Travis woke up. The world was sideways. He wasn’t used to seeing things this way, and it startled him greatly. He eventually realized that he was lying on his side–a position he was not used to. Struggling under his massive weight, he eventually stood himself up (but not without some damage).
Looking around, he saw his brothers and sister and mother and father all on the ground as well. The wind must have knocked them all down at once. He thought to himself, “This might be my chance to finally get away; to see the world and do what I want. I’ll find a new home for my roots” So he set off.
Travis’ shade had been shaken off when he had fallen down, and so It wasn’t long until he was extremely hot and thirsty. He needed to find a place for his roots to rest and get some water.
He came across a little creek, and asked the bull frog, “May I place my roots here? I need to find a new home.”
The bullfrog replied, “Ye can, but I don’t see why ye’d want to.”
“Why is that?” asked Travis.
“Why, looking at the kind of tree ye are, I can tell this water is much too dirty and much too small for ye”, the bullfrog said.
“But it’s moving non-stop! I can get all the water I want here!”
“Aye, but is that really what ye want? Aren’t ye used to only getting water when it rains? When ye need it? And isn’t the water ye get from the sky so refreshing and clean?”
“But I want water now!” insisted Travis. Ignoring the bullfrog, he started to climb into the creek. But, as he tried to fit his roots into the ground, he found that he couldn’t fit all of his roots into the small creek all at once, and so only some of his leaves started turning green again and growing back, while others stayed brown and bare. There was another problem, too.
“This water is so gross! What’s in it?”, Travis said.
The bullfrog graciously answered Travis (he was much too nice to say “I told you so!”), “Animals of the wildest and dirtiest kind take their baths and go to the bathroom in this water. There’s mold and moss all over the rocks. Fish live upstream also.”
Travis immediately jumped out of the creek. “This is no place for the roots of a tree like me!” And he set off elsewhere.
He followed the creek up to a snow-capped mountain. He found a furry goat chewing a tuft of grass sticking out of the snow and asked her, “May I place my roots here? I need to find a new home.”
“Well, dear, you’re welcome to try! Where did you live before? Won’t you be cold here?” the goat kindly replied.
Travis said, “Oh no! I used to live in the forest, but the wind blew my roots out of the ground, and so I’m trying to find a new home. Some of my leaves have grown back, so I’m sure I can stay warm. And besides, there’s all this snow here! I’ll have water whenever I want!”
“Are you sure you want water all the time? And it’s very windy here as well.”
“I’ll be fine”, said Travis. He began settling in his roots into the snow. It was very easy for his roots to settle in, and he was able to get all the water he wanted! He drank and drank and drank. His leaves grew back, but they were very small. And, his trunk started getting smaller. His shivering also caused the leaves he grew back to fall right back off.
“W-w-w-what’s g-g-g-going on?” asked Travis.
“Well, dear, this snow is just water. You’re used to water that soaks through the dirt, right? Water that goes through dirt is a lot healthier for you than just plain ol’ water. I thought you knew that!” the goat answered.
At this point a strong mountain wind swept up the mountain and knocked Travis right out of the soft snow! He rolled and rolled all the way down the other side of the mountain.
Down. Down. Down he went. All the way down he rolled, down to the town at the foot of the mountain.
He landed with a thud at the doorstep of a very kind man.
This kind man said to Travis, “Well, what do ya know? Look at this here tree. What might you being doing here, feller?”
Travis looked around, sideways again, and saw the lush green grass of the kind man. He said, “Sir, my roots were knocked out of my home, and so I’ve been looking for a new place for my roots. Your lawn looks very nice.”
“Well, if you can get ’em in there, be my guest. If you look around this here town, though, you’ll see we ain’t got too many trees that can survive in this hard dirt.” The kind man helped Travis up and led him to a good spot, and Travis got to work.
Travis tried and tried to push his roots into the ground. He jumped up and down and clawed his branches. He waited until it rained, to see if the ground became softer. Still nothing. The kind man tried to help him with a shovel and pick, but the ground was just so hard.
