The story continues for the fourth Sunday. The scene is Antarctica, but that will soon change…
Hopper’s Early Education
Under the care of Emmett and Emily, Hopper learned the ways of the Emperors. At this time he didn’t realize he was different. Emily and Emmett were his mom and dad, and parents are always bigger.
But as they waddled among the other Emperors, Hopper would happily waddle and often hop along between his parents. They received looks of disgust from others as they passed and many not very friendly remarks about Hopper’s size. He was much shorter than the smallest Emperor chick. Also they didn’t like Emily and Emmett’s breaking with the tradition of hatching chicks in winter. However, the light season was a much better time for a Rockhopper to be born. So he grew up among the Emperors with the best of Emperors for his parents.
In his younger days, Emmett had been a great swimmer and diver. Hopper loved the stories he told about his adventures in the oceans and under the sea. What incredible things he had seen and done!
There were stories about his brother, Emp, who was a great traveler whom he hadn’t seen for years. “Is he still alive?” asked Hopper.
“I hope so,” answered Emmett. “I would really like to see him again, and to know he’s all right.”
Emmett loved to tell of his times with his friend, Bhill Blue, who was a whale. “He was the greatest swimmer and diver I’ve ever seen, and also the greatest friend a penguin could ever have.”
“Where is he now, Daddy?”
“He’s still traveling the oceans.”
“Does he ever come home?”
Emmett answered, “To Antarctica, you mean? Well, he comes by once in a while, but then he’s off traveling again.”
“Usually, but I don’t think he’s lonely. He swims with the Creator, and he meets friends along the way, and it seems he’s always helping someone. And he’s not afraid of anything. Once I saw him look at the Great White Seal who was railing at him and threatening him, and what did Bhill Blue do? He laughed at him and swam away. I was hiding behind Bhill, hoping the Great White wouldn’t see me or my tail might be gone.”
“Who is the Great White Seal?”
“He is actually a sea lion, and the biggest one you’ll ever see. He rules over much of the Pacific Ocean, and he thinks it’s his. I think he would like to rule all the oceans. Some say he’s been alive for hundreds of years, and they say in his lair he has countless trophies, the tails of those creatures who got in his way or bothered him in some way, or those who opposed him.”
“Where is he?” asked Hopper.
“His headquarters are on the coast of what people call California…”
Hopper found himself shaking, and not about the Great White Seal, and he asked, “What are people?”
“People are the greatest of the creatures on earth, special to the one who made them. They were created to rule the earth and all of us animals. Long ago they turned away from their Master, and he’s had to deal with them firmly to bring them back to himself. Now we are forbidden to talk to them. Only one animal, one particular donkey, has been allowed to talk to a person. We have been made fearful of them, and that is why you started to shake when I mentioned them. They can see us, but can never be close to us as they would like to be.”
“It helps to put a longing in their hearts for what they had before they turned away from their Maker and what they can have some day if they will only turn back to him.”
Hopper learned many things from Emmett and Emily and heard many other great stories. As time passed his gray feathers turned into black and white, and long yellow feathers grew at the sides of his head above his eyes. This was no concern to Emmett and Emily because they had seen his Rockhopper parents, but to others it was hard to bear. He was the object of much ridicule and cruel jokes. Sometimes the yellow feathers bristled straight out when someone insulted him, but his parents would tell him not to let it bother him. Then they would tell him there was nothing wrong with him, and fighting back wouldn’t make it any better.
Now that he had his adult feathers, Hopper could learn to swim, and also to navigate, that is, to find his directions when traveling in the water. Emmett took him out into the cold ocean, showing him how to get from one place to another, and how to get back home again. He taught him how to catch his meals, whether it was fish or krill, and how to be wary of leopard seals and other potential enemies. Hopper became a great swimmer, diver, and hunter.
On one of their excursions, they came to land near a colony of Adelie penguins. In these waters patrolled the fore-mentioned dreaded leopard seals who would love to have a penguin for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
The Adelies were hungry also and wanted to go fishing, but they were afraid to jump into the water. They peered over the edge of the ice into the water to see if any seals were lurking there. They were all telling each other to dive in.
“You dive in, you coward!”
“No, you dive in, o you who are a coward and from a long line of cowards!”
“If you weren’t such a coward, you’d be jumping into that water to prove you weren’t!”
“And how about you, you coward of cowards!”
These encouragements continued until finally one of them told his neighbor, “You dive in, you dodo bird!” and with an evil smile shoved him into the water. When the rest saw he wasn’t eaten, they all dove in for their meal.
Hopper and Emmett headed home, braying with laughter.