The Little Acorn

The Little Acorn

Once there was a beautiful acorn that grew on the topmost twig of a large oak tree. From a tiny speck of green in the spring it grew, until in the fall it became a large, beautiful brown acorn with a lustrous, shiny shell.

Being the highest acorn on the mother tree, it was the first to see the sun rise in the morning and the last to see it set at night. In fact, it saw a great deal because of its exalted position. Birds perched there, on the highest limb, to escape boys' slingshots. These birds brought endless news and chatter.

The mockingbird, with its rich repertoire of songs, gave the acorn a wonderful knowledge of music. Migratory birds, going South for the winter, brought news of arctic snows and tropic heat and places far away.

The crows, wisest of all birds, cawed away in the high branches, giving forth words of wisdom, passed on by generations of ancestors. The acorn never ceased to be amazed at their knowledge.

Indeed, this little acorn was the smartest, best-educated, and proudest acorn on the whole tree, and there were thousands of them. It looked down on its brothers and sisters, that is, when it gave them any thought at all.

One chilly fall day something terrible happened. The winds blew and rains fell. Hundreds of acorns fell to the ground. Our topmost acorn was terribly alarmed. It had presumed that life would go on forever, each day better than the previous one. Truly frightened, it asked the mother tree: "Mother, must I fall too?"

"Yes, my child," mother tree whispered gently, "all acorns must fall to the ground. When I was an acorn I fell, too, though you might not think so by looking at my strong branches now. You might be wise to let go and fall now instead of waiting to be blown off and land poorly. But, that's up to you."

The ground was so far down. So many big limbs were in between. Besides, who wanted to abandon such a perfect position, especially when the birds were flying South, full of the latest news up North.

It clung closely to the twig. Several hard rains came. Its hold became weaker and weaker. One day mother tree said: "You had better go now, my child, and may God bless you."

The little acorn looked down. How far the ground looked! And what dangers lurked there? It grew dizzy and faint from just looking.

It closed its eyes, said a prayer, and let go. Z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-zĀ­the air whistled past. Then, "clickle"; it landed softly on brown leaves below.

Life below was no bed of roses. Cows trampled the ground, crushing many acorns with their hard, heavy hoofs. Pigs came and ate literally thousands, cruelly crunching their beautiful shells and eating the sweet meat inside. Squirrels picked up hundreds of others, bearing them off to some dreadful hiding place.

Our little acorn, frightened as it was, kept very still. It managed to roll under a leaf and escape detection.

Finally, snow covered the ground, and all dangers ceased. The acorn fell into a long, drowsy sleep.

Spring came. The snow melted. The sun rose higher. The acorn awoke. Poor thing, its once lovely shell was now dull and ugly. But it was alive.

Then its head began to ache terribly. What an ache!

"Help, Mother! I'm sick!" it cried.

"My child, you're not sick at all. You're perfectly well. Your headache means you're sprouting. I remember how my head hurt when I sprouted."

Now sprouting is what every acorn is meant for, if they're lucky enough to escape the cows' hoofs, the pigs' teeth, and the squirrels' hiding places. When an acorn sprouts, its shell splits, and the seed within sends a root downward and a two-leafed twig upward. Mother tree explained all this.

"But that means I will die. There will be no more me. I don't want to change. I want to stay like I am. The world is terribly unfair!"

"Yes, my child, I felt once as you do. But look around the ground, and you'll see some of your older brothers and sisters who refused to sprout last year. Do you want to become like them?"

All around were dirty, rotten shells of what had been acorns a year before. They were so decayed that not even a pig would take notice of them. As much as our little acorn dreaded sprouting, it feared that kind of fate worse.

"All right, Mother," it said, "I'll sprout if I must. And if I should become half as lovely and strong as you, I won't even mind the pain."

That night it rained, and the next day the acorn's shell split open. How it did hurt! Then, there came a wonderful and happy feeling to the little acorn.

Weeks and months passed. Fall came and found a strong little oak tree three inches high, strongly rooted in the ground.

Today, if you'll visit the spot, you will find two trees. One, the mother tree, is getting old. Before many years it will fall to the ground or be cut down by woodcutters.

Beside it is a straight, slender young oak. Birds perch in its high limbs. Some build their nests there. Others bring interesting news as they migrate North and South.

Because it dared fall to the ground, because it chose to give up its coat and cease being an acorn, because it was willing to grow, even though it hurt, our little acorn is now this lovely tree.

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