About the Author
Bob Shumaker was raised in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and now lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, with his wife Sharon. He retired early from his sales and marketing company to focus on his lifelong passion: writing. For several years, the Schmooney was the South Carolina State Mascot for Literacy and the Simpsonville City Mascot. His grandson, Cole, is now involved with the Schmooney and will be a co-author for the next illustrated book, “The Schmooney and the Deadly Swarm.”
The Legend of the Schmooney
Finally the Schmooney gathered his courage and stammered, "I don't want to come out because I am ashamed! I don't like myself!"
"What is there not to like?" asked the Lord of the Forest. "I made all of the creatures in the Forest with wonderful characteristics that help them fulfill their purposes."
"But you have made me without any," the Schmooney said very sadly.
The Lord of the Forest was beginning to understand the real problem.
The Secret of the Enchanted Forest
We carried the cage across the large field, avoiding the occasional tree or two. Several bushes spotted the field, but with those exceptions, it was pretty much open and grassy. The sun was still low enough in the morning sky that flashes of bright rays through the trees caused us to lose our sight, but the unmistakable sound of water tumbling over rocks grew ever louder, telling us we were headed in the right direction.
The cage wasn’t that heavy but carrying it was awkward. After a distance of about half a football field the journey began to seem endless. Finally, Amy pointed to a spot where she wanted us to place the cage and we set it down very softly. I followed Uncle Steve back toward the car. As we stepped behind the only two trees that stood together in the field and turned to watch Amy, I realized that I was a little anxious, not certain what to expect. We watched as Amy slowly swung open the cage door and slowly backed away, giving Henry the opportunity to leave the cage and enter the woods.
Old Henry was all about release. It took him only a split second and he was out of there. He rumbled; raccoons rumble. They really don’t run, they just kind of rumble when they walk fast. So Henry rumbled to the safety of the creek and the surrounding brush. He paused when he got to the water’s edge and looked back at Amy for just a few seconds, almost as if to say goodbye, before vanishing into the underbrush. It was great.
Amy sighed, staring after Henry. She gave a sad little smile, like she was reminiscing. After a moment she spoke loud enough for us to hear. “One down, one to go.”Uncle Steve and I carried the empty cage back to the car. Amy was right behind us.“Henry will be just fine,” she said quietly, “but I will miss the old boy.”I knew what she meant. After all, Amy really cared about these animals. She got to know them and they became…not exactly pets, but more like friends. How would I feel if I had to let Edison go away? She felt that she had just lost a friend; the same way I would feel.“I noticed something on his ear. Was that a tag or something?” I asked.“Yes, we keep track of our animal friends to identify their patterns. There is a lot to learn from these guys. There’s so much we don’t know.”When we reached the car, Amy said, “OK, Sarah, it’s your turn.”
Uncle Steve and I picked up the cage and repeated the routine. We gently set the cage on the ground, almost in the exact spot where we had left Henry, and then, once again, walked back to the partial screening of the two trees. Amy knelt by the cage and looked at Sarah for the longest time.The tumbling water drowned out whatever she was saying. But the way they looked at each other, it was as if they were each saying goodbye to a dear friend. Finally, Amy opened the cage door and backed away a few steps. And then it happened.Sarah walked out of the cage, paused for a moment, turned, and looked in our direction. Then, instead of rumbling toward the creek as Henry had, she started walking toward Uncle Steve and me. She was walking right toward us!
Amy stared at her. She must have been as amazed we were; I suppose that’s why none of us said anything. As Sarah calmly walked toward us Amy followed, keeping pace with Sarah but staying about twenty feet behind her. Sarah slowly crossed the clearing and approached the trees where Uncle Steve and I were standing. She came right over to the two trees, stopped, lifted her head and looked directly at us. I had the unmistakable sense that she was there to see me, or maybe to tell me something. I don’t know. But it had something to do with me. I could feel it.
So I did what seemed like the logical thing. I stepped out from behind the trees and began to move toward her.Amy stopped and said in a cautious voice, “Austin, just be careful, OK?”I nodded, but kept my gaze locked on Sarah as I continued to move slowly toward her.As I cautiously approached her I held out my right arm, extending my open hand. I stopped just a few feet away and slowly knelt down with my hand still extended. Sarah came over to me, just as she had the day before at the Nature Museum. I started petting her, stroking her soft black and white coat. She moved against my hand, accepting my touch and making sure that I rubbed her in the spots she liked. She seemed to be fine. Nothing was wrong.
I stood up and slowly moved toward the woods off to my left, hoping that she would follow. It seemed like the closest route to the forest. Sarah followed me.I didn’t know what to think, but I wasn’t scared. I sensed that she just needed some reassurance. So Sarah and I slowly walked to the edge of the woods. I stopped.“You’re free to go,” I said again, pointing into the woods.I stood there for a moment, watching her as she sniffed the air and then the ground. She seemed to be adjusting and accepting this as her new home. I slowly backed away, moving toward Amy and Uncle Steve. Sarah looked back and I could swear that I heard her say goodbye. Maybe I felt it in the air. I know this sounds very strange, but it was like I could feel what she was thinking.
Sarah took a few steps into the woods, stopped, and looked back once more. I heard her again. ‘Goodbye,’ she said. And then she was gone.