Eventually, after weeks of trying, Travis was a mere 3 inches in the ground with a shallow mound of dirt over his roots. He tried to make the best of it, but he was sad. He wanted to find a new home, but there was no easy place for his roots to settle. In this big, whole world, surely there was somewhere that he could place his roots. He was going to prove to his family he could make it on his own.
One day the kind man came out to water Travis, but Travis had other plans. “Kind sir, could you please remove this small layer of dirt off of my roots? I’m going to look for another home; an easier place for me to live. It shouldn’t be this difficult just to place some roots. I thank you for your kindness, but this doesn’t seem like the best home for me.”
The kind man helped Travis get out of the tiny hole he was in. He watered his roots again for the trip and Travis set off.
Several days into his trip, Travis was in trouble. He had walked so far and found himself in the desert. There was no water, no friends, and no shade. Travis then heard a whisper.
“Greetings, my friend.”
It was a cactus. Travis had heard about cacti. They were the meanest trees around. Trees were supposed to help humans and give them shade and air and beauty, but all cacti did was hurt them. Years ago, the other trees tried to confront the cacti and tell them to be nicer, but the cacti didn’t like this, and didn’t like other trees, so they went away to live in the desert. Travis was told never to trust them.
“H-h-hi”, Travis managed to get out.
The cactus continued, “You look so tired. Why don’t you just set your roots here?”
“I can’t stay here”, Travis replied, “it’s too hot. I need to get out of this desert. Sand isn’t good for me.”
“No you don’t”, the cactus said, “sand is just fine. Look, I live pretty well here”
He had a good point.
The cactus continued, “Look, just relax. Everything is fine out here in the desert. Rain comes, eventually. You’ll get used to it. Here, just slide one root into the sand. See how easy it and how good it feels.”
Travis hadn’t considered trying to root himself in the sand. He slipped a root downward and it went into the ground so easily. It was so warm, too. He sort of liked how it felt. He slipped his other roots in there, and they too went in really easily. “Finally!”, thought Travis. “Finally, some place for my roots to settle in easily!”. He went along with the cactus’ invitation and set up his new home right next to him.
The first couple of days were great, but Travis started feeling sick. He needed water. Looking up, he saw storm clouds gathering and felt better. The rain came, but Travis was still sick. More rain came. Travis got sicker. The cactus became, though, healthier and healthier.
Travis’ leaves had all fallen off. His large, proud trunk had become like the sapling he used to be. His roots were growing smaller and his branches were starting to fall off.
Travis cried out, “What’s going on? I should be getting better! My roots went in to the sand so easily! It works for you, cactus!”
“It works because this is my home. I’ve been here long enough to go without nutrients for a long time. I thought you could do it too. I was wrong. This can’t be your home. You’ll die. You should leave.”
Travis didn’t know if he had the strength to leave. And where would he go? Would he be a failure to his family back home?
He thought about his spot in the forest. He remembered how the sunlight hit him just right, and how the water would run down the little hill and soak into the soil at just the right place to give him some of the best tasting water he’s ever had. He remembered how cozy his roots were back in the forest. He thought of the practical jokes he would play with his brothers by growing his branches in with theirs, and then swaying back and forth, making them shake wildly. He missed them a lot.
Pulling out every ounce of strength he could, he pulled his roots out of the ground and began his journey home. The cactus gave him some of the water he stored up in his arms. This helped Travis get back to the kind man, who watered Travis’ roots again. Feeling even stronger, Travis started hiking back up the mountain. Half-way up, the goat noticed him and helped push him the rest of the way up. Travis rolled down the other side down to the creek and saw the bullfrog. Travis told his story and the bullfrog nodded in approval.
Travis finally made it back to his family. They all shook their branches with excitement and joy for having Travis back. Travis found his hole covered with some leaves to keep anyone else from settling in. He walked over to it, and slipped one root in. It fit so comfortably. He slipped in the others. The soil was wet with water waiting for him.
As he felt himself regain his strength, he grew warm with the love of his family, knowing that this was the only place his roots could ever be.
This work by Paul Burkhart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.