The wind blew gently through the trees and the sun shone brightly upon the fields. It had been a long winter season and now spring had finally arrived. It was a welcome sight to all the animals around Oak Street in the small quaint town of Wind Gate. Students were busy going from class to class at the local university and enjoying each moment in the sun. Jogging pants were quickly being replaced with shorts and tank tops. Gym students made their daily runs past the local residences up to the football field and back. Some ran fast and some were barely making it up the last hill.
Birds chirped from the tall willow oak trees and squirrels scampered about on the long limbs watching all that was going on below them. Children’s voices could be heard in the distance laughing and playing in the warm welcomed sunshine.
Daffodils stood tall displaying splashes of yellow all around town since they had adopted them as their town flower. The bulbs given out and planted in the previous fall were up and showing their colors all over town. Some people had planted them in beds and some along walkways. Everyone enjoyed their bright colors.
The rabbits were running here and there nibbling fresh leaves. Their ears were alerted to the sound of the tiller turning the earth for a new garden. It was the custom of Mr. Poplin to have his garden planted in April long before most of the people in North Carolina planted. He had spent time over the winter and had collected all sorts of seeds to plant. Now he was tilling the earth and spreading fertilizer so they could plant the seeds and enjoy fresh vegetables all summer long. The clover blossoms were busy with bees collecting nectar and pollinating other plants as well. New growth from the honeysuckle vines wrapped around the fence was shooting forth with a vengeance. It was a very busy time of the year for all forms of life.
“I’m so glad things are warming up. Now the grass will soon be filled with little nymphs running wild everywhere.” Christopher said with a huge grin on his face. “It’s the time of the year for all the eggs to be hatching. There will be crickets in the trees, on the shrubs, in the forest, toddling along on the ground and of course filling the fields with new sounds. What a time to be alive!”
“It’s also time for singing, attracting females, courting, mating, and fighting!” Herman the field cricket chimed in. He had been sitting upon a tall wild shrub in the middle of the field. It was a perfect place to see everywhere and safe enough to see if predators were in the area.
“I suppose all the females will be happy to see their little jumping babies popping out of their egg shells. Lord I am glad I am not a female. Laying eggs and such is for the birds.” Christopher replied loudly. “I like the romance and the mating but taking care of eggs or baby crickets is not my cup of tea.”
“I really must brush up on my calling songs this season. I’ve been sick with a cold and my nose is all stuffed up. I need some peppermint leaves maybe that might help unstop my poor red nose.” Herman coughed. “I’ll never be able to sing with this awful condition. If I can’t sing then I can’t find me a new sweetheart.” He sniffed rubbing his nose carefully with his forewing.
“Stop being such a sour puss. Everyone gets a cold now and then. It will not kill you. Go down near the creek bank and eat some of the green leaves of the peppermint plant. The vapors will open up all your clogged passages. It might even put some pepper in your jump!” Christopher teased. He just hated to hear a male cricket moan and groan over a simple cold.
“You are a chirping male field cricket. You are two inches long. Now all you have to do is begin to produce your chirping sounds by rubbing your scraper on your forewing along a row of teeth on the forewing on the other side. The warmer the weather outside the more chirps. I have no doubt in your ability to make magical music. All you need to do is sip some honey and eat those peppermint leaves. In a day or so you will be as good as new. Have some faith in you brother!” Christopher continued hoping to lift Herman’s fallen spirits just a bit.
“I know all of that. I have thin antennae, hind legs for jumping, three-jointed foot segments, two abdominal sensory appendages. My two forewings are stiff and leathery. My two long hind wings are used to fly and that is exactly what I am about to do. I’ll see you later. I am going down to the creek to heal myself of this dang cold. You will hear me coming in a few days so listen out for me. If I don’t make it back it will be because I have found the girl of my dreams and we will be both floating on some silver-lined cloud.” Herman said with a cracking voice.
Christopher watched as Herman took off and flew out of sight. Now it was time for him to begin singing. He had wasted enough time on Herman.
“I’ll eat well, bathe myself really well and begin to make my chirping love song. Since I only have about six weeks to live I want to go out in a blaze of glory. I’ll be prepared to fight the biggest cricket to win the most beautiful cricket in this field. We will have a glorious honeymoon and my legacy will be to provide my darling with enough love to lay enough eggs to fill this entire field. I will call this field Christopher’s Field of Love. My children will live and produce thousands of young crickets. We will do our part in keeping the cycle of life moving along at a steady pace.” He mumbled to himself.
With this said he jumped down from the bush and made his way to a ditch filled with running water. He would use this to clean himself up and then roll himself in lavender leaves so he would smell terrific. He knew female crickets did not like being around a smelly male. Then he would sit on a branch and fine tune his love song.
All went well until Christopher began to rub his legs together to begin his calling song. The sound that came from his legs was screeching and very high pitched. He wondered what in the world was wrong with his legs. Why was his calling song sounding so weird? Confused and bewildered he began to cry. Suddenly he heard a noise near him. Rubbing his eyes he looked to see if there was a human ready to snap him up to use for fish bait. Instead he saw a beautiful female cricket.
“Why are you so sad?” Mimi asked softly.
“Oh I am doing fine. I am just having a bit of a problem with my calling song. I’ll have to keep trying until I get it fixed.” He replied hiding his face with his forewing.
“Well the problem is quite simple. You have some lavender pollen all stuck on your legs. Perhaps if you dip them in water and let them dry they will work just fine.” Mimi smiled.
“Oh yes of course. I should have known better. I’ll take care of that immediately. Oh would you care to join me by the waters edge? Maybe you can help me to fine tune my chirp.” He asked shyly.
“Yes of course I will go with you. It is a lovely day and I can’t think of anything I’d like better.” She answered.
So it came to be that Christopher washed his legs in the water this time allowing them to dry well. The two crickets sat side by side as Christopher sang his love song and of course Mimi felt it was love at first sight.
“I will sing with a soft trill like the ground cricket and a long trill like the tree cricket. I will sing with a high pitched trill and dazzle my beloved lady. I will be the best mate any female cricket could ever have. I will bring you all sorts of things to eat while you rest your pretty head on soft cotton. I’ll be your prince and you will be my princess forever.” He whispered softly in Mimi’s ear.
And so it came to pass that the field was indeed filled with crickets year after year. Each tiny little insect each rubbed their tiny legs together and could be heard all the way down Oak Street and onto the thriving campus.
It is said that crickets play a large role in myth and superstition. Some say their presence brings good fortune and intelligence. Others say harming a cricket can bring bad luck. Male crickets are kept in cages in some countries so the people can listen to their songs. In China cricket fighting has been a favorite sport for hundreds of years. I say the sound of the cricket chirping outside in the trees is a welcome sound to children and adults all over the world.
What do you think?
Question: What happened to Christopher’s legs that caused them not to be able to chirp correctly?
Written by Sybil Shearin
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