Lefty Learns Something
It was late spring at the little ranch known as Eagle Wings in Arizona. Lefty, a desert tortoise poked his nose outside of his burrow and sniffed the air. Lefty enjoyed the delicate scent of the sage, verbena, and clover that grew wild on the Eagle Wings ranch. At the center of Eagle Wings sat a peach-colored house. Behind the house was a rock garden with desert trees and flowers enclosed by a block wall. Rabbits and prairie dogs enjoyed the protection of the garden walls from harsh dry winds, and the desert plants provided food for the animals. There was a pond in the garden that had fresh, clean water for the animals to drink. A gazebo shaded several picnic tables and the barbeque grill. Lefty would come out of his burrow to watch when the family that lived at Eagle Wings had a picnic. He liked to listen to them talk and to eat the lettuce they always offered him.
The garden walls were covered with orange jubilee shrubs which sprouted flowers called hummingbird trumpets. The hummingbirds enjoyed this delicious nectar so much they would save it for dessert. All of the birds at Eagle Wings loved the mesquite, sweet acacia, and eucalyptus trees, as well as a huge ficus tree that grew in the center of the rock garden. The ficus tree had long, strong branches with small leaves that blocked the gusts of desert winds. The birds knew that their nests would not blow away, and their babies would be safe. The rock garden was a good place for both animals and plants.
There was a block wall at the front of Eagle Wings which had two giant wrought-iron gates. There were pillars on either side of the gates. On top of each pillar sat a concrete sculpture of an eagle. Their wings were spread as if they could take flight at any moment. Yet, their talons forever grasped the tops of the pillars. Lefty thought the statues looked like real eagles when there was a full moon at night.
While Lefty was eating clover and verbena petals, he heard familiar voices.
“Let’s sit out here,” said Gracelyn, the eleven-year-old girl who lived at Eagle Wings with her fourteen-year-old brother, Terry, and their mom and dad. Included in the family were three dogs, Merlin, Jax, and Sunny; two cats, Pixel and Dot; two horses, Pepper and Dolly; and, of course, Lefty.
“Okay,” said Terry as he ran his fingers through his red hair. “Do you want to set baseballs on the T-stand for me? I need to practice my swing. The last game for the school year is next week.” He put his baseball cap on to shade his brown eyes from the sun’s glare.
“Sure,” said Gracelyn. Her hazel eyes brightened as she nodded happily. She pulled a rubber band from her pocket to put her long, dark hair into a ponytail.
She liked to help her big brother practice for his games.
Gracelyn wasn’t able to run and play as other children did because she was born with a damaged heart. She became tired very quickly and sometimes had trouble breathing. Terry felt sad for Gracelyn because he could do everything he enjoyed. He loved sports like baseball and track. He was especially good at hitting homeruns and running sprints and hurdles. Gracelyn’s favorite thing to do was sing and she sang very beautifully. People said it made them happy to hear her sing. Terry wished she could sing as long and as loudly as she wanted, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t even sing a whole song without getting out of breath. Gracelyn never complained because Terry always found a way to include her in his activities. She loved to watch his baseball games and track meets, but she had to sit quietly without jumping up and down to cheer. The family hoped that Gracelyn’s heart would be healed someday soon.
Praise for A Gift for Gracelyn
“Such a sweet story about a little girl who needs heart surgery and the love of her pets to help her through. As someone who grew up in the Southwestern US where many of these animals live, I must say the description of them is very accurate. Remembering the way a desert tortoise bobs its head when it’s excited for food, or the way certain birds cry in anticipation for something happening … very realistic despite it being fiction!”
“Anyone who has cared for a child will relate to this story about a young girl with a health issue. Anyone who loves animals and beautiful plants will also be enchanted by the beautifully worded text. The author has woven a story of love demonstrated through a thoughtful gift.”
“This is an engaging story with a sweet message. It is a precious picture of animals and people coming together to help a child through a heart surgery. Having had a heart transplant, I keenly connected with this! Well done!”
About the Author
A. E. Smith has a bachelor of science degree from Baylor University and a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University. She is also the author of Journey of the Pearl and Quest of the Sapphire.