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SAMUEL SNAIL

INTRODUCTION

Many years ago, before Pono’s sons JR and Stuart were born, their mother’s father took pen to paper to compose a story.  The text of that story by Minard Leavitt has survived and is presented herein.

 

 

 

SAMUEL THE RACING SNAIL

 

                        Samuel was a snail.  He was a funny little fellow with a big shell that he carried around on his back.  He had two antenna, or feelers, that he waved in the air whenever he was excited or curious.  When he was frightened or tired, he would pull down his feelers, curl up inside his shell and go to sleep.

 

                        Samuel lived in the grass beside a racetrack.  Every morning, he was wakened by the pounding of hooves as the horses ran around the track.  Every night when he went to sleep, he could hear the racehorses moving in their stalls and talking over the day’s running.  All day long, he sat in the center of the track and wished he had been born a racehorse.  Once, he even crawled into the stall of Roger Racehorse, the finest and fastest horse at the track, to ask him how he could learn to run.  But Roger Racehorse just stamped his hooves and snorted, “You – you can’t run.  You haven’t any legs.”

 

                        It was true.  Samuel hadn’t any legs.  He moved by stretching his head as far out as it could go and then pulling his tail behind him.  This way he could crawl along the ground, but, of course, it was very, very slow.  Samuel had never thought very much about having no legs, but when he looked up at Roger Racehorse’s long, strong legs, and then down at his own tummy, which was right on the ground, he knew he could never run.  Sadly, he crawled back to the center of the track and watched the horses run and wished even harder that he had been born a racehorse with legs.

 

                        One day he thought, “Why, I can have legs!”.  The more he thought, the more excited he became, and the more excited he became, the more he waved his feelers in the air until they got so tangled that he had to stop and untie them before he could crawl off to find his legs.

 

                        The first legs Samuel tried were grass stems that grew along the edge of the racetrack.  He picked four of the biggest ones, cut them to the proper length for legs, and glued them to his tummy with pitch from a fir tree.  But, as soon as he tried to stand up, the grass stems bent, and down he came, right flat on his tummy again.  Then he crawled to the edge of a nearby pond and cut down four of the stiffest, strongest reeds he could find along the bank.  He glued these to his tummy, just as he had the grass stems, and tried again to stand up.  First, he moved his front legs under him as he had seen horses do, then slowly and carefully, he pushed his back legs under him.  Samuel Snail was standing on his new legs.

 

                        For a while, he just stood where he was, leaning first to one side and then to the other and nearly falling each time.  Soon, however, he was able to stop swaying and stand stiff and solid on the four reeds.  Then he tried to walk.  The first time he tried, he picked up one front leg to take a step and down he came – kerblam – right on his nose.  The next time, he tried to take a step with his back leg, but down he came again – kerblump – only this time on his tail.  All day long, Samuel kept getting up and trying to walk, but each time he started to take a step, down he would come – sometimes on his nose, sometimes on his tail, and sometimes flat on his tummy.  By nighttime, he was so tired and so sore that he could hardly crawl home to bed.  The next morning, however, Samuel was up bright and early to try his new legs again.  This time they worked better, and by the end of the week, he was able to walk all the way to the pond without falling down.

 

                        For several days, Samuel walked and walked and walked, learning how to turn corners, how to step over rocks and twigs, how to walk uphill and down, until he could walk nearly as well as you or I.  Then, he started to learn how to run.  At first, he was very slow and fell nearly every step, but each time he fell down, he picked himself up and tried again.  Each day, he was able to run a little farther and a little faster until he could run as fast you or I.  Still he kept on practicing, running and running and running, and getting a little faster each day until one day, Samuel Snail said to himself, “Now I think I can beat Roger Racehorse.”

 

                        The next time Roger Racehorse was supposed to run at the track, Samuel Snail was there.  No one could see him, though, because he hid himself behind a tall clump of grass on the very outside of the track.  When the starter said, “Get Ready.”, Roger Racehorse trotted up to the starting line and looked around the track as if to say, “Look, everybody.  Here I am, the best runner of all!”.  But he didn’t see Samuel Snail ready at his starting line behind the clump of grass.  Then the starter said “Get Set!”, and Roger Racehorse and Samuel Snail crouched at their positions, ready to jump as soon as the word was given.  At last the starter shouted, “Go!”  Roger Racehorse started off down the track as if he’d been stung and everyone shouted, “Look, look at him run!”.  Nobody saw Samuel Snail start at the same time from behind the clump of grass.  Faster and faster ran Roger Racehorse.  Faster and faster ran Samuel Snail.  Still faster and faster yet they went, but each time Roger Racehorse ran faster, Samuel Snail managed to run as fast.  On and on they ran, until – SPLASH !! – Samuel Snail had run right into a mud puddle on the outside of the track.  Frantically, he tried to get out, but with each move he made, his reed legs sank deeper and deeper into the mud.  Finally, when his tummy was right in the water, Samuel Snail unglued his four reed legs and pulled himself to dry land.

 

                        “How can I keep from getting stuck?”, he asked himself.  “What can I use that won’t sink in mud puddles?”, and away he crawled to find other legs.

                        The next day as Samuel was crawling along the road, he crawled past a clump of Lady Slippers.  This is a plant with a strong, light stalk and a flower that looks something like a lady’s shoe.  That is why it is called a Lady Slipper.  Samuel had crawled almost past the clump when he suddenly stopped and exclaimed, “Lady Slipper!.  Lady Slipper – that’s what I need!  The stalks will hold me up and the flowers will act as shoes to keep me from sinking in the mud.”  With that he gnawed down four Lady Slipper flowers, cut the stalks to the right size for legs, and glued them to his tummy.  When he tried to run, however, he kept tripping over the slipper part of the Lady Slippers, and he couldn’t run nearly as fast as he had on his reed legs.

