The Hervey Foundation for Cats
Gary and Morris Hold a Toothpick Race

Gary and Morris Hold a Toothpick Race

“What a gorgeous spring day!” said Gary, just as he walked right into a deep puddle. “I’m soaking wet now!”

Morris laughed. “It really is a great day,” he said.

“Yeah right,” said Gary. “And by the way, I said it was a gorgeous day.”

The two cats were hanging out in the backyard, feeling the moist ground from the melting snow. The smell of the wet dirt and grass was in the air, and despite having just walked into a small body of water, Gary was loving it.

“I can feel summer around the corner. This is my favourite time of year you know!” 

“Yes, I know,” said Morris. “You talk about it constantly.”

“Right. Well, I just loooooove this time of year. It reminds me that summer is right around the corner,” said Gary… again. 

“Okay, well I’m bored, so why don’t you dry off, then let’s go see what Terrance is up to. And if I have to hear about how much you love this time of year again, I am going to move to Calgary,” said Morris.

Gary and Morris found a nice dry spot in the sunlight and lay down in the grass. After about 20 minutes, Gary’s fur was dry and they two had fallen asleep. 

An hour later, Morris awoke and realized what had happened. 

“Gary! Wake up! We fell asleep!” he exclaimed.

Gary woke up and confirmed what Morris was saying.

“Holy smokes! How long did we sleep for?” said Gary.

“I have a very loose understanding of time, but the sun is still out, so it probably wasn’t all that bad,” said Morris.

“You wanted to drop by and say hi to Terrance?” said Gary.

“Yes!” said Morris. “Let’s go!”

The two cats immediately bolted as fast as they could down to the riverbed where their friend Terrance the Beaver lived. 

As both cats got down to the riverbed, they saw Terrance outside working on his habitat. Being a beaver, he was an expert dam-builder who had a mind for details. This morning, he was adding wet mud to areas above the waterline. He would add packs of mud scooped up with his tail, then slap it down in place, and wait for the sun to bake it dry. 

“Morning Terrance!” said Gary.

“Hey buddy!” said Morris. 

“Hello boys!” said Terrance.

“What are you working on, Terrance?” said Morris.

“Well, gents, as the snow melts, it turns to water which trickles down into my dam. As you may know, water is powerful. It can carve mountains. When it comes into my dam, it loosens up certain parts of my roof, which I am plugging up right now!”

“Oh wow,” said Gary. “That’s a lot of work to maintain!” 

“Well, I prefer to maintain my own place than live in a human shelter,” said Terrance. “Nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not for me.”

“Does the moving water from the river hurt your dam?” said Morris.

“Good question, my friend!” said Terrance. “It might, but to prevent it from hurting the walls of my home, I have diverted the flow of the water around it.”

Terrance gestured for the cats to follow him, then made his way across the top of the dam over to his diversion. 

“This is where I divert the water from the river around my home, so it can continue to flow,” said Terrance.

“That is really cool! It’s like a small rushing river,” said Morris.

“It really is!” said Terrance. “Sometimes I like to throw small sticks in at the top and watch them rush down through.”

“That sounds like fun,” said Morris.

“That gives me an idea!” said Gary, as he stared deeply into the rushing water.

“What’s going on?” said Morris. 

“There is a lot of snow melting around the Foundation property. Why don’t we create our own diversion, much like what Terrance has done here, but smaller, then use some of those little sticks the humans have to race?”

“You want to race with sticks?” said Morris. 

“Yeah!” said Gary. “Terrance, throw another small stick in at the top for us.” 

“No problem!” said Terrance, who enthusiastically barged back into the forest to go find a stick. 

After crashing around for about 45 seconds, he re-emerged with a small stick in his mouth, made his way to where the river water entered his diversion, and threw the stick in at the top.

Both cats and the beaver sat there watching the stick tumble through the natural obstacle course. Terrance had built it to move water around his home safely, but it was also a great source of entertainment.

“I think we should build something like this, but much smaller, at the Foundation!” said Gary.

“Oh okay. Now I get it!” said Morris. “And you want to use human sticks? The ones they put in their mouths?”

“Yes!” said Gary. “But what are they called?”

“Toothpicks!” shouted Morris. He was very excited he had thought of the right word. 

