- This first chapter contains scientific terms that may be too complex for younger readers or listeners. I preferred not to remove or "water-down" the content because the science is sound and expect that that you will enjoy smooth saiing in reading later stories.
- Episode 1
- Grandpa's Gift
- Mike Maloney wanted the twins to come in contact with the wider world beyond their neighborhood and school at an early age, but old enough to absorb and remember their experience. Once the twins reached “the age of reason” (seven years of age, according to tradition, when children are said to begin developing a moral sense of right and wrong), Mike said it would be good for Mal and Mel to visit interesting places one weekend a month with their parents. He would pay for all expenses, trusting his son’s and daughter-in-law’s judgment as to what would be suitable places for the family to visit.
- Mort and Agnes, after a brief protest that they didn’t want to accept such gifts from Mort’s father, agreed to try out Mike’s “experiment” (as they called it) for a year. “Let’s see how it works out,” was their approach.
- Neither Mort nor Agnes traveled much in their childhood or youth, so they decided that the first weekend excursion should be to a region with a completely different environment than their middle-class suburban community, and one that would not only fascinate the children but allow them plenty of exercise as well.
- What about Yellowstone National Park, they thought. Old Faithful, the paintpots and other natural wonders they saw on the Discovery Channel would certainly captivate the children…and themselves, since neither of them had been to Yellowstone before. And further, they rationalized, the park is far too big to visit more than just a few of the wonders in any given weekend so we can go back several more times during the year.
- You see, Mort and Agnes both had responsible positions where they worked and wanted to give their children as much of their presence as they could on evenings and weekends. They didn’t want to spend too much time researching and planning for these monthly trips, especially when the children were so young.
- First Stop: Yellowstone National Park
- So Yellowstone National Park it was for the Maloney family’s first exploratory weekend.
- “Wow, Old Faceful!” Mal exclaimed excitedly. “I can’t wait to see it. It blows its top every hour, doesn’t it?”
- “It’s Old Faithful, dear,” Agnes reminded him. “And it’s not so regular that you can set your clock by it, but it does go off often enough for you to see it a couple of times while we’re there.”
- “It’s ‘Old Faceful’ if you get close enough to it,” Mal giggled.
- “Don’t even think about it,” warned his mother. “You’d burn yourself because it’s mostly steam. Besides, they have ropes and guards so you can’t get too close.”
- “I think the paintpots sound really pretty,” said Mel. “Should I try them out with my paint brushes and drawing pad?”
- “Your paint brushes would probably melt if you were able to get close enough to dip them in, Sunshine,” said Mort, “although the colors are indeed caused by the same chemicals that are used in making paint. Let’s all remember that sometimes the most interesting things are also the most dangerous. We need to pay close attention and obey all the park’s rules and signs.”
- Soon the Maloney family arrived at Yellowstone…although “soon” is a relative measure of time that seems to be related to one’s age. Mort and Agnes spent several weeks researching and reading about the park, feeling they were not quite prepared for this adventure. For Mal and Mel, however, the time passed as slowly as it does for children the weeks before Christmas. But instead of sugar plums dancing in their heads, the twins dreamed of rocks and hills that looked like they were made of sugar.
- It was about nine in the evening when Mort pulled the rental car up to Old Faithful Inn on Friday. They were extremely lucky to get reservations…another family had to cancel at the last moment and there happened to be no one on the waiting list for that weekend.
- "Old Faceful" Lives up to Its Name!
- Despite going to bed well past their usual bedtime, Mal and Mel awoke and got dressed before their parents were ready to begin the day. “Please, can we go out and look around until it’s time for breakfast,” they pleaded. “We’ll stay close by. We just want to see if Old Faceful is ready to go off.”
- “Don’t even THINK of going anywhere near that geyser,” both parents said nearly in unison. They were a bit sorry to cause the weekend exploration to start a bit later than the twins were ready for.
