Chapter 16 - It is Fortunate for Kansas that People Have Brains.
With chatter behind us, William suggested that we properly introduce the old couple to Cottage and Door as well as enjoy one more night in the magical warmth of their company. I agreed grudgingly. Another day’s delay was annoying, but them not following us to the Emerald City was surely a blessing. So back to Cottage we headed.
Door greeted the metal man, “Come in Chip, come in my friend. What a wonderful surprise…, Cottage, Chip is back.”
Cottage cried a bit.
Like the night before, and the night before that, a poof sounded as the lamp and candles burst into flame, which caused the crows to squawk a bit.
“Fire never bothered us none before,” said the old woman as she preened her neck and head.
William remained outside, of course, and did her best to finish off the front yard before catching some sleep under the star-filled sky.
At first light, Chip offered to carry the heavy sacks for William, who readily agreed. Dorothy helped me into my sling. We said our goodbyes…again.
As the old crows bid us ado, the scarecrow bringing up the rear turned to them and waved.
The old woman whispered loudly to her mate, “I think I’m coming around, Hooo…race! When I look at that talking pile of straw, I want to build a nest in the worse way!”
“He’d make a good nest and a cozy one at that…with all of them clothes holding the straw together like that,” replied the birdman with a cock of his head, “a big nest and not much work at all.”
The scarecrow made haste to catch us.
Well before the sun was overhead, we made it to the log where we found the old folk the day before.
“Look,” Dorothy said as she pointed to a large patch of unusual weeds that were mostly stalk and of tubular design. “The weeds have grown where I spilled William’s milk yesterday.”
“Mmmmm,” uttered William, “I too, noticed such plants along this road. They’ve grown from naught as they didn’t exist on the first day of our trip.”
William munched on these plants with the gusto of a starving man. She tore them from the earth and using her tongue like a shovel, pulled stems, leaves, and stalks into her huge coal chute of a mouth. “Not that I’ve ever tasted my own, but as a calf, heartier milk I’ve never tasted. The milk that comes from this weed carries the rich notes of cream, the subtle ambiance of caramel, and is delicately balanced with the sweetness of wildflower honey.”
The damaged plants leaked milky white sap where William chewed them. Dorothy held her palm beneath a dripping stem and brought its syrupy milk to her lips. “Milk and honey…,” Dorothy agreed, as she smacked her lips, “William, you’re so right. If Boq’s Munchkins give this a try this, they’ll never miss cow milk...no offence.”
Scrobins had no taste buds, but made a noteworthy observation. “It appears that wherever we milked, we pretty much dripped, dribbled, splashed, and squirted this new species of plant into existence. In fact, if you look here,” he said as he unrolled his arm gracefully, “you can see where the milkweed killed off the native plants and has become a dominant invasive species.”
Not certain whether that was good or bad, I hastened our retreat from the area and our little troop was once again on the road. Dorothy walked beside Chip; his log thick-legs hammered the cobbled yellow bricks like pile drivers and crushed the ever-accumulating clutter of branches, twigs, and rotting leaves. “What problems lie ahead,” she asked him.
“We will be out of the thick of this forest well before the sun sets,” Chip Chopper replied.
“What were the beasts that howled outside your cottage, the first night of our stay,” I asked.
“They’re called dalailamas. Their cries are nerve racking and terrible, but a great gorge separates them from my cottage.”
Hours before sunset, swift travel put us well beyond the Twilight Forest and the point where William could justify returning to the luscious greenery about the cottage.
“I feel so much better…,” said Dorothy. “That forest gave me the creeps. It was so dark and depressing. Now we’ve clear blue skies, bright sunshine, and it feels good to be alive.”
The remainder of the day was uneventful – thankfully, and our progress on the road added to our cheer. At dusk, we made camp on the roadside, and settled down to a warm fire.
"Tell me something about yourself and the country you came from," said Scrobins to Dorothy.
As she finished her dinner, Dorothy said, “Kansas is a wide open country. In my fifteen plus years living there, I’ve never seen forest, streams, and brooks like these that abound in Oz. And I have never seen such fine fields of green, fruit-filled orchards, or fields of flowers. Our cabin in Kansas lay in the middle of a great gray prairie. As far as the eye can see, in all directions, neither a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country. The sun baked our plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. The grass was seldom green, because the sun burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color as everything else.”
Scrobins listened carefully, and said, "I can’t understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas."
"That’s because you have no brains," she replied. "No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, regardless of its beauty. To us, there’s no place like home."
Scrobins sighed. "Of course I can’t understand it," he said. "If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine, you’d probably all live in the beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It’s fortunate for Kansas that you have brains."