Here Hopper finds a friend who needs help. He also has some brushes with dangerous creatures as he continues seeking his home in the wrong direction.
To read from the beginning, go here.
A New Friend
Rest wasn’t an option for Hopper as he swam on for hours through a strait that was taking him west to the Pacific Ocean. He kept expecting to be able to head north at any time, but a barren landscape was always on his right.
Finally in the mid afternoon he decided to stop for a rest. He was tired, discouraged, and lonely. “I must go north!” he kept thinking. “I must find my home! Oh, help!”
He popped out of the waves onto a rocky shore and hopped up on some rocks to think and look around. Just then he heard a buzzing sound nearby. He turned his head, and something shiny green flew by almost quicker than his eyes. Then he saw it heading for some nice yellow flowers growing up on the hill above the beach.
Hopper hadn’t seen any flying birds before, except seagulls and other sea birds, and he watched with great fascination as the little bird zipped back and forth among the flowers, sucking nectar from each one as he hovered in mid-air. Then it looked like he might fly away up the hill, so Hopper called out to him, “Hey there, little friend! Have you been in these parts long?”
The little bird started zipping up the hill, then quickly changed directions, came back toward Hopper, and hovered right in front of his beak. In addition to its green body it had brown wings, a white throat with brown spots, and an orange head. He answered, “Well, I’ve come from far to the north to get here. I come back here every year.”
“You’ve been to the north?” Hopper asked excitedly. “Then maybe you can tell me how far I have to go to my home. Have you seen any penguins near here?”
“Well, if you go about 50 miles up the strait to the west, you will find a place where you can swim to the north, and there will be many islands. There is one I call the Island of Penguins. Many of your cousins live there.”
“Yaaaa hooo!” yelled Hopper. “I’m almost home! Thank you, my little friend! By the way, what’s your name?”
“My name is Hummer. I’m a hummingbird, a Greenbacked Firecrown hummingbird.”
“It’s great to meet you, Hummer! I’m Hopper. I’m a penguin, a Rockhopper penguin, and a penguin heading for a home he’s never seen. I’m going to meet my mom and dad.”
“Excuse me, Hopper, before you leave, could you help me with something?”
Hopper’s heart sank a little because he was so excited to get going again. He figured he could be home by the next day. But he said, “Sure, Hummer, what is it? I’m sorry. I’ve been so concerned about my problems, I didn’t even notice or think that you might have your own.”
Hummer said, “Well, I’m down here getting nectar for my mate. She hurt her wing and can’t fly. If I don’t move her to a safer place, she will die, and I can’t do that by myself.”
“Well, let’s go!” said Hopper. As they started up the hill, Hummer explained, “With a little rest her wing will get better, but where she is now…well, there are many enemies.”
“Yes, like the fox, the puma, and the caracara.”
Hopper gulped a quiet “Help!” as he continued his climb, which was his first on rock instead of ice. He found it an exhilarating experience, and he did it with ease, just as if he were made to climb.
As Hopper climbed, Hummer would fly ahead to check on his mate, Hummeressa, and then fly back to guide Hopper in the right way. Finally after about an hour, Hummer said, “She’s just around the next corner.”
Hopper made his way around a large rock with Hummer flying beside him. Just as they came around the corner, a large gull-like bird landed between them and Hummeressa with its back toward them. The bird struck up a conversation with her, saying, “So the poor little birdee cannot fly. That is too bad. Such a thing might end up a small meal for a caracara!”
Hummeressa replied, “Leave me alone, Johnnie Rook! Why don’t you go file your beak on an armadillo or something!”
While they continued their friendly conversation, Hopper had a plan. “You go fly around his head to distract him while I sneak up behind him and bite him in his tail feathers. That’ll teach him a thing or two.”
Hummer took off shouting at the bigger bird things like, “You’d better mind your manners!” and “One step closer to her and I’ll peck you on the head!”
Johnnie Rook watched as Hummer flew toward him and then darted back and forth in front of him. It made him a little dizzy, but he pretended it didn’t bother him, and said, “So the little lady has a hero here to save her. Isn’t that cute!”