The Spirit of the Turquoise Necklace
I sensed that Mr. Pickett could feel the discussion slipping away. I bet that he hadn’t expected Amy to be such a difficult adversary. I could feel him wanting to back away gracefully and do battle another day. Later, I would find out that the right battleground for him would be the town meeting. He knew how to stir up a crowd, and he would come prepared. He knew the town was still behind him at this moment; he didn’t want to lose their vote or the momentum.
Tuesday night he would put the final nail in the coffin. All he needed was to get to Tuesday night without problems.He scanned the audience and decided to act as the Southern gentleman that his father had hoped in vain that he would be. “Ladies and gentlemen, there seem to be two sides here, as with any issue; those for it and those against it. I will honor the words of my esteemed fellow citizen and ask that we all adjourn this discussion until Tuesday night at the Town Council meeting. As my dear father used to say, ‘Respect the opinions of others, so that they will respect yours.’”Mr. Pickett looked around at this audience and that’s when he noticed me staring him.
He returned my stare for a long moment, as if to say, ‘Good, this is a great way for me to win the crowd before I leave. Always involve the children; people love it because it builds your case with compassion.’“Hello, young man,” he said, looking at me but actually speaking to the crowd. “Here is someone from Mountview’s next generation. Let’s ask his opinion. So, young man, what do you think about having a beautiful, tall new building right here in Mountview?”I didn’t have to think. I knew exactly what to say. “Mr. Pickett, I believe that chopping off the top of a beautiful mountain would be like taking a beautiful girl and giving her a flat top.”
The crowd roared with laughter.I continued, “Yes, sir, I am the next generation, and I would be forced to look at that flat top for the rest of my life. I vote no.”Mr. Pickett took a deep breath. The crowd was still laughing. Billy Johnson was checking his batteries and a smile of relief filled his face. Yes, the tape was still going; got the whole thing.Mr. Pickett realized he had lost this battle. He did the only thing a person in his position could do. He laughed. Then he patted me on the head and said, “Oh, kids will be kids.” He smiled indulgently as if I was cute, but not too bright. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have to go. Thanks, everyone.” With that, he walked away.
Mr. Pickett turned to look back at the crowd as he crossed the street. His deep, penetrating stare was like a heat-seeking missile trying to find its target. I peeked around the protective cover of the group and unexpectedly found that I was the target of this new-found enemy. I will get you, Mr. Pickett’s gaze clearly communicated. I understood the message.A cold chill suddenly came over me and I realized I was frightened of this man. I was a young boy, without my parents here to protect me. I would have to defend myself.
The Curse of the Golden Gato
Austin and his sister Katie have returned to visit Uncle Steve in Mountview, where they plan to work at the Nature Center for the summer. But Sarah, the Schmooney, gets sick and they must help her find the cure in the mountains of North Carolina. At the same time, two very dangerous brothers, Calvin and Woodrow Garner, are searching for gold in the very same mountains, seeking the answer to the mystery of the Legend of the Golden Gato. When their paths cross in the mountains, Austin, Katie, Uncle Steve and Amy come face-to-face not only with the menacing Garner brothers, but avalanches and deadly mountain lions as well!
Then Dr. Dixon leaned forward to make a point. “Now, getting back to the Golden Gato. I happened to find a legend that could have been the one we hear of today. Gold was on the minds of the Spanish conquistadors as they discovered New World lands for their king. They were looking for gold for their country and anxious to find gold for themselves, too. Sometimes that priority would change.“Many of the first English adventurers who came to North America were looking to find gold, too. Although there were stories that the Spanish had found gold in this area, the English, as they traveled through and explored the Appalachians, failed to substantiate these rumors.
If someone had discovered the gold, that discovery was never officially reported. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!“It could have been kept very quiet and, my guess is, it probably was. This blind pursuit of wealth made some people rather ruthless. It was rumored that there was a hidden Appalachian gold mine discovered by a Spaniard named El Capitan Eduardo Zapatero and the mine was marked ‘el gato dorado grande.’ Loosely translated, that meant a large cat made of gold was presumably standing at the entrance of the mine.
Who knows what that would be worth? A lot of money, that’s for sure.“So, for a long time now, people have been looking in the mountains in this area for a large lion made out of gold, marking the entrance to an old, abandoned gold mine. However, it may not have been a large lion made out of gold, as we would think, but a large lion that was golden, or even a tawny cat, or, should I say, a mountain lion.”
The Schmooney Trilogy
I am sitting on a large flat boulder high on a rocky slope, watching the sky for the first signs of dawn. Ever so slowly, a soft glow begins to rise across the horizon. The cool damp air caressing my face is warmed by the morning rays of sunlight. The soothing hum of chirping crickets gradually gives way to the calls of birds. The animals of the day are changing places with the creatures of the night. My brother and I have watched the sun rise on this rock many times.
The forest has many stories. This story is our story. My brother and I discovered a very special animal who possesses an incredible power. The animal has been here for a very long time. Ingenious American legends speak about it. Explorers claim to have seen it. The animal lives here today. If you have been to a forest, then you probably have seen this animal. When you see it, you don’t realize what you are seeing, because everything appears to be normal. It is not recognizable, because it is in plain sight.
My brother tells our story very well. I will let him tell it to you as it happened twenty years ago. As I recall, it all started on an April morning in Atlanta, on a day much like today…