church.” Later that night we were looking out the front window when I suddenly got a great idea!“Hey,” I began. “You kind of look like a lumberjack with that outfit on. Maybe we should go somewhere in the mountains, like Yosemite!” Panda was intrigued, but hesitant. “Where is that?” he queried. “And how would we get there?”“I’ll go find out,” I replied confidently. “I think Mom left her phone on the kitchen table. I’ll look it up.”
“Hey,” I reported back in a few minutes. “It looks like we can take the train! And it’s only $29.00! What a deal!” It didn’t take us long to get ready, and at dawn the next day we were on our way to the train station. “Hey,” Panda suggested, as if on a whim. “Let’s go by Cousin Inky’s house and see if he wants to go with us!”When we got to Inky’s house, our new cousin was happy to see us. “Sorry guys,” he said in answer to our invitation. “I won’t be able to go this time. My mom doesn’t like me to do adventurous things.” Panda and I looked at each other, realizing that Aunt Gail must have been raised by Swedes just like Mom.
“Okay,” we replied. “Maybe next time.” Inky bounded up the stairs and looked down on us from the ledge. “Bye, guys,” he said. “Have fun on your trip!”We got to the train station just in time, and were enjoying our ride when we heard familiar voices behind us. We turned around and were amazed to see our penguin friends from our adventure in the Swiss Alps! “So what are you guys doing here?” I asked, after we had moved to a car where we could talk privately. The penguins exchanged glances. “Well,” they responded sheepishly, “we think we’re lost again.” Panda’s eyes grew wide. “Again?” he exclaimed, not even trying to hide his dismay. Our friends nodded. We listened solemnly as they shared their story. It seemed as if they had started out in San Diego on their way to the South Pole, but they had somehow gotten on the northbound train by mistake! “Don’t feel bad,” I said encouragingly. “You can come to Yosemite with us and then we’ll get you back on the right track after that.” Panda looked out the window. “Hey, I think we’re almost there!” After we got off the train we found a picnic table where we sat down to continue our conversation and have a quick snack. The weather was perfect for exploring the park. The penguins decided to take a nap, since they’d been on the train longer than we had, so we went on by ourselves. The view was breathtaking. “Is that El Capitan?” Panda asked, pointing to a massive rock rising above the tree line. I shook my head. “No,” I replied, “I think El Capitan was one of Mom’s schools before she retired.”“Well,” Panda said as we inspected the sign at the entrance to the park. “Let’s go hiking!”As usual, Panda was full of energy and got ahead of me quickly. “Hey wait up!” I called. “You’re going to get lost!” And, just as I had predicted, once he disappeared around a bend in the road, Panda was nowhere to be seen!It was up to me to find out if any of the forest animals had seen him. “No, I sure haven’t seen any pandas around here,” replied the first squirrel I talked to. “I’m sure I would have seen him from up here, especially if he has on a red hat.”I found an adorable baby fox, but he hadn’t seen Panda either. “Sorry,” he said in answer to my questions. “We don’t see many pandas in these parts. Especially ones with red flannel shirts and jeans.”Panda told me later that he had thought I was the one who was lost, and he had gone through the forest looking for me! Apparently none of the forest animals he met had seen me, and Panda was just getting discouraged when he met a kindly raccoon. “Don’t worry, Buddy,” the raccoon said. “You’ll find him. He can’t be far away.” Finally, I found him! I came into a clearing and there he was, a few feet ahead of me, teetering precariously on the edge of a fallen log, talking to a baby bear! “It’s okay, fella,” he was saying. “I’ll help you get down. I’ve rescued a baby panda from a tree before at the San Diego Zoo.”Immediately I jumped up onto the log to help Panda get the frightened baby bear down. Once back on the ground, the bear thanked us and we continued on our way, determining not to get separated again. We walked for awhile, but soon we were tired. Fortunately for us, we ran into some guys on motorcycles and they let us borrow one of theirs. “Just leave it at the park entrance when you’re done,” they said, “and we’ll pick it up there.” Panda drove, since he has experience from both when we joined the police force and when he went to basic training.“Oh wow,” Panda exclaimed when we came to a sign we hadn’t seen before. “I thought Glacier Point was one of Mom’s schools!” I looked up, startled. “You’re right,” I replied. “I didn’t think Fresno was that close to Yosemite! Well, let’s go look for the penguins. It will be time to head home soon.”On the way back to the park entrance, we came across a group of people having what appeared to be a lumberjack competition. Before I knew it, Panda had jumped right into the log rolling contest! “Panda!” I called, alarmed. “What are you doing? Get off of that log! You’re going to get hurt!”“I’m going for the world championship,” Panda called back. “Just let me get this guy off the log!” Suddenly the crowd erupted in applause. Panda had won the lumberjack world championship! It was while I was watching the grand finale, a log rolling performance by the top lumberjacks, that I spotted our penguin friends in the crowd. “Hey guys!” I said excitedly. “Did you see he won?” The penguins nodded vigorously. “I guess that lumberjack outfit came in handy for something,” they replied. Panda rejoined us after the show and we all congratulated him enthusiastically. “Hey, I’m hungry,” was his reply. “Let’s go eat lunch!”After a delicious snack at the train station, we waited with the our friends to make sure they got on the right train. “Remember, guys,” I cautioned as we waited at the station, “you have to go south if you want to get to the South Pole.” Panda nodded. “If you get lost again, just find a computer and Skype us. We’ll do our best to help you if we can.”Our friends thanked us as they boarded their train. “See you later!” they called from the windows. “It was great seeing you again!”It didn’t take long for us to get home, and we were glad to be back in our front living room. As we looked out the window, reminiscing about how much fun we’d had in Yosemite, we heard Mom calling us from the kitchen. “Hey guys,” she called. “Have you been messing with my phone? Who’s been looking up train routes to Yosemite?”
Author’s note: Yosemite and other background photos are from Pixabay.com. The log rolling photos are from midwestwanderer.com and mnstatefair.org, respectively. (To our knowledge, they don’t have log rolling contests at Yosemite, but it would be fun if they did!)