In the meantime Hopper had quietly hopped up behind the bird, and now he grabbed him by the tail-feathers. “Yaaaah!” shouted the caracara, and he took off into the air, leaving a number of feathers in Hopper’s beak. He circled around and screamed at Hopper, “You’re a little bit out of your territory, aren’t you, Penguin? Someday I’ll make sure you’re sorry I didn’t eat you when you were just an egg!” Then he flew off.
Hummer said, “Ah don’t worry about him. He’s just a big windbag. We can take Hummeressa to safety now.” Hopper gently picked up Hummeressa in his beak and followed Hummer to the place he had picked out.
To most animals it would have been a little hole in a pile of rocks, but to the hummingbirds it was a cave. Hummer flew back and forth, picking up straw and leaves to make a soft place where his mate could rest. “I don’t know how we could ever thank you, brave Hopper!” said Hummeressa as she was finally resting comfortably in her hiding place.
Hopper felt a little sheepish and a little choked up. No one had ever called him brave before. Indeed, hardly anyone, except his parents, had given him such a nice compliment.
Now he knew it was time to continue his journey, and once again he had to leave some newfound friends. In such a short time these hummingbirds had found a special place in his heart. So after a few sad good-byes Hopper started down the mountain. Hummer called after him, “Watch out for the fox and the puma!”
Below him Hopper could see the narrow strait of water, which would soon lead him home, or so he thought. “Yup!” he said to himself. “Just a few more hours of swimming and I’ll be home. I’ll see my mom and dad whom I’ve never seen!”
On the other side of the strait was a large island, and beyond that was the blue of the ocean he had crossed to get here. He thought fondly and a little sadly of Emmett and Emily. They were such good parents to him.
Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by a quick movement behind some rocks to his left. “Yo, there!” he shouted in a friendly tone. “Who’s my friend behind the rocks? My name is Hopper.”
A gray snout and some pointy ears peaked up over some rocks. A gray fox, actually somewhat frustrated that he’d been spotted, came out smiling and said, “Say there, my fine friend! If I’m not mistaken, you would be a penguin, wouldn’t you? Some of my best friends have been penguins. When I spotted you walking along there I said to myself, ‘My, isn’t that a fine-looking penguin! I must invite him to my place for a visit and for a fine meal.’ The name’s Graif. My friends call me Graif. You can call me Graif if you like. How about it, my fine friend, Hopper?”
“Well, Graif, actually I’m on my way home—to meet my parents. I’ve never seen them before. I’m really looking forward to getting there.”
“Where do they live?”
“A ways up the strait, less than a day of swimming.”
“Hopper, what you need before you undertake this journey is a good meal. You don’t want to show up there all bedraggled and worn out!”
It dawned on Hopper that this was the fox that Hummer had warned him about, so he said, “Thank you, Mr. Fox, er Graif, but I really must be going. I’ll be all right.”
Graif’s countenance changed. His eyes flared in anger, and he said, “So you’ll turn down the offer of a friend, will you? I guess I’ll have to drag you there for a fine meal—mine!” Then he wrapped his paw around Hopper’s neck and began dragging him back toward the rocks.
Hopper called out, “Help!”
“There’s no one who can help you here, Penguin!” growled the fox. “You’re all alone up here!”
Suddenly something brown and much bigger than the fox sprang out from behind the rocks and bowled over Hopper and the fox. The force of the collision made Hopper roll head over heels down the mountain. He just caught a glimpse of the fox running from a large cat, which was the Puma, who intended to make a fine meal of him if she could catch him.
Hopper found himself back down on the beach, quite dizzy and sore but unharmed. He looked up and said, “Thank you!”
After resting a while to regain his composure, he said, “Here I go!” and dove into the sea, heading west. He swam for miles, resting occasionally to eat. After a time it seemed the strait was getting wider. “I must be getting closer!” he said excitedly.
A little farther on he could see the strait had indeed widened, and it looked like it might even turn to the right shortly ahead. He dove his head under and swam as fast as he could, gliding along through the waves like a porpoise, down and up again.
Soon he could see that it did indeed turn to the right—to the north! “Finally!” he yelled. “Back on course!”