- Mal and Mel were greeted by the just-rising sun as they scampered out the door. It seemed to be really early. They heard just a few birds chirping and a whooshing sound they didn’t recognize. “There it is,” Mel announced, pointing to a column of steam coming out of the ground, perhaps 200 feet from where they were standing. “Let’s go look!”
- Mal didn’t hesitate a second, and both children raced to get a better view of the most famous geyser in the park. “Wow!” was all that either of them could say when they got to the edge of the boundary around Old Faithful where no grass can grow. Steam spewed out of the ground with such a force that it reached as high as a 10 or 12-story building. And even from that safe distance, they could feel a light mist on their faces, cooled as it fell from that height. “Wow!” No other words could express what they felt. “Wow!”
- Suddenly, with no warning of any kind, a great gust of wind appeared out of nowhere and blew a huge wall of steam and super-heated water toward the twins. Mal saw it and leaped quickly out of its path, but Mel was enthralled and let it engulf her for the moment or two before it disappeared. There was never such a wind before in this area, and will probably never happen again in the next ten thousand years.
- Mal was horrified. A few tiny, stinging droplets fell on his left arm, leaving little red dots that looked like freckles but were actually burns from the steam. What had happened to Mel? He only thought and moved to save himself, and he neglected his sister and best friend. “I’m an idiot! I let it hurt my sister!”
- Mel was confused to see her brother so upset. “Wasn’t that spectacular?” she asked. “What’s the matter with you? Chicken? Afraid of a little water?”
- “Mel! You’re ok? You’re not burned?”
- “Of course not, silly. What’s gotten into you? It was like being in a cloud up in the sky,” Mel replied.
- “Look here,” said Mal, holding out his arm so she could see the red marks where the droplets landed.
- “Oh, wow. Does it hurt? We’d better get back and you need to change into your longer-sleeved shirt so mom and dad don’t see.”
- “Nah, it doesn’t hurt much now. You’re right. Let’s get back before mom and dad find out!”
- The twins raced quickly back to the inn. Just in time! The front door of the lodge opened and there were Mort and Agnes.
- The Twins' Mysterious Secret
- “What were you two up to?”
- “Nothing. Just looking around.” The twins instinctively knew how to avoid stern lectures and worse, the scolding and fussing if they revealed either of their different encounters with Old Faithful’s strange behavior. Mal said he wanted to change shirts because it was a bit chilly out and the other one he brought had slightly longer sleeves.
- After a hearty breakfast, the family took a walk (more leisurely this time) to Old Faithful. It was about time for a repeat performance of one of nature’s most magnificent shows. Agnes oohed and aahed as the geyser repeatedly shot high into the air.
- In researching Yellowstone, the Maloneys learned that certain microorganisms, called extremophiles, are found very close to Old Faithful. So while Mort was a bit less expressive about the “Water Dance” as Agnes called it, he talked excitedly about the rare ability of the extremophile microorganisms to survive and thrive in the extreme heat surrounding the geyser. Other extremophiles in Yellowstone, he informed his family, survive in conditions that are very acidic, very alkaline, high in sulfur and vary greatly in temperature.
- The adults were so enthralled with Old Faithful that they didn’t notice the twins’ pretend enthusiasm and frequent exchange of confused glances.
- The twins were confused because the cloud of steam that came over Mel for several seconds had different effects on Mal. Mel felt it to be comfortable…warm and not at all hot or painful, while a much smaller amount of that same cloud of steam that reached Mal and lasted a much shorter time hurt his arm and actually left evidence of damage on his skin.
- The twins knew that they inherited traits from each of their parents; they would later learn that as fraternal (not identical) twins they were genetically as different as any siblings might be. Even that fact, however, would not explain why Mel would be unaffected by conditions that would harm others.
- Once the Water Dance was finished, the Maloneys set out to see the paintpots.
- Please click HERE to continue reading.
SOME LINKS TO MORE INFORMATION
- LINKS: BOOK 1 TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION TO THE BIOFABLES SERIES
BioFables 1 Teaching Brief
BioFables 1 & 2: Word Counts, Reading Levels