 

                        Every day he practiced, learning how to run without tripping, and trying each day to run faster.  His Lady Slipper legs worked better and better except for one thing.  The flowers wore out much more quickly than his reed legs, so each day, and sometimes twice a day, he had to cut himself four new Lady Slipper legs.  Finally, he learned how to run again.  Now he wouldn’t have to worry about getting stuck in the mud.  He could run even faster with the Lady Slippers than he had with the old reed legs.  He knew now that he could beat Roger Racehorse.

 

                        That afternoon, Samuel Snail went up to the man who managed the racetrack and said, “Sir,”, (Samuel was always polite),  “Sir, I want to be a racehorse.  I am sure I can run faster than Roger Racehorse.”  The man looked at Samuel and laughed.  “How can you run?”, he asked, “You haven’t any legs.”.

                        “Yes I have.”, said Samuel and he crawled outside, brought in his four Lady Slipper legs and glued them to his tummy.

                        “Well, for Heaven’s sakes,”, said the man, “So you have!  But what makes you think you can run?”.

 

                        “Sir”, said Samuel, “I’ve practiced and practiced running and I’m sure I can beat Roger Racehorse.  Please let me race against him and I promise you I will run just as hard as I can.”

                        “Well, alright.”, the man answered, “If you really think you can run, you may race against Roger Racehorse tomorrow morning – but be sure you run a good race.”.

                        “I will, sir, I’m sure I will, and I thank you very much.”, and off went Samuel to get a brand new set of Lady Slipper legs for the next day’s race.

 

                        The next morning when Samuel Snail came to the track, there was Roger Racehorse waiting for him and ready to run.

                        “Good morning.”, said Roger politely, for he remembered Samuel Snail and was sorry he had been rude.

                        “Good morning.”, answered Samuel, “Are you ready to race?”.

                        “Whenever you are.”, said Roger, and they took their places at the starting line.

 

                        “Get ready.  Get set.  GO!!!”, shouted the starter, and off dashed Roger Racehorse and Samuel Snail.  Faster and faster ran Roger Racehorse – faster than he had ever run before.  But each time he ran faster, Samuel ran a little faster yet, until when they reached the finish line, Samuel Snail was three lengths ahead.

                        “Wonderful!  Bravo!  Hurrah for Samuel Snail!”, cheered the manager and the starter and the stable boys and all the people at the track, “He’s faster than any racehorse ever born.”

 

                        “Thank you very much.”, said Samuel when he was able to stop panting, “Thank you very much indeed.  I am afraid, however, that I shall have to get a new set of legs.”.  It was true.  The brand new Lady Slipper legs were quite worn out by the long hard race.

                        “That’s all right,”, said the manager of the track, “You get your new legs and we will hire you as a racehorse.  You may have a new stall in the stables, all the water and food you want, and a man to polish your shell every day.  Do you think you could be ready to race Saturday?”.

 

                        “Indeed I can.”, said Samuel, “and thank you very much.  All my life I’ve wanted to be a racehorse and now I am.”.  With that Samuel ran off on his worn out Lady Slippers to tell all his friends that he really was a racehorse now.

                        This should be the end of the story, but a rainstorm completely changed Samuel’s mind about racing.

 

                        The night after Samuel won his race against Roger Racehorse, it rained.  It rained cats and dogs and rakes and pitchforks and even a few bullfrogs and goldfish.  It was the hardest rainstorm anyone of them had ever seen.  The next day, when Samuel went out to look at his Lady Slippers, he found the plants all broken and beaten to the ground by the rain.  Even the reeds by the pond were gone.  Naturally, Samuel was very unhappy, for without legs, he couldn’t be a racehorse, and if he couldn’t be a racehorse, he just wanted to sit down and cry.  Being a good little snail, though, Samuel choked back his tears and crawled over to the stables to tell what had happened.

 

                        When the stable manager saw Samuel, he called out, “Samuel, I want to talk to you.  Could you come here a moment, please?”

                        “Samuel.”, said the man. “I have been thinking about your being a racehorse.  Races are run all year long and Lady Slippers bloom for only a short while.  How can you run without legs?”

                        “I don’t know.”, said Samuel, “The rain - - “, but the man interrupted.

 

                        “What racing stables need most are trainers, they are the people who teach racehorses how to run.  We can get plenty of racehorses, but good trainers are very hard to find.  You worked so hard to learn running that you should know many things that would be useful to racehorses.  Do you think you would like to be a trainer?”

                        Samuel gulped and thought about being a trainer, and as he thought, his antenna – which had been drooping almost to the ground – slowly began to rise.

                        “Well - - “, he began.

 

                        “You know,”, said the man, “we would be willing to raise your salary to two stalls in the stable and two men – one to polish your shell and one to scratch your tummy and cut your Lady Slipper legs.

                        “Done.”, said Samuel.

                        That is how Samuel Snail became a trainer instead of a racehorse.  As far as I know, he is still at the same track, teaching young racehorses to run.

FINIS

 

 

 

 

AFTERWORD

 

The “original” of this text was somewhat unclear and I transcribed it into a Word file for distribution.  I made three or so trivial typo corrections, but I had to order a massive resupply of punctuation marks to appropriately present the original content.  Hope you enjoy!

 

 

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