The Golden Tulips of the Painted Desert

Mr. Toad, feeling the pinch of poverty because Badger put him on a strict allowance goes Searching for the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Marley is feeling disappointed because Death Valley has no Saguaro cactuses – the kind that look like they have arms. Chuck the guardian Dodo bird arranges for Marley help Mole and him rescue Toad from the desert heat and from the crazed Stromboli.

The Golden Tulips of the Painted Desert

by

Tonton Jim

“Where are the cactuses with the funny arms?” From the backseat of Mom and Dad’s SUV, Marley stared hard at the passing emptiness. She asked herself for the tenth time, “This is the Death Valley desert?”

“Oh, I don’t think we’re going to see any of those here in this desert,” said her father. “But, just think, we’re going to be below sea level. Imagine that, Marley.”

“Will we be able to look up at whales?”

“Um, no. It doesn’t work that way.”

The day after Marley’s father announced the weekend mini-vacation, she’d promised the know-it-all boy in her class a real photo of the cactus with arms. So far, she hadn’t seen any cactuses at all, just scrubby little bushes that looked like they could use a shower. After driving for about an hour more, they arrived at their Furnace Creek resort. The one-hundred-and-ten-degree heat hit her the second she opened the door of the air-conditioned SUV. It felt like a too warm invisible blanket had been thrown over her. As she walked to their room she could feel the heat on every part of her body. Of course, the first thing she and her family did was to put on their bathing suits and sunscreen and head off to the pool.

Later that day, as the sun made long shadows, she asked her mother’s permission to walk to the top of the hill behind the motel. She wanted to take her father’s binoculars and her camera and search around for that special cactus. She just knew they really did exist and weren’t cartoon silliness. But even with her valid reason, her mother said, “No.”

“I promise not to get lost.”

“Umm, I know you won’t, but…” Her mother hesitated because she didn’t want to say that her main fear was rattlesnakes. “Why don’t you stay on the hotel grounds and tomorrow your father and I will take you on a desert hike, before it gets too hot.”

Knowing where the hotel grounds ended and the barren desert started was easy. The hotel grounds flourished with green grass, trees and shrubs. Outside of the hotel property, almost nothing grew, certainly nothing green. So, Marley walked to the edge of the green lawn. She put the binoculars to her eyes and searched and searched. There was not a single tall with arms cactus out there in the tan dirt flatness, not a cactus to be seen. In fact, there were hardly any plants at all. Her disappointment smothered her as much as the heat. Not wanting to cry – sweat already dripped down her face – she sat down in the scruffy grass, knees up and her face buried between them. She heard her mother call her name, but she wasn’t going to move – not for dinner, not for her mom or dad, not for anyone.

She felt a finger tap her on her shoulder. Without raising her face, she said, “Go away, I hate this place.”

“Oh,” said the familiar voice of Chuck, her guardian dodo bird, “I had high hopes you’d be able to help us.”

Marley looked up and immediately felt better. Forty degrees cooler, in fact. But being by the banks of the Storybook Land Grand Canal always felt cooler.

“Help you? Of course, I will, but how?”

“Toad, the dear, dear creature, has done it again. Come inside and we’ll explain it to you over a nice cup of hot chocolate and some dodonuts.”

They walked up the grassy slope to Toad Hall. Marley noticed ladders against the stately brick mansion and some workmen on the roof. As they drew close to the front door, she glanced through the window and could see the backs of the comfy chairs by the fireplace. Chuck led the way in while saying, “I bring glad tidings. Marley has agreed to help us.” And then, he headed straight to the kitchen while Marley continued into the sitting room.

Badger, Mole, and Ratty stood up from their chairs by the fire and turned to face Marley. Their expressions clearly showed their pleasure at seeing their old friend again.

“Lassie, that is good news, indeed. I myself would gladly go after the errant animal, but unfortunately, I must stay here and oversee the workmen.”

“I’d go,” said Ratty, “but I must stay home to oversee the plumbers. River water has leaked into my basement.”

“It’s canal water,” said Mole softly and then, joyfully, to Marley, “It’s wonderfully nice of you to pay us a visit, and especially on this day. We have visiting royalty.”

“Aye, the queen of the fairies,” said Badger as he headed to the front door. “We mustn’t keep her majesty waiting. Come along at once. As we walk and row, I’ll explain what the daft Toad has done this time.”

Ratty shouted in the direction of the kitchen, “We’re off to see Queen Mab and to ask Tinker Bell to help us with some fairy dust. Join us when you can.”

“Right-o,” answered the voice of Chuck.

As they walked down the front lawn of Toad Hall toward the boathouse on the canal, Badger explained, “You see, lassie, it all started because of Toad Hall being in such bad repair.”

“It takes a lot of money to maintain these old mansions,” said Ratty.

“So, in order to pay for the repairs,” said Badger, “I had to put Toad on a strict allowance, for you well know what a wastrel he can be.”

“I’ve heard stories,” replied Marley who hadn’t read the book but had seen the cartoon movie.

“They’re all true.” Ratty shook his head. “The things he’s wasted good money on.”

“Things like cars, caravans, and even airplanes?” asked Marley.

“Aye, lassie, plus the timeshare beachfront condo far above the Arctic Circle, where he never goes, I might add.”

“Can’t say as I blame him,” said Mole.

“Anyway, you can plainly see that he had to be put on a very strict allowance.”

“Poor Toad,” said Marley.

“With so little spending money, he soon descended into poor spirits and became desperate to find another source of income,” said Ratty.

“That’s when that blighter showed up at the front door selling treasure maps,” said Badger. “Toad gave him all the coins he had in his pocket plus his father’s gold watch in exchange for a map to a goldmine.”

“The silly animal should’ve realized that no one sells something valuable for a gold watch and a pocketful of change,” said Ratty. “But the worse part is that Toad really believes he has a map to the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. It’s suppose to exist somewhere in the Painted Desert.”

“Where’s that?” asked Marley who was unfamiliar with gold mines, lost or found.

“Remember the frontier town where you caught the riverboat?” asked Mole.

“Yeah, I sure do,” said Marley.

“Well, you go to that town, take a right, and that leads you to the town of Rainbow Ridge which is right next to a mountain and on the other side of that mountain is the Painted Desert and somewhere in that vast wasteland is where Toad has gone off to.”

 

It’s a Small World (After All). Words and music by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman