THIS UNNAMED GEOLOGICAL formation is the likely result of wind, rain and time eroading away surface material to expose what at one time would have lava (magma) that had cooled and solidified. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
COMING INTO OR out of the Chisos Mountains, this is the northwest view and is several miles south of Panther Junction and the headquarters for Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THE CLARET CUP is covered in barbed spines and blooms a reddish, cup-shaped flower from about April to June or July in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THIS VIEW FROM a formation called, “The Window,” looks out from the westside of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
INDIAN HEAD MOUNTAIN and its southern region offers this “leaning” wall of geology at the western boundary of Big Bend National Park. The rocks of the foreground are boulders ranging from man-sized on up. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
MASSIVE AND TOWERING, this wall of the geology is at least a couple of hundrend feet high and situated in the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
WIDE-OPEN PANORAMAS and mountainous terrain such as this are routine along roadside in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THE SOUTHWEST SIDE of the Chisos Mountains, also known as the Chisos Mountain Basin and home to the lodge in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2011 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A FALLEN TREE is an impassable barrier in an otherwise debris-free dry riverbed in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
INDIGENOUS TO TEXAS, New Mexico and Arizona, Javelinas in Big Bend National Park genetically differ from swine. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
LOST MINE TRAIL in Big Bend National Park, looking southward over Juniper Canyon, the Chisos Mountain’s Northeast Rim and into Mexico. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A TREE SILHOUETTED against the night sky as seen from Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
THIS VIEW EAST of a volcano is an illusion of the setting sun streaming through the Chisos Basin area behind Casa Grande Peak in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
WRIGHT MOUNTAIN in background at Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A VIEW WESTWARD after sundown from the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved.
A CAMERA COMPENSATION for the limited light after sundown provides this view westward from the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson/Camera One. All Rights Reserved.
SANTA ELENA CANYON after sunset, as seen from the Chimneys in Big Bend National Park. Copyright © 2010 by DL Tolleson/Camera One. All Rights Reserved.


Author, Photographer, Researcher, Artist, Adventurer and Buccaneer Extraordinaire

“Or at least that’s the plan each morning after coffee.”

Publication History: Jaam © Copyright 2004, 2009 DL Tolleson. All Rights Reserved. This material may be reproduced and/or utilized for non-profit, educational purposes so long as authorship attribution and content are included and remain unaltered. However, beyond this no part of this material may be reproduced for any other purposes or in any other form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Tolleson, DL. “Jaam.”, 2009.

Tolleson, DL. “Jaam.”, 2016.

Description: Short Fiction—3,152 words. Learning Support Material—781 words.

Commentary: Students are capable of more than what they are typically “under taught” when it comes to English and writing. Children are drowning in a curriculum of boring mediocrity and they love it when something challenges mind-numbing preconceptions. And if they love it, they are not only engaged, but also receptive. For example, when I taught English/writing to elementary school students I provided “advanced” literature that I pre-screened and occasionally edited to make suitable content for very young students.

How advanced was the literature? It was short stories and excerpts from my own college literature textbooks. When I revealed to the students the source of the handouts that they had been reading they were surprised and justifiably proud of themselves.

A particularly useful short story was, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which has a simpler plot than the movie starring Danny Kaye (or the remake). After the students had read the story we then discussed it in general terms, followed by breaking-down the story, line-by-line. In doing this I called upon students to read until reaching words and phrases that conveyed transitions between Walter Mitty’s reality and day dreams—and that story has a lot of transitions

It was for encouraging this sort of student engagement that I wrote the story of Jaam.

Jaam is aimed at promoting thought, reading and creative writing. After students have initially read what there is of the story, the instructor is advised to write on a chalkboard (or whiteboard) some of the more unusual words and ask students to suggest words from the story. The story can also lead to discussions regarding the history of holidays or, for that matter, any topic that promotes engagement: linguistics, animal behavior, etc.

Jaam is an intentionally unfinished story. It is to be followed-up with material that reiterates narrative highpoints and encourages possible dénouements. Some students will wrap-up the story as expeditiously as is possible. But for other students, Jaam is the Holy Grail—a doorway if you will—that ignites passionate thinking and a desire to write. At any rate, it is the unexpected that fuels the imagination and nothing is as imaginatively open-ended as a story for which the reader supplies the ending. And for this reason alone it is not the teacher’s position to explain what the teacher believes the story or story elements mean. That is totally up to each student. There is no wrong answer so long as the student creates a conclusion to the story.