“That’s it!” said Gary. “We can make a little course, invite all our friends, everyone gets a different-coloured toothpick and we all race in the water!”

“Will there be prizes?” asked Terrance. 

“Of course, there will be prizes!” said Gary.

“I like prizes,” said Terrance.

“We are going to take off for a bit to get everything ready, but we will come back to get you when it is time to race!” said Gary, who then looked over at Morris and gestured. “Let’s go!”

Once again, the two cats took off as fast as they could.

Back at the foundation, Gary and Morris looked for spots with lots of melting snow, or where water was running downhill.

They headed down towards the road where there was a sewer grate with water running into it, then followed the running water back to its source.

“Looks like this stream could make a great rushing river for our race,” said Morris. “But it’s too close to the road.”

“It is on the road,” said Gary. “But look, it’s fed by this giant puddle back up on our property!”

“Oh nice,” said Morris. “But wait!” 

He ran over to the far side of the big puddle.

“Look at this!”

All the way on the other side, moving fast and feeding the big puddle, was a downhill stream coming from a massive pile of melting snow.

“This is perfect!” said Gary.

“What now?” said Morris.

“Well, now I think it would make sense to make a bit of an obstacle course for the toothpicks to travel through. We need to add some turns, bumps, and objects!” said Gary.

“That sounds like fun!” said Morris. “I think I have a few ideas.”

The two cats got to work, moving snow into place to make turns, bumps, and other elements. Once finished, the water flowed not just downhill, but up, down, around, and in ways that were designed to not fully inhibit racers, but to make it harder to be the one toothpick who makes it to the end first. 

“Let’s give this thing a test!” said Morris.

Both cats went inside the Foundation to grab a container of toothpicks from the kitchen. 

“I know they are here,” said Gary. “I’ve seen them in here before.”

After a bit of work, Gary managed to get into one of the cabinets and pushed the toothpicks off the shelf the same way all cats love to knock things off shelves.

“Boy that was satisfying,” said Gary. “I think I will go for one more.”

He also, for reasons only known by the original creator of cats, felt compelled to push a box of crackers off the shelf too. After making quick work of the cracker box, he jumped down onto the floor where Morris was already waiting with the toothpicks in his mouth. 

“Let’s rock!” said Gary.

Once back outside, the two cats tested their new toothpick racetrack. They dumped a bunch of toothpicks into the water at the top and let them tumble and dance all the way down to the bottom. Out of 15 or so, only three made it to the end and Gary and Morris thought that was perfect. 

“Looks like we have the right sort of odds! Now it’s time to find some markers so people can follow their toothpick as it races, and then we need some prizes!” said Gary.

“We also need to get people to come race!” said Morris. “I can take care of that part if you want to get the markers and prizes ready.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Gary.

Morris headed out to find some racers while Gary went back inside the Foundation to find the items he needed.

Morris made his way through the woods and the valley, inviting all the friends from the winter, and those who were just waking up from hibernation, or starting to migrate back from having spent the winter down South.

He spoke with the raccoons, the bears, the squirrels, the prairie dog families, some Geese and other birds who had returned early from down South, Bullwinkle the moose, and, of course, Terrance the beaver.

By the time Morris got back to the Foundation with Terrance, everyone else had already arrived and they were all waiting to get started. Gary was standing at the top of the melting snow hill keeping the crowd entertained when he saw his feline counterpart approaching alongside Terrance the beaver.

“Time to get started everyone! Morris is back!” he exclaimed.

“Indeed, I am!” shouted Morris.

“Rules for today are as follows,” Gary told the crowd. “Everybody takes one marker and two toothpicks. Before we begin, mark both your toothpicks with your marker. That colour represents your team. Both of your toothpicks are your drivers.”

The crowd started to shade in the fronts, backs, and in some cases, the entirety of their toothpicks using their markers.

“Once your toothpicks are ready, we are all going to get together at the start of the race, then drop both toothpicks in at the same time. After that, we watch them tumble and bounce down our watercourse, and finally into the big puddle. The first three teams to cross the finish line receive a prize!”

The animals all let out a collective cry of excitement and then made their way to the top of the course. Gary was waiting there to help everyone get their toothpicks ready while Morris waited at the bottom to record the first three teams across the line.

