The holidays are finally here. Pola the Owl went to the mountains, to the Żywiec Beskids, were lived her friends – John the Deer and Cajetan the Toad.
– Hi Pola! said the Deer cheerfully when he saw her. – I was waiting for you!
– Ribbit! Hi! – said the Toad. – It’s good to see you! My family have been waiting for you for a few days now!
The animals hugged and started walking to get to the nearest mountain. The owl remembered that there was a beautiful view from there. She loved that landscape, but now everything looked different…
– John, what happened? On this side, there’s a beautiful forest. I think it’s even bigger than last year! But on the other side… there isn’t any forest! Look, all the trees are lying there, and the hillside looks like a catastrophe! What happened here? – she asked.
– You’re right, unfortunately – said the Deer in a sad voice. – Last autumn someone didn’t follow the safety rules and made a fire here. It spread and even though it was extinguished quickly, a lot of trees were burned. The forest was very weak. In the winter came a lot of snow and an avalanche, and the forest didn’t make it. All the trees fell down! That’s why it looks like this now… but look – in the valley you can see our Toad’s home.
– Down there? By the stream? – asked the owl hesitantly.
– Yes, exactly. Tomorrow, we will visit his family and friends – confirmed the Deer.
– Everyone’s missed you – added the Toad.
But it was raining the next day, so they had to change their plans. The owl could see what difference a hill makes in the forest.
– I love forests! It’s been raining all day and I can barely feel it. – said Pola.
– Not only you, look at the stream down there, in the valley with trees. It’s not any bigger. The forest is a true storage of water! – nodded the Deer.
– I don’t know why are you so happy. I prefer the hill with no trees! – said Cajetan. – Look, here, where there are no trees, the water is going down fast, and soaking in the ground. It’s wonderful on the bottom of the valley! The stream overflowed and now my meadow is wet.
The Toad loved wet and humid places. He lived by the stream and the more of wet ground there was, the better it was for him.
– Ribbit! I have an idea – croaked the Toad, looking at the flooded valley. – Let’s use this wonderful weather and play! We can slide.
– Sliding? – asked curious Pola. – That sounds interesting! But where?
– In the meadow, of course! – said the Toad. – We only have to carefully slide down. There’s so much water that it’s gonna be a lot of fun. If the Deer can get us on his back, it will be a lot faster.
The Deer, the Toad, and the owl got their snow saucers and went down the hill. When they got there, they started their competition.
– 3, 2, 1… Go! – said the Deer.
– I made it! Ha! 5 metres! No one will beat me!
– You haven’t seen me yet! – shouted the owl. She stood on her saucer like on a surfboard and slid a long way down.
– I won! I won
– Now it’s my turn! – shouted the Toad.
Friends played in the meadow for a long time and the rain didn’t bother them at all. Then, in the afternoon, they got back home – soaked through, but happy.
The next day it was still raining. In the morning, John woke up because of the noise of hooves. It was a herd of roes that came to the hill to hide from the rain. They hid in the young forest that was planted ten years ago. They were warmer while standing close to each other.
– Hi, roes! – said the Deer. – Welcome in our part of the forest. I can see you like it.
– Y-y-y-es… we l-like such,… yo-young f-f-forests… – they said together.
– Your teeth are chattering! You must be cold, right? Maybe you want to warm up and slide with us in the meadow?’
– The meadow? – asked hesitantly one of them.
– Yes, the meadow, on the other side of the hill – said John, pointing at the hillside with no forest.
– But we’ve just run away from there! At night there was a landslide there! The water was washing away the ground and then the soil didn’t make it and the rocks and trees went all the way down the hill. The mud is in the river now… – said one of them.
– It’s still raining, and the water can’t go down to the valley. It’s all in our meadow. We have a local flood… – said another.
– A flood? – asked the owl who woke up a moment earlier.
– Yes, a local flood. We came here to escape the water and maybe dry a bit. Just like the foxes and hares…
The owl and the Toad quickly got on Jan the Deer’s back and went up the hill. The landscape looked just like they had described. There was a lot of water and the animals that lived there – in burrows by the stream or in the meadow – were running away to the higher parts of the mountains.