Jaam is available for your classroom use. So long as the content, copyright and authorship remain unaltered, you may utilize the story of Jaam in your own classroom environment. To that end the story of Jaam and the text of a supportive classroom handout are included below.

—DL Tolleson

DL Tolleson

Part I

Jaam was a rabbit.

Of course, normally rabbits don’t know that they are rabbits because rabbits do not usually know those things. Just like horses don’t know that they are horses, and frogs don’t know that they are frogs, rabbits do not know that they are rabbits. It isn’t like rabbits, horses or frogs are stupid; it is just that animals do not think about themselves that way. They simply are what they are and they don’t really worry about it—usually, that is.

Only humans do those sorts of silly things—usually.

It is kind of like the Indians in the old west. They didn’t start out thinking that they were Indians. In their own language, they just thought of themselves as the people. It didn’t take long for that to change, though. After everyone started coming to America from faraway places, the people that had been living here for hundreds of years soon learned that they all needed a name for what they were. Of course, they didn’t really need a name, but everyone told them that they did and even gave them a name. After a while, all the people that were first living here were called Indians. They were called Indians because the guy who found them was lost and thought he was in India. And so when the people that lived here actually discovered him and found him lost on the shore of their land, he said something like, “I guess I’m in India, I’ve discovered you and you are Indians.” After that, everyone that came over just kept repeating the same mistake.

But lucky enough for the animals, all those people coming from faraway places never learned to speak the languages of horses, frogs, rabbits or other animals. And so none of the animals had to learn that there were names for them, too.

Even dogs never learned that they were dogs.

No really, it is true. Dogs are pretty smart though, and they convinced humans that they had learned some of the human words. Words like sit, stay, heel, rollover, play dead, shake hands and several other words. But what the dogs really learned was the different sounds that the humans made and they learned that the humans wanted certain things to happen when they spoke those sounds. Dogs figured out that when a human said “walk” that the human meant to get up and move from one place to another. The Dogs also figured out that humans weren’t smart enough to learn their dog language, and so dogs learned to understand a lot of the sounds that the humans made.

But the dogs really never understood what the words meant. And that was okay with the dogs. They had enough on their minds already—but that is a completely different story and has nothing to do with the story of Jaam.

Now Jaam just happened to really be Jaam’s name. In the language of humans however, the name Jaam doesn’t sound anything like it sounds when a rabbit pronounces it in rabbit language. The same is true for all animal names. Jaam’s friend, a dog with the dog name of Really Loud and Long Howler, was named with the human name of Bow. It was pronounced like the bow and arrow. None of Bow’s animal friends ever knew why the humans named him Bow, but that’s the name they gave him and the name he used instead of his real, dog name. In dog language, the name Bow was also much longer than the name, Really Loud and and Long Howler.

In rabbit language Jaam’s name meant, “let me think about it.” You see, when Jaam was born and all the other rabbits asked his mother what she was going to name her new son, she said, “Let me think about.”

She then went to sleep because she was very tired. When she woke-up a day later, everyone was calling her son “Let Me Think About it,” which in rabbit sounds like “Jaam,” and which in human language doesn’t sound anything like it looks when it is written. But that’s the best humans can do with his name. Anyway, Jaam’s mother was too embarrassed to admit she had been too tired to name her son, and so Jaam was stuck with a name that in rabbit means, “let me think about it.”

All of that happened years ago. The odd thing was that by the time Jaam was a young rabbit living on his own he actually did think about a lot of things. Jaam was a real thinker. He was, in fact, a natural genius. On the one hand, that was great since it made him just about the smartest thing on the planet. But on the other hand, it was not so great because he was always distracted with thinking about things. And that is one of the reasons Jaam and Bow met.

Poor Bow was having really bad luck. His human owner had watched a television show about how animals liked to live in the wild. Feeling badly about making Bow stay inside the house all day, the human took Bow in a car, driving into the mountains for about 200 miles where he set the dog free. It was not a smart thing to do.

One of the problems was that Bow was a housedog and didn’t want his freedom. He had been perfectly happy staying inside, curled up in the sunshine that streamed through the window every day. As soon as he had his freedom, Bow cried about it. Bow was also a Siberian Husky and when Huskies cry it is a long, loud and wailing sound. It sounds a lot like Bow’s dog name, Really Loud and Long Howler.

The human, whose name was David, also cried—but he didn’t howl like Bow.

