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H W Shelton
"Teddy Roosevelt! Do you know how long ago that was, and Miss Dawson wants us to
write a report on him?" Tommy said as he walked along the small path with his best friend Johnny.
"I guess we'll have to go to the library and do some checking", Johnny replied.
Tommy and Johnny, at age ten, were best friends and on this Saturday were wandering down one of the pathways that crisscrossed the park near their homes in the Arizona desert. It was springtime and the wild flowers were blooming everywhere with all colors of the rainbow. The afternoon sun was warm and a slight breeze was blowing in from the west. A hawk was flying overhead looking to scare up his dinner and the call of a crow could be heard in the distance.
A cottontail rabbit, spooked by the boys, made a run across the path in front of them and made the boys jump with surprise.
"That scared me!" Johnny said as he laughed.
"Yea, me too," Tommy replied, as he threw a small rock after the rabbit.
"If that boy isn't careful, that old hawk will have him for dinner."
Johnny sit down in the shade of a Mesquite tree and picked up a stick to draw circles in the dirt as he took off his baseball cap and scratched his head.
Tommy, sat down beside his friend and also picked up a stick and started drawing in the dirt.
"I remember Teddy Roosevelt!" they heard someone say.
'What, who said that?" Tommy asked, looking around.
"Not me," Johnny said, standing up and turning around to look.
"Over here!" came the reply.
"Over where?" asked Tommy, still looking around.
"Here!" the voice came from the direction of, well, a big saguaro cactus!
"I don't see anyone but that big old cactus." Tommy said.
"I happen to a Saguaro Cactus thank you very much." came the voice again.
The boys looked at each other and back again at the cactus and then looked again at each other.
Tommy, his eyes wide with excitement, asked, "That thing is talking?"
Johnny just stood there looking at the huge cactus and didn't say a word, even though his mouth was open.
"You asked about Teddy Roosevelt, didn't you?" the voice from the cactus asked.
The boys, looking at each other, started walking over to where they heard the voice.
"Now don't be scared, I won't hurt you." the cactus said "I overheard you talking about an old friend of mine and thought I might be able to help you."
"Who, are you?" Tommy asked, staring at the cactus.
"I'm sorry, let me introduce myself. My name is Saguaro Sam and I live here." the cactus said, "what is your name?"
Looking around, Tommy said, "I'm Tommy, and this is my friend Johnny."
"Hello Johnny and Tommy." Sam replied.
"This isn't really happening, is it?" Johnny asked, hanging his head and glancing over at his friend.
"We're not asleep and this isn't a dream that we're both having" Tommy replied, shaking his head, "I think it's real."
"Of course I'm real" Sam said.
"We don't talk to many cacti" Tommy said.
"That's okay, I don't speak to many humans either" Sam answered, and then continued "it's just that you mentioned an old friend of mine and I thought I might be able to help some."
"You knew Teddy Roosevelt?" Johnny asked.
"How old are you?" asked Tommy.
"Well, let me think out loud a minute." Saguaro Sam said and started mumbling to himself.
"When teddy came through here, I wasn't very old, maybe 40 or so and the year was 1908."
Johnny, doing the numbers in his head, exclaimed. "You must be 150 years old!"
"That sounds about right." Saguaro Sam agreed, "I've been here a long time. Teddy was on his way to the Grand Canyon and he stopped here for a rest and we just kind of hit it off I guess. We talked a long time and I found out later he had made the canyon a national park. I was proud to know him, a good man Teddy was."
"1908 was the year we've been looking for" Johnny said.
"What else can you tell us?" Tommy asked, his eyes wide with excitement again.
"A lot, I guess," Sam replied, "but some things you need to find out for yourself. Learning about history is fun. There was that time that Jesse and his brother Frank and some of their friends rode through here and had to pull up because one of their horses had thrown a shoe and...well, that's a whole other story for a different time."
"You knew Jesse James?" Tommy asked, jumping to his feet.
"We met," Sam answered, "I guess no one really knew Jesse James. He was just misunderstood a lot."
"Tell us about him!" Tommy almost shouted.
"Yea, tell us some more stories." Johnny echoed and stood up.
"Another time perhaps," Sam answered.
"Right now, I hear someone coming down the path."
The boys, turning around, saw Johnny's Dad making his way down the trail toward them.
"You boys need to be getting back home now," Johnny's Dad called out. "It's getting a little late and dinner is ready."
"Now?" Johnny asked.
"Yes, come on now, you can come back tomorrow and explore some more," Johnny's Dad answered.
Tommy, looking over at Saguaro Sam just standing there, said "Say something to Johnny's Dad, will you?"
Saguaro Sam made no reply.
"Okay Dad," Johnny called out, "we're on our way."
Johnny's Dad, turning around, started walking back down the trail.
Tommy turned to Sam and asked, "Why didn't you say something?"
Johnny, looking at Sam, waited for an answer.
"You have to believe." Sam replied.
"We do believe." Johnny said.
"But your Dad wouldn't and that's okay too. Sometimes, when people grow up they forget to believe. It's a little sad." Sam said.
"Can we come back and talk to you again?" Tommy asked.
"Of course you can" Sam answered.
"Just keep believing and you can always talk to me. I'm not going anywhere."
"Can we be your friends?" Johnny asked.
"You already are my friends" Sam replied. "Now off you go for dinner, don't keep your family waiting and we'll see each other again sometime."
The boys, starting back up the path, stopped to look back and realized that there were many saguaro cactus standing where they had been and they hadn't even noticed them.
Searching the area with his eyes, Johnny said; "Which one was Sam?"
Tommy, looking around, answered after a minute, "I don't know."
"Are you going to tell anyone about this?" Johnny asked, nodding his head in the direction of the big cactus.
"I don't think so" Tommy answered then asked, "are you?"
"Nobody would believe us anyway," Johnny said, turning to go home. "We know it's true because we believe in Saguaro Sam."
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