By Judy A Knox

Alice had always been a very curious young lady. Before she ever started walking, she would crawl around on her chubby little knees, exploring her surroundings. Curiosity, they say, killed the cat; and while Alice wasn’t a cat, her parents had to keep a watchful eye on things to avoid hazards.

During her early school years, Alice’s teachers enjoyed having her in class because she was an eager learner. Even in fifth grade her interest in everything around her was an asset. Fortunately her family lived in a small, rather old-fashioned town where there wasn’t much trouble to get into, providing a safe environment for children to grow up in. Green grass, modest homes, a few businesses and churches made up most of the town.

However, there was one place that always intrigued Alice because her parents, like those of her friends, had warned her to stay away from – the woods just east of town. “I just want to go there once and see what’s there; it can’t be that terrible,” she said one day to her friend and next-door neighbor Sally. “Just once! Want to come with me?”

Knowing how determined Alice could be once she had set her mind to something, Sally didn’t try to talk her out of it. “Let me think about it, OK? Maybe I can get a group of kids together and we can all go,” she said, thinking of the old saying, safety in numbers.

No, don’t tell anyone. One of them might tell their parents or some other grown-up and they’ll spoil everything.”

Pretty soon they had their plan in place. Quite a clever scheme, actually. Right after school, they would start walking in their regular direction toward home, but slowly, so the other kids would eventually pass them. Slowly, they ambled along till everyone was well ahead of them. Then they turned, unnoticed, in the direction of the woods.

Ugh!” declared Sally, as they slogged through the mud along what was supposed to be a path, and ducked under scratchy tree branches. Violets along the side of the path offered the only break in the monotony of trees and mud, trees and mud, and the path was full of hazards – broken branches, bugs, probably snakes too although they never saw one.

What’s this?” Alice said as they suddenly came upon a big X formed of two tree branches crossing right in the middle of the path.

X marks the spot,” replied Sally, having no idea what it might mean.

Yuck! This mud is sucking me in!” cried Alice, and Sally had to use a tree branch to pull her out (fortunately having seen such a rescue once in a movie).

Zowie! You should have listened to us,” exclaimed Alice’s mother as the two girls, covered in tell-tale mud, came trudging home.