The Unlikely Garden

The Unlikely Garden


“Hey Beetle, why aren’t you rolling?” asked Zara, the African Weaverbird, as she landed on branch overhead. 

 “Because I’m planning my garden,” replied Kepri, the dung beetle.

 “Your’re doing what?” asked Scorpion as he scurried by ease dropping. 

 “Go away Scorpion,” said Zara. 

 Scorpion didn’t budge. “No, no I want to hear what the dung beetle is planning”   

 “Alright I might as well tell you.  I’m tired of looking at the sandy dirt all day.  So, instead of rolling all the dung balls into my underground den, I’m going to roll them over here,” explained Kepri as he pointed to the design he had drawn in the sand.  

 “But then you’ll just have a pile of POOP,” teased Scorpion.

 “True but I read in a book that poop is great fertilizer for flowers. Zara, can you pick up seeds for me? Then you could drop the geranium seeds here, the lily seeds here and the orchid seeds here,” explained Kepri.  “I have it all laid out.”     

 “This is ridiculous,” said Scorpion. “You’re just a little dung beetle.  You can’t make a garden.” 

 Scorpion scurried away shaking his head at the silly idea. 


“Zara, what do you think?  Can I do it?” asked Kepri.   

 “Look, Kepri, I’ve never made a garden, but I’m willing to help you try,” replied Zara. 


While Kepri and Zara discussed plans for the garden, Scorpion was stirring up trouble. 

 “This little beetle thinks he’s going to make some stupid garden.  Let’s stop him,” said Scorpion.  

“Why?” asked Big Ant, “a garden could be nice.” 

“NO, ‘a garden wouldn’t be nice,” mocked Scorpion. “Listen up and just do as you’re told.”  

“Mosquito, fly around him making that horrible sound you make,” instructed Scorpion.    

“Grasshopper, when he climbs up on his dung ball to do his navigation dance, jump in his face.  Then he won’t be able to figure out which direction he has to go.  He’ll be going in circles!” laughed Scorpion. 


“Got it!  This will be fun!” said Grasshopper. 

 “Big Ant, block his path with a piece of that old tree. He’ll never be able to push the dung balls up and over the log,” said Scorpion.    


While Scorpion planned to stop the garden, Kepri had already rolled a few dung balls to the location of his future garden. 

He had been merrily singing to himself as he rolled each ball.  When the ground got too hot on his feet, he climbed on top of the dung ball, did a little dance to check the location of the sun for accurate direction and then crawled back down to push the ball again. 


You see, dung beetles roll backwards with their front legs on the ground and their rear legs on the ball of dung.  Since their heads are down by the sand, they can’t see where they’re going until they crawl up on top of the ball of dung and check the sun’s location.  Then they have an amazing ability to navigate even while walking backwards pushing the balls.  It’s something quite extraordinary. 


Something not even Scorpion could do. 


As Kepri started to roll his next ball, he was overwhelmed by the horrible sound of Mosquito. 

“GO AWAY Mosquito!” yelled Kepri over the noise. 

“What?” asked Mosquito pretending not to hear Kepri.  “I’m just making beautiful music.”    

 “Leave me alone,” begged Kepri.  “ You’re just trying to annoy me and it’s NOT going to work.” 

 “We’ll see about that,” said Mosquito. 


Kepri started singing louder and louder to block out the sound of Mosquito.


Just as he climbed on top of his ball to check his direction, Grasshopper bounced in front of him. 

“Hey Kepri!” Whatcha doing?”asked Grasshopper pretending not to know. 

 “GO AWAY Grasshopper!” yelled Kepri.

 “Ugh, I can’t see where I’m going when you jump in front of me like that!” said Kepri.

“What?  I can’t hear you?” said Grasshopper. 

 “Please, GO AWAY!” yelled Kepri.     


Kepri crawled back down and started pushing the ball forward again.  But he wasn’t sure if he was going in the right direction anymore.  Grasshopper had messed with his navigating skills.


Scorpion crawled over, “Having trouble building your garden dung beetle?”


Kepri just gave him a dirty look.  “I’m ignoring you Scorpion.” 

“Oh, really, little beetle thinks he’s special? Little beetle thinks he can build a garden?  HAH.  You can’t do anything.  Just go back to rolling balls underground,” said Scorpion.     


Just then Zara flew overhead. “I’ve got my first seeds to plant,” yelled Zara over the noise of Mosquito. 


“Ugh, thank you Zara but I don’t think I can do this anymore,” said Kepri. 

“You’re going to let Scorpion stop you?” asked Zara. 

“Yah, he is giving up,” chimed in Scorpion. “He’s embarrassing all beetles with this nonsense.”   

“I want to keep going but they’re driving me crazy,” admitted Kepri. 

“Remember what you are doing,” said Zara. 

“I’m making a beautiful garden,” mumbled Kepri.

“That’s right.  Say that again louder!” demanded Zara.


“That’s right!  Keep repeating that mantra,” said Zara.  

“Your’re right! I’m not letting them stop me!” said Kepri.


He managed to roll ten more balls of dung even while Mosquito made louder and louder noises, Grasshopper jumped in front of him, and Scorpion threw out insults. 


As he pushed the balls, Kepri kept repeating his new mantra, “I’m making a beautiful garden.”      


Scorpion scurried over to Big Ant.  “It’s your turn.” 

Big Ant dragged the log over and put it right in Kepri’s path.

“Watcha gonna do now Kepri?” laughed Scorpion.  “You don’t have the guts to push a dung ball over that.” 


As Kepri looked up, he was devastated.  His navigation told him he had to go straight ahead but now a big log was in his way. 


“NO!, I’M NOT GOING TO GIVE UP!” he shouted. 


He climbed up on top of his ball, analyzed his options. Then crawled back down and, with all his might, pushed the dung ball up and over the log.   


Zara flew back with more seeds just in time to see him pushing the dung ball up and over. 

“You can do it! You can do it!” she sang.      

Kepri succeeded in rolling that ball and five more balls over the log. 

Then he looked at the beginning of his garden and was proud of himself.       


Scorpion laughed, “You rolled all those balls over here.  I’ll give you that, but all you made was a big pile of POOP.”   


“We’ll see about that!” said Kepri to himself knowing it would take some time for the seeds to grow.        


Over the next few weeks, Kepri watched the garden and waited.  Every now and then Scorpion would wander by and laugh at him, “all that work for nothing.” 


But then one day, short green stems started to sprout. 


And they grew and grew and grew.  All the other bugs came over to watch the growing flowers. 


Then one sunny morning, the flowers began to open.   


Zara and Kepri smiled as they watched the flowers bloom in red, orange, pink, and yellow. 

“You did it Kepri!  The garden is beautiful!” sang Zara.

“Yes, I did!  Nothing stopped me!  And now look at all these flowers! Thanks for helping me Zara!” said Kepri as he danced with delight.   


Samara the butterfly flew over. “Thanks for making this lovely garden for all of us to enjoy Kepri.  We love it!”  


Scorpion appeared, “This is ridiculous.” 

“GO AWAY,” shouted Zara.    

Scorpion sulked away shaking his head.  


Kepri smiled at the butterflies and birds flying about his garden.  “Yah, I LOVE this garden, too!”   




Back of the Book Questions: 

Is there anything special you might like to create?

Do you have someone like Zara who encourages you and helps you?  Maybe a friend or a teacher or maybe mom or dad or grandparent? Or maybe an aunt or uncle? 

Do you think you could have kept going if Scorpion and his buddies were annoying you? 

If Big Ant knew what they were doing was mean, should he have stood up to Scorpion and told him that he didn’t want to be a part of his plan to stop the garden?