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Adventures of Ranger Rick: Rick and the gang find out that a ride on a mountain bike can lead to fun - and trouble.

The Puddle Pigs were Ollie Otter's favorite band. He couldn't stop singing their latest big hit song, "Muddy Buddy," as he slid headfirst down a marvelously muddy patch on Hilltop Trail.

The trail ran through the Rocky Mountains, where the gang from Deep Green Wood was visiting Agnes Q. Elk. Agnes lived in a meadow near the trail during the summer. According to Agnes, Hilltop was the prettiest spot on Earth. It was also the perfect place to raise a family. This was important to Agnes, who was the proud mother of a hefty, healthy calf named Elvira. Agnes couldn't wait to show off little Elvy to the gang.

So far, the gang's trip had been smooth sailing. But heavy rains from the night before had turned parts of the trail into total mud- -something Ollie could never resist. Nothing like fresh mud to make my day! thought the otter. Mushy goo flew everywhere as he slid. "Yahoo!" Ollie yelled. "Ooze City!"

"Hey!" yelled Scarlett Fox as mud splattered her from head to toe. Ranger Rick Raccoon and Boomer Badger had jumped out of the way just in time. "Watch where you're going, Ollie," Scarlett growled, "and look what you did to the trail!" A clump of moss from the edge of the path now dangled from Ollie's nose.

"Sorry, Scarlett," the otter said with a sly grin, "but why can't you just think of me as your muddy buddy?" He teased the fox some more by singing a few lines from the song.

"Agnes is waiting!" Scarlett said in a huffy voice as she led the way up the trail. Squish, squash. Squish, squash. The animals left their footprints on the soggy ground as they headed toward Agnes' home.

The steep, narrow trail snaked between spruce and aspen trees. The sweet, musty smell of wet soil filled the air. And scattered all over the ground were tiny bluebells, Scarlett's favorite flowers. Agnes is right, the fox thought. This place is really special.

Just then the gang heard a ringing sound. Brring, brring! "Biker coming through!" a voice called out. The animals scurried behind a spruce tree. A boy on a mountain bike appeared on the trail. "Path's all clear. No hikers here," he yelled to his friend.

"Wait a minute," answered a girl as she hopped off her bike. "Let's walk through this stuff. The trail looks pretty wet."

"Yeah, these babies would definitely tear up some plants," the boy said as he patted the fat, knobby tires on his bike.

After the two kids had passed, Rick, Ollie, Scarlett, and Boomer scooted back onto the trail. They had just started hiking again when loud hoots and hollers thundered through the forest.

"Here I come, blastin' through!" shrieked a purple-helmeted biker as she raced down the mountain through the trees. With a quick jerk on her handlebars, the biker popped a wheelie off a boulder just above the trail. She flew over Ollie's head just as the otter ducked.

SPLAT! The biker landed in a patch of soft ground, ripping up plants and spraying mud everywhere.

"Trail hog!" yelled Ollie, shaking his fist. But the purple bomber sped off downhill, ignoring everybody and yelling all the way.

Soon afterward, a long furry nose poked through some spruce branches next to the trail.

"Agnes!" chirped the gang.

The elk came out from behind the trees, and a fuzzy tan calf tiptoed close behind her. "Wow! You're here!" Agnes grinned. "Now you can finally meet Elvira!" The gang oohed and aahed over Agnes' baby. "Elvira already weighs 300 pounds. And she can run almost as fast as I can!" Agnes boasted. "Show 'em, Elvy!"

The calf shook her head. "No, the monster might come back. I don't want it to get me."

Agnes sighed sadly. "The bikers have frightened her--at least the reckless ones have. They go anywhere they want in the forest without paying attention to the rules--like staying on marked trails and not disturbing the animals. They're always taking an unmarked trail that leads to our meadow. I mean, how would they like it if I just barged into their homes?" she added.

"Most bikers are fine," Agnes continued. "They treat the forest with respect. But a few act as if it's their private playground. Why, you should see what they've done to my meadow with those darn knobby tires!" the elk complained.

"What we need is a big Keep Out sign--that'll keep folks away from you and Elvira," Boomer suggested.

"Oh, the forest rangers have tried everything--putting up signs, closing trails with ropes. Nothing seems to work," Agnes complained.

But Boomer didn't give up so easily. He had an idea for a Keep Out sign that even the purple bomber would obey.

or the next hour, following Boomer's directions, the gang built an enormous wall across the start of the path to Agnes' meadow. The wall was made of fallen branches and logs from the woods.

"I'd like to see the bomber get through that!" Boomer said proudly.

"Not bad," murmured Rick. "But it needs something extra." He scratched his head. "Thorns!" he called out. "They'll do the trick!" The gang added branches from a prickly bush to the wall. "Now that's a Keep Out sign," chuckled the raccoon.

Off in the distance they could hear the war cries of the purple bomber again.

"Oh no, she's back!" cried Boomer. "Everybody scram!" The animals hid in the forest at the edge of the meadow.

"Here I come, blastin' through!" screamed the bomber. "Super Bump Jumper's on the lo-o-o-ose!" And the next bump she wanted to jump was Boomer's mighty wall.

She stopped and eyed the pile of logs and sticks, checking out the best way to attack it. All she needed was a launch pad, she decided--something to get her flying really high. She found a log that would do the trick and leaned it against the wall. "Beasty," she said, the thrill of danger gleaming in her eyes. She then backed up, popped a wheelie, and took off.

"Blastin' through!" she yelled as she started zooming up the log. "Blastin'--YEO-O-O-W!" she yelled as the bike's front wheel slipped and she flipped into the wall. The bomber was now tangled in branches and thorns. And the thorns had ripped a big hole in the seat of her purple bike shorts. "HELP!" she cried at the top of her lungs.

A ranger who was nearby heard the cries. She raced over and pulled the bomber and her bike out of the wall, then made sure the girl wasn't hurt. "This isn't a marked bike trail, you know. Your parents won't be too happy to hear about this," said the ranger as she led the biker down to the main trail.

Agnes Elk couldn't stop grinning. "I know that ranger," she said. "She'll make sure the bomber cleans up the mess she made in the forest today. It should keep the bomber busy for a few weekends, anyway."

Scarlett smiled and turned to Boomer. "Well, your Keep Out sign really worked. But the bomber still made quite a mess," sighed Scarlett. It looked like a mini tornado had ripped through the woods. And Boomer's wall now had a big, bomber-sized dent.

"Hey, no problem," answered the badger as he began to lug more branches over to the wall. Meanwhile, Rick and Scarlett began replanting some dug-up flowers. Ollie dragged the launchpad log into the nearby woods.

And that's when Ollie saw it. It was beautiful . . . it was wonderful . . . it was a mushy mud slide!

He wanted to leap belly-first into the mud. Out of the corner of his eye he saw everyone back in the meadow repairing the bomber's damage. Then he remembered the moss he had accidentally torn up the last time he slid. "Huh," thought Ollie, "who has time for a slide in the mud, anyway? This `muddy Buddy' needs to be a `Meadow Buddy' now!"


If you're a mountain biker, be sure to follow these rules:

* Ride only on trails marked for bikes, and don't take shortcuts off the trail.

* Always control your speed.

* Let hikers have the right of way, and let them know when you're near. Stop and let horseback riders pass.

* Don't scare or chase wild animals.

* Don't leave trash behind.

* Always wear your bike helmet.

And don't forget to stop and sniff the bluebells!
COPYRIGHT 1995 National Wildlife Federation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:short story
Author:Andrews, Julia
Publication:Ranger Rick
Date:Sep 1, 1995
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