Now, unlike animal names, human names mean things that we humans understand. For example, the name David means “beloved.” As it happened, David really was a lot like his name—he was a nice guy. Had he realized Bow didn’t want anything to do with this freedom stuff, he wouldn’t have driven a round trip of 400 miles to set Bow free. But David couldn’t speak dog language, and as he drove away he had no way of knowing that Bow was calling for him to come back. David cried all the way back home because he missed Bow. And Bow cried for a long time, too.

Like all Dogs, Bow had a really good nose. So, after he got over all the crying he decided he would sniff his way back home and started walking. But it was a slow and difficult journey because really big rivers forced Bow to spend hours finding the bridges that crossed over each watery obstacle. And then there were the times that he got picked up by strangers from whom he had to escape. He had to also watch-out for the Animal Control Officer, who would have picked him up and taken him to the animal shelter to be adopted.

Bow didn’t want that. He wanted to get back to David.

And that was Bow’s story when, after about two weeks, he was walking along the side of a river and looking for a bridge. He was so involved with looking for a bridge that he never saw Jaam right there on the ground in front of him. The accident wasn’t entirely Bow’s fault. Jaam was so distracted with thinking about how fish talk, that he never even heard Bow approaching.

But Bow and Jaam suddenly became aware of each other when the distracted Bow tripped over the distracted Jaam. Bow stumbled into a summersault and onto his back. Jaam was rolled over about twice, ending up with his feet sticking straight into the air. It was very embarrassing for both of them. Nobody wants his or her feet sticking straight up into the air—unless you’re asleep, of course. There’s nothing as wonderful as sleeping with your feet up in the air and your tail swishing back and forth. But that’s a lot different than having your feet sticking straight up into the air when you are wide-awake. That is just simply embarrassing.

They both rolled back over onto their feet to see what had interrupted their thinking. Jaam, a very educated rabbit, knew he was looking at a housedog since no dog in the wild would ever trip over a white rabbit that is plainly visible and thinking about other things. But Bow was not well-traveled. Up until now he had never been much further than a trip around the block or a car ride to the city park. So what Bow thought he was looking at was the weirdest dog he had ever had the chance to meet. This particular dog, Bow noticed, had more ears than tail and hardly any nose at all.

“Uh, excuse me,” Bow said. Now, of course, Bow said this in dog talk, which sounded like a sort of low and polite growl.

It is true that Jaam was a wild rabbit. But he wasn’t a crazy sort of wild rabbit. Instead, he was a rabbit that lived in the wild. Having lived in the wild, Jaam had studied all the animals in nature—and especially dogs. Dogs, Jaam had long ago realized, were the favorite animals of humans. And humans were by far the most uneducated and yet most interesting animals of all. Jaam thought about humans and dogs a lot. In fact, Jaam had studied humans and dogs so much that he had one special advantage over just about every animal in the animal kingdom—including humans.

For as weird and unbelievable as it sounds, Jaam understood both dogs and humans. And not only that, but Jaam could speak dog language as well as his own rabbit language. So naturally, after Bow apologized, Jaam barked back in dog language and said, “That’s okay, no problem.”

A barking rabbit is not something you see every day. And Bow, who had never even seen a rabbit, thought Jaam was one really weird looking dog. Of course, Bow was too nice to tell Jaam that he was a weird looking dog, Instead, Bow said the most important thing on his mind: Bow asked, “You wouldn’t know a quick way to get back to David’s house, would you?”

“David’s house?” said Jaam, thinking for a moment of where he had heard the name.

“Yeah, David’s house,” Bow said.

Then Jaam remembered where he had heard the name. It had been about a year earlier when a preacher and his family had been camping out in the woods near where Jaam lived. Jaam had listened all night while the preacher had read from a big book about a human named David. This human had killed a giant, had fought a lion and had grown-up to be a King. The preacher then said that a whole bunch of years later some other guy had been born that was called the, “Son of David,” and that guy was the reason for Easter.

It was much too confusing to Jaam. At that time he had barely learned to understand human language, and nothing the preacher said made much sense. The preacher’s kids made even less sense. They started talking about this thing called Easter and Easter bunnies and Easter rabbits and Easter eggs and on and on. The Preacher then said,” no that’s not what Easter is about.”

Whatever it was about, it was too confusing to Jaam and he hopped away with a headache.

But now, with Bow having tripped over him and having asked about a faster way to David’s house, Jaam remembered the Preacher and the story of David.

What Jaam said, still barking like a dog, was “Well, I’ve heard of David.”

“That’s wonderful.”

“Do you know him?” Jaam asked.

“Oh yes,” Bow answered. “He’s my human.”

“I see,” Jaam said. “Are all those stories about him true?”

