One day, old Brother Terrapin was a-grumbling and a-fussing, because he had to creep on the ground. When he met Brother Rabbit, he grumbled because he can’t run like Brother Rabbit, and when he met Brother Buzzard, he grumbled because he can’t fly in the clouds like Brother Buzzard, and so on. Grumble, grumble, grumble. That was Brother Terrapin.
Folks were wore out with his complaining, and so they agreed among themselves that they going to teach Brother Terrapin a lesson. The birds, they were going to take him way up in the clouds and scare him. So, Miss Crow flew down to the ground near Brother Terrapin. When he started grumbling at her, she said: “Brother Terrapin, get on my back, and I will give you a ride in the clouds.”
Brother Terrapin, he was mighty set up in the mind about this idea. He got on Miss Crow’s back, and they sailed off in the sky. They sailed this way, and they sailed that way. Brother Terrapin, he looked down on all his friends, and he felt really proud that he was away up here and they were away down there.
But presently Miss Crow got tired, and she said: “This is just as high as I can go, Brother Terrapin, but here come Brother Buzzard. He can fly higher than I can. You just get on his back, and he will sail you higher.”
So Brother Terrapin, he got on Brother Buzzard back, and they flew higher and higher, till Brother Terrapin couldn’t see his friends no more. Brother Terrapin, he thought that that this was the best day of his life.
They flew over the woods, and they flew over the waters, until Brother Buzzard felt broken down from a-toting Brother Terrapin. He said: “This here is just as high as I can go, Brother Terrapin. But here comes Miss Hawk. She can go higher than I can.”
Miss Hawk said she be delighted to take Brother Terrapin for a ride. So Brother Terrapin, he got on Miss Hawk’s back, and they went higher and higher. Brother Terrapin, he enjoyed it fine. He said to himself: “I’m getting up in the clouds now, sure enough.”’
But directly here comes King Eagle, and he said: “Oho, Brother Terrapin, you can’t call this flying! Sis Hawk, if you going to fly Brother Terrapin, why don’t you take him up where he can get a sight?”
Miss Hawk, she’s obliged to say that she’s flying just as high as she can go. Then King Eagle said: “Well, just get on my back, and get a real ride.”
So Brother Terrapin, he gets on King Eagle’s back, and they went up and up till ole Brother Terrapin, he got scared. He begged King Eagle to get down. But King Eagle just laughed and sailed higher and higher, till old Brother Terrapin wished he’d never wanted to fly in the clouds. He faulted himself because he was such a grumbling fool and vowed if he ever got on his own feet once more, he would never again grumble because he couldn’t fly in the clouds.
Brother Terrapin said: “Oh please, King Eagle, take me down; I am that scared, I’m about to drop!”
But King Eagle just soared higher and higher, and poor old Brother Terrapin was so scared that he was about to lose his grip and tumble off.
Just then, Brother Terrapin remembered that he had a spool of thread in his pocket, that Missus Terrapin had sent him to fetch home from the store that day. He tied one end of the thread to King Eagle’s leg, unbeknownst to him, and dropped the spool to the ground. The Brother Terrapin took hold of the thread, and he slipped down to the ground.
After that, you never heard tell of old Brother Terrapin a-grumbling and a-fussing because he couldn’t run like Brother Rabbit or fly like Brother Buzzard. He was happy enough just where he stood, with all four of his feet on the ground!
Copyrighted content: This is a retold folklore story by S.E. Schlosser, who owns the copyright. This version of the story may not be reproduced, reprinted or used in any other way without the permission of the author. Teachers may link to or photocopy this story as part of their classwork.