Clarence, Dorothy and their daughter Ernestine Devine are a happy cat family who live in Mewville Beach, a tiny little community on the east coast of Florida where most of the inhabitants play and work together, help and protect one another, and just enjoy each other’s company.
One day Dorothy said to Clarence, “I’m worried about the Vultures. They’re so anti-social. Do you think they are doing ok? Maybe I should pay them a visit and check on them.”
A mother, father, and two daughters make up the Vulture family who live in a large old weathered barn, the only building on the west side of the railroad tracks. Barack, the dad, often took the night train into the city. Michelle, the mom, home schooled the girls, and shopped in the Walmart at three a.m.
“That family needs to socialize,” said Dot. “They’re missing out on a lot of good times and good friends.”
“Now Dorothy, don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill. I think they’re private birds who like to keep to themselves,” said Clarence, who was a little antisocial himself. Dorothy was a very curious and friendly cat by nature and was not discouraged.
The next morning Dot and her friend Karen Squirrel made up a picnic basket with Dorothy’s famous peanut muffins, and blueberry pie from Mrs. Wooddebby’s restaurant where Karen worked. They made their way over the canal bridge, up Furnace Hill, across the railroad tracks, and into the live oak and gumbo limbo trees surrounding the Vultures barn.
“Oh look,” said Karen. “Mrs. Vulture has a beautiful quilt hanging on her clothesline.”
“Oh yes,” Dot exclaimed. “And in my favorite colors, red and pink.”
The two gal pals were just about to venture closer for a better look, when they were startled motionless by Michelle soaring down from a window high up in the barn. She lit on top of the sturdy clothesline pole flapping her six-foot-wide wingspan while looking toward the woods on the other side of the barn.
Suddenly, Barack swooped down from high up in the oaks and the two glossy black birds hopped together back into the woods, affectionately grunting and hissing in their vulture way.
“Oh my”, said Karen. “ I feel like we’re intruding on a private moment.”
“Yes,” said Dorothy. “Maybe it’s not a good time”.
But as the two friends turned to leave, the Vultures abruptly came out of the clearing accompanied by two big dark figures slinking along in the morning mist!
Barry tiptoed to the doors that were being held open by his girls. As the creatures got closer Dorothy and Karen could make out a limping brown horse and a black and white steer wearing blankets covered with black feathers nervously making their way from the woods to the barn as fast as they could. A quickly hopping Michelle brought up the rear.
The entourage disappeared into the gray barn and the Vulture fledglings shut the doors.
“Well,” said Dorothy. “This is most unusual. Is it possible they are refugees from the big slaughterhouse down south?”
Everyone in Mewville knew about the slaughterhouse but it was rarely talked about.
It was an evil place where “farmed” animals were sometimes sent if they were injured or old, never to be seen or heard from again.
“Oh my,” said Karen. “Let’s go to the door with our treats and act stupid about what just happened.”
Michelle came to the door and opened it a sliver.
“Can I help you?”
“Mrs. Vulture, how nice you are home. We came to visit and see if you and your family are well,” said Karen as she barged past Mrs. V into the barn with Dorothy right behind her.
There perched Barack slurping down coffee while the two farmed animals were ravenously eating hay and oats.
“Oh, I see you have company, pleased to meet you, my name is Dorothy and this is my best friend Karen.”
The horse stood up.
“Thank you, nice to meet you, my name is Blaze and this is my best friend, Jack.”
The bovine was more gray than white and black and Karen thought he was probably her Mother’s age, a senior citizen.
“Are you in town long?” asked Dorothy.
“No, actually only six hours, until the train leaves”, said Blaze.
“From the few times we met I could tell you were loving, caring neighbors,” said Barack, who by now was standing on his stool.
”So I am going to tell both of you something that is a matter of life or death. Michelle and I believe in kindness and dignity for all God’s creatures but not everyone in this world does. Some think when a farmed animal is old or crippled and can no longer work they should be sent away to the slaughterhouse never again to feel the sun on their back, or drink from a cool babbling brook or smell the spring perfume of orange blossoms in the groves. This is because of indifference and hardness of heart so we decided years ago to help all those who are weary, oppressed and in trouble through no fault of their own. We have rescued Jack and Blaze and countless others from such a terrible fate by disguising them as vultures like ourselves.”
Michelle hangs up her red and pink quilt if it is all clear for me to bring the refugees to our barn and late at night I take them on the train to their new homes where they will be safe and welcome.”
Barack had never said so much at one time in his whole life and was exhausted.
Mrs. D and Miss K were speechless. Dorothy recovered first and wasted no time in hugging each of the Vultures. Karen was crying she felt so bad for Jack and Blaze and busied herself cutting blueberry pie so no one could see her tears.
When the ladies returned home little Ernestine asked her mom.
“Mommy, how did everything go? When can I go play with the Vulture girls? Did you find out their names?”
“Yes, dear, their names are Hope and Serenity.”
Moral: Think for yourself with a kind and generous heart; only then will you find true happiness for yourself and others.
The Vultures' Barn...
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