“What stories?” Bow questioned.

“That he killed a giant with a slingshot,” Jaam said. “And that he fought a lion. And that he was a King. And because of David’s son, human children want Easter rabbits and Easter eggs and such things…”

Bow sat down. He said, “Well goodness. I don’t know what David does when he leaves the house. But I guess it is all possible. I do recall him making the human language sound of ‘Easter’ after every Warm, Hot, Cool and Cold.”

Being an animal, Jaam knew that Bow was talking about an entire year. You must remember that animals don’t speak English and very often use different words than humans use. In this case, Bow was saying that David mentioned Easter after the seasons had passed through the changes of warm, hot cool and cold weather temperatures. In other words, David mentioned Easter every year.

“Well I don’t know where he is,” Jaam said. “And since I don’t know where he is, I don’t know a shortcut to that place about which I know nothing. But I’ll tag along with you to find him. I would like to meet a human that’s done all those things.”

“You’re welcome to come along,” Bow barked, but it’s going to be a long trip. All the smells are several light times away.”

Jaam knew that Bow meant the smells of his home were so far away that it would take several days to get there. For animals, each day is called a “light time” and each night is called a “dark time.”

“That’s fine by me,” Jaam said. “I’ve got a lot of thinking to do and that should give me plenty of time in which to get some of it done.”

And so off they went in search of David and the meaning of all this Easter stuff.

Part II

It was a long trip and it took another three weeks. But when they finally got to Bow’s house and walked up onto the porch, Jaam turned to Bow and barked, “You know, I can understand humans, but I can’t speak their language.”

“I understand some of their sounds,” Bow said back. Like that sound that you said was the word ‘Easter.’ But I don’t know what all their sounds mean.”

Jaam’s ear twitched. He said, “I don’t know how we’re going to find out anything if we can’t talk their language.”

Just then, after having heard all this barking on the porch, David opened the front door of the house. David was about 6 feet tall and very gaunt. He had a bunch of hair that looked like someone had put a big black mop on his head. Looking down at Bow and Jaam, David looked like he was about to cry with joy.

“Bow!” David said.

“David!” Bow howled in dog language.

David bent down and scoop up Bow in a big hug and Bow licked his face he was so happy to see the human.

“Uh excuse me,” Jaam said in rabbit language—which is so quiet no one ever hears it.

And, in fact, Bow and David didn’t hear Jaam.

And so Jaam cleared his throat and in dog language, loudly called out, “EXCUSE ME!”

David, his eyes huge, looked down at the barking rabbit.

“A barking rabbit?” David gasped.

“Oh that’s Jaam,” Bow explained while wagging his tail. Of course, Bow explained it in dog language and David didn’t understand a word of it.”

Jaam’s ear twitched. How in the world was he going to ask this human about giants and lions and being King and Easter? The human wasn’t smart enough to understand rabbit or dog, and while Jaam could understand human language, he couldn’t speak a word of it.

David slowly sat Bow down and reached out to lift Jaam. Jaam was surprised that the human knew how to lift him. If you’re going to pick up a rabbit, you should do so by the back of the rabbit’s neck. That’s the way their mothers pick them up and that’s the only way they should be picked up. That’s exactly what David did.

Jaam didn’t care too much for David also holding his back feet, but Jaam figured that if David had fought lions, then David could do just about anything and it would be pointless to fight him about it.

With Bow following, David took Jaam into the house and sat him on the table, next to a bunch of brightly painted eggs. Jaam didn’t know what the un-hatched chicken eggs were doing on the table, but what did excite Jaam was the big black book that was lying there. It was same sort of book that the preacher had used when Jaam first heard the story about David and Easter and all that.

Jaam made two hops over to the book and opened it with his nose. The problem, Jaam then realized, was that he didn’t know how to make the sounds that were in the book.

To Jaam, the written words were like large insect tracks. Jaam figured that each funny looking symbol was the track of a human word, and just like certain ants or beetles left different tracks in the sand, the different human words left tracks when put on paper. Jaam didn’t know how all that happened, but he had seen it work that way when the Preacher looked at his book and when travelers stopped to look at the word tracks that other humans had put on those really hard pieces of paper alongside the road. Of course Jaam didn’t know that those hard pieces of paper were actually metal signs. But for the most part he understood enough to realize humans knew how to follow the written word tracks so as to make the sounds.

David wasn’t interested in the book, or the eggs. He was staring at Jaam, a rabbit that had just barked like a dog.

“Can you really bark?” David said, not really expecting an answer.