– We need to help them! – decided Pola. – We can’t leave the roes, foxes, and hares like that!
– But what can we do? – asked the Toad. – We can’t stop the rain…
– I’ve got an idea! – the owl exclaimed. – We need to clean the riverbed, and everything will be back to normal!
– Good idea but we can’t do it alone – the Deer answered. – There’s probably a lot of rocks and damaged trees. I can’t move them, you can’t even dream about moving them as well…
– Then let’s call our friends! – said the owl. – You have friends in the valley, and together we can do much more!
– You’re right! – admitted John. – I’ll get Cajetan on my back and go to the Badgers. They live a bit lower but maybe they’ll help us. Badgers like being in the water so maybe they’ll help us with the mud. You can go and look for Nico in the Bear’s cave, and try to convince him to help us. It won’t be easy but try.
They did as they said at once. After an hour the Deer and the Toad came back with a few adult badgers. They managed to convince two deer and a few foxes, whose burrows got flooded last night. They all wanted the water to leave the valley.
In the meantime, after a long lookout, the owl finally found the Bear.
– I finally have you! – hooted the owl, when she saw him in his cave. – It’s good to see you! – she added, coming closer.
– Me? – asked the Bear hesitantly, looking up. – Someone’s looking for me? – An oooowl?’ He was even more surprised.
– Bear, we need your help. We need to clear the riverbed of the stream. There was a landslide, and now the valley is flooded, the animals had to run away’ she quickly told him what happened. When she finished, the Bear looked at her with distaste.
– I should help? Me? Why would I do that? I’m good in here, I’m warm, and the rain doesn’t bother me at all. I never go to that valley anyway… – he said.
He didn’t notice that the owl was irritated, he yawned and waved his hand to chase her off. She didn’t give up.
– Bear! If you won’t help, the water will run down to your cave too! – she shouted. – It won’t be good or warm. It will flood your home and the bushes with berries that you like so much! I say you’d better run with me, it’s not too late now! – she tried to convince him again.
Oh, he couldn’t have that. His favourite food – flooded? No, for that Nico the Bear couldn’t agree.
After a few minutes, the owl and her big company came to the stream. The animals jumped back when they saw the Bear. He only roared friendly and told them to work. He was moving the biggest rocks that went down in the landslide, the Deer was moving the trees, and badgers and foxes were removing the soil. Everyone worked as hard as they could.
In the evening the rain almost stopped and it was easier to work. When it was almost done, the Bear called for everyone.
– Now get back a bit – he roared. – We only have one tree left, but the Deer can handle it. If we push it, the riverbed will be clear, but there will be a strong current, so be careful not to get swept away!
– 3, 2, 1… Go! – Nico the Bear moved the tree, and everyone watched the water go down the valley.
– Oh no! – shouted the Deer suddenly. – The current swept away a hare!
– Help! – shouted the hare. – It’s too strong, help!
The Deer and badgers saw the hare, but they were afraid the water would sweep them as well. Happily, the Bear helped.
– Come here, little! – he roared and got the hare out of water in one move.
Everyone let out their breaths that they were holding in. It was close to a tragedy…
– Okay, busy bees, let’s go up, it will be safer there. I don’t want to stand here and save you all! – said Nico.
The animals listened to him and they all sat on the slope of the hill. They were tired but happy.
– We’re done for today – said the Deer. – But we need to think of something to prevent things like this in the future.
– As long as the hill is bare, it will be hard to prevent it – said the Bear. – During another rain, there will be another situation like this, and another flood… It will always be like that…
– So we can’t do anything? – asked the owl unhappily.
– We can! We need to clear off the damaged trees and plant new ones. Beeches, sycamores, and firs, they all will help us, their roots will stop the soil from sliding so there won’t be any flooding.
– Oh no… it’s so much work! – exclaimed the Toad.
– As the old saying goes „Plant beeches, sycamores, and firs, because only the forest will save you from floods and droughts” – said the Bear.