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Gopher ran from his hole to the garden where Mole lived.  Mole was Gopher’s friend.  Rabbit, Rat and Squirrel were Gopher’s friends too.  On the way Gopher called “Good Morning Rabbit!  Good Morning Rat!  Good Morning Squirrel!”

          Rabbit lived in a hole behind a large bush.  Rat lived in a wood pile by the house.  Squirrel lived in a tree.  Out they popped, rubbing their sleepy eyes.

          “Good Morning Gopher!” they said.

          Mole lived in a hole in the ground just like Gopher and Rabbit.  When Gopher found his friend’s hole, he crawled inside.  He made his way to the Mole’s nest.

          “Mole!” he said. “Wake up!  It’s morning.  I’m hungry.  Let’s go find something to eat!”

          Mole pulled a lettuce leaf over his face.  “No!” he said. “It could not be morning.  It is too dark.  Let me sleep!”

          “Mole,” Gopher said, tugging on his leaf, “it’s always dark down here.  But up there the sun’s shining.  Come on Mole!  Let’s get something to eat!”

          Gopher and Mole began making their rounds beneath Miss Brummen’s garden.  Mole stopped grumbling when he found a tasty root to eat.

          There were tunnels running below each tasty vegetable and flower.  They only ate only what they needed.  But Miss Brummen was not happy with losing her vegetables and flowers.  She had stuck her hose into Gopher and Mole’s holes and tried flooding them out.  She had placed traps out to catch them leaving their holes.  She had even planted smelly onions and garlic all around in order to shoo them away.  Then Miss Brummen had bought herself a cat. 

          Her cat was not a backyard friend.  He would eat Mole or Gopher if he could.  He would eat Rat too.  But he was slow and lazy and he slept most of the day. 

          This morning Cat was still sleeping in his box in the garage.  The backyard friends knew they were safe until Miss Brummen awakened her cat and put him outside.

          They gathered together by Mole’s hole.  Rabbit helped himself to carrot tops and lettuce.  Squirrel and Rat ate the bird seed and bread thrown out by Miss Brummen the night before.  They watched the garden vegetables disappear one-by-one, as Gopher and Mole gobbled them from below the ground.  It was much fun to watch. 

          “Look Rabbit!” Squirrel laughed. “The carrots and celery vanish before our eyes!” 

          Rat grabbed playfully onto a celery top and played tug-a-war with Mole.  “Let’s tease old Mole!” he said.  Rabbit begin eating its root as soon as it popped out of the ground.

          Down below them Mole gave up pulling.  He went on to a row of parsley roots sticking into his tunnel.  Gopher was eating a big, yummy  carrot now.  Rat and Squirrel pulled on the tops of these vegetables too.  Rabbit continued munching vegetables here and there.  Then Rat and Squirrel found some tasty berries to eat by the fence and left Mole and Gopher alone.

          When their tummies were full, the backyard friends gathered together on Miss Brummen’s lawn.  Mole could not see well above ground and so everyone was a blur.  But with his special nose he could smell anything for miles around.  He sniffed the air for Cat just to be safe.

          “Gopher and I have decided.” he said. “It is too dangerous in this yard.  We should find ourselves a new home.”

          “Where will we live?” asked Rat.

          “What will we eat?” asked Rabbit.

          Mole sniffed the air again.  “Gopher and I have a plan.” he explained. “We will dig a new tunnel to the yard next store.  From our tunnel we will find ourselves a new home.”

          As Rabbit, Squirrel and Rat waited for Gopher and Mole to find them a new home, Cat appeared.  He chased Rat into his wood pile.  He chased Squirrel up a tree.  But Rabbit was too big for him to eat, so Cat left him alone.

          “I am not afraid of you.” said Rabbit. “You cannot chase me into my hole!”

          Rabbit began munching on the grass.  “Why do you chase Gopher, Mole, Rat, and Squirrel?” he asked Cat. “You have a warm place to sleep.  You have plenty to eat.”

          “I am a cat.” Cat explained. “That is what I’m suppose to do.  If you were smaller I would eat you too!”

 

******

          Gopher and Mole popped up in the yard next store.  They found a dog waiting for them as they peeked out of the mound.  Gopher and Mole dug further and further until they reached the next house.  They found a yard covered in concrete.  There was a big pool and no plants.

          Each backyard they dug tunnels in was either filled with dogs or cats or did not have anything tasty to eat.

          As Gopher and Mole searched for a new home, an idea came into Cat’s head.  He would become a backyard friend.  He would pretend to make friends with Rabbit to get close to Gopher, Mole, Rat, and Squirrel.

          Gopher and Mole returned to Miss Brummen’s yard and peeked out of their garden mound.  There was Cat on the patio just waiting for them to come out.  There was Rabbit beside a bush waiting for them to return.

          Gopher found an old tunnel he dug last Spring.  He made his way to Rabbit’s bush.  Cat began walking over to Rabbit.  There was a sly look on his face.

          “Rabbit,” he said with a smile, “I am lonely.  I want to have a backyard friend.”

          “I do not trust you.” said Rabbit. “For many weeks you have tried to catch Gopher, Mole, Rat and Squirrel.  They are my friends.  You said you would like to eat me too.”

          “I have changed.” said Cat. “You will see.  For now on, I will only chase birds.”

          Just that moment Gopher’s little nose poked up through the earth.  At once Cat pounced on the hole.  He almost caught Gopher this time.  Rabbit frowned at Cat and began hopping back to his hole.  Cat knew Gopher and Mole would never trust him again.  He knew that Rabbit would never be his friend.  But he did not care.

          “I am a Cat.” he said to himself. “That is what cat’s do!”

 

******

          Evening came and Miss Brummen called in her cat.  He was hungry, so he ran into the house.  The backyard friends met together by Rabbit’s hole.  Gopher said “We’ve looked everywhere in this neighborhood.  We found no other place to live.  This is a good yard.  It has plants and berries and only one very lazy cat.  We are smarter than Cat.  In the daytime Rabbit will watch for him.  When he’s asleep or in the house, we will eat and play.  When he’s in the yard, we will stay in our tunnels and eat those yummy vegetables and flowers.”

          “I have worked hard today.” said Mole with a yawn. “What I need right now is a good night’s sleep.”

          And so the backyard friends said good night to each other and returned to their homes.  The Gopher, Mole, and Rabbit returned to their holes.  The rat returned to his wood pile, and the Squirrel returned to his tree.