Jaam looked up, and in dog language barked back. “Well, duh! Didn’t you hear me the first time?”

“Holy Cow!” David said, shocked.

Jaam, always the thinker, realized that he might be able to find out what he wanted by talking dog language whenever David mentioned it.

“An Easter bunny that barks,” David mumbled.

“Oh yeah,” Jaam barked back. “I talk dog.”

David bent over to look Jaam in the face.

Jaam twitched an ear and pointed his nose at the book, looked at David and then pointed his nose at the book again.

“Can you read?” David asked. At this point he was ready to believe just about anything.

Jaam shook his head no.

Becoming even more shocked, David asked, “Do you understand me?”

Jaam nodded his head yes.

David sat back in his chair, too surprised to even speak.

• • •

Jaam is the story of one the smartest animals in the world. Jaam is a rabbit and in rabbit language, his name means, “Let me think about it.” And boy does he think about things. When he first meets the dog named Bow, Jaam is thinking about how fish talk. Does this mean Jaam had already heard fish talking and was trying to figure out how to do it? With this rabbit, who knows? He does, after all, understand human language and can talk in rabbit as well as dog language (it makes him sound like a barking dog!)

Here are some questions (but not all questions) that the story does not answer:

• What happens next?

• Does Jaam figure out how to talk or better communicate with David?

• Does Bow help?

• Do Bow and Jaam learn what Easter is all about?

• Do Bow and Jaam learn about Easter bunnies and Easter eggs?

• Do Bow and Jaam learn who the Preacher was talking about when saying David had killed a giant, fought a lion and was a King?

• Is the David that the preacher talked about the same David with whom Bow lives?

• Why are there brightly painted eggs on David’s table?

• What is that big book David has?

These are the characters about which you have read:

• Jaam

• Bow

• Jaam’s mother

• David (who lives with Bow)

• The Preacher

• The Preacher’s kids

• Animal Control Officer

Now, what if you were going to add to the story? For example, where in the story can you find new characters if needed? (Here is a hint: “They are on a table, brightly colored and might hatch out of their shells.”)

So, if you were to add other characters, make-up names for them and in the space below write those names and something you might also make-up about those characters:

Jaam and Bow have handled a lot of obstacles (things that were in the way or that had to be overcome). Some of them include:

• They have walked (and hopped) more than 200 miles.

• Bow has been caught and had to escape from people who wanted to keep him.

• Bow has had to hide from the Animal Control Officer.

• Jaam and Bow had to walk (and hop) around rivers just to find bridges.

• Jaam had to learn to talk dog language and to understand human language.

But it isn’t just the make-believe characters that might face obstacles. Writers handle obstacles all the time. For example, if you were to finish the story of Jaam, you might want to find ways to handle the following story problems:

• Bow doesn’t know human language or rabbit language, so do you make-up a way for him to learn these languages?

• David doesn’t know dog or rabbit language. Do you make-up a way for him to learn?

• Jaam can’t speak human language and can’t read. Does he continue to just nod in answer to questions or do you make-up a way for him to learn?

Goals are things that you want to accomplish and in the story the characters have had some of the following goals:

• Bow has reached his goal and found home.

• Jaam wants to know what Easter is

• Jaam wants to know who the David was that killed a giant, fought a lion and became a King.

• Jaam wants to know what Easter bunnies and Easter eggs are.

Can you think of any other goals that the characters have or might have? If you think of any, write them here:

Some other things to think about when writting: How will you finish the story? Will Jaam stay or go back to the mountains? Can you come up with a surprising, exciting or interesting ending?

Jaam and Bow have overcome nearly every obstacle in their way so far. They are close to getting the information they want. Amazing things have already happened. Think of the characters and any new characters you might want to add to the story. Imagine a way for them to overcome the obstacles in the story so that Jaam can reach his goals. Here are the last few sentences of the story, Jaam:

Jaam, always the thinker, realized that he might be able to find out what he wanted by talking dog language whenever David mentioned it.

“An Easter Bunny that barks,” David mumbled.

“Oh yeah,” Jaam barked back. “I talk dog.”

David bent over to look Jaam in the face.

Jaam twitched an ear and pointed his nose at the book, looked at David and then pointed his nose at the book again.

“Can you read?” David asked. At this point he was ready to believe just about anything.

Jaam shook his head no.

Becoming even more shocked, David asked, “Do you understand me?”

Jaam nodded his head yes.

David sat back in his chair, too surprised to even speak.

Now it is up to you.
Finish the story of Jaam!