“I have a question,” said Joey the squirrel. “What if both our toothpicks cross the finish line? Do we get two prizes?”

“That would certainly be quite impressive,’ said Gary. “But with this course, the odds of getting stuck are pretty high, so we gave everyone two toothpicks so they’d have two chances. With that said, if you get both of yours across the finish line, we will get you something extra special!”

Joey smiled and got ready to drop his toothpicks in the water.

“Everyone ready?” said Gary. “3… 2… 1… GO!”

The animals dropped their toothpicks into the water and the race was on.

At first, there were so many toothpicks a bit of a traffic jam happened. About 10 of them got stuck on the first little bump due to how many were trying to get over it all at once. Gary handed out some cat slaps to those toothpicks that were stuck, and they suddenly were back in the race.

Out in front was Bullwinkle the moose. His red toothpicks had a quick start and got sucked down the course before the traffic jam happened. Even with that though, his second toothpick got stuck on a turn embankment and all he was left with was the one he had in the lead. 

Mama Raccoon was in second and third place with her orange toothpicks. Somehow both had made it through without getting stuck as of yet!

Then rounding out the top five were the lucky two pink toothpicks from one of the Canada geese!

As they all snaked their way down the first sector of the course, Bullwinkle held onto his lead, one of Mama Raccoon’s toothpicks got stuck on a corner, and one of the Canada geese’s went over the side after coming out of a bend too quickly. 

Seemingly out of nowhere, like a rocket, Terrance the beaver’s final blue toothpick shot past the rest of the pack and was gaining on the top three at a rapid pace. While most of the toothpicks would randomly get hung up on things, only to be dislodged by other toothpicks or the rushing water, he had gnawed the tip of both of his to be extra blunt so they wouldn’t hang up on things. Sadly, one of them went so fast through a turn is shot right off the edge of the course. His remaining toothpick, however, confidently bounced off the track elements and past the other racers!

About halfway through the course, Bullwinkle’s toothpick got stuck on a sidewall, which had happened before, but only briefly, being dislodged by other racers. This time, instead of bumping into him to free him, the other two toothpicks behind him sailed right past! And adding insult to injury, so did Terrance’s toothpick! 

Bullwinkle’s shot at the win seemed over. He was eventually freed from the sidewall when the rest of the pack plowed into him. All the toothpicks that got stuck at the start of the race had bonded together and were moving through the course as one big log jam. 

Getting into the final stretch, Terrance’s toothpick shot past the Canada goose, whose toothpick was bumping end to end off the sidewalls down a straight. The goose was disappointed at how slow it was moving, but there was nothing they could do!

It was now down to Mama Raccoon and Terrance. They had both followed their toothpicks down the hill as they wove their way through the straights and the turns. It was neck and neck! One moment it would seem like Terrance had finally overtaken Mama Raccoon, then they’d enter a turn, and she would pull ahead. 

On the final straight, nobody knew who was going to take it, and it almost came down to a photo finish, which thankfully it was not. Morris had to call the winner at the end of the race and he cannot operate a camera. He has no thumbs.

“And the winner is… Mama Raccoon!” yelled Morris.

Her orange toothpick floated out into the big puddle at the bottom of the course as she let out a big cry of happiness! 

“Hooray! I did it! We did it!” said Mama Raccoon as she hugged Papa Raccoon and their babies. 

“Mine both get stuck almost immediately,” said Papa Raccoon, laughing as he said it. 

Mama Raccoon was asked to stand on some rocks that had been arranged into a podium. The final race result was Mama Raccoon in first, Terrance the Raccoon in second, and a surprisingly close third place was a local fox named Garrol. 

“Congratulations to our friends who placed in first, second and third, and to the rest of you, who finished the race!” said Gary, with a laugh. 

“And to the rest of you,” said Morris, who was also laughing and having fun. “Whose race ended early, on an embankment, or a wall, or even over the wall! Thank you for coming out today.” 

The animals all clapped and cheered.

“To our third-place finisher, Garrol, we present a bag of deli meat and a bunch of apples!”

Garrol took a bow as the crowd cheered.

“To our second-place finisher, whose blunt-tipped toothpick was truly the spear none of us expected, we present a pile of old lumber left in our shed for as long as we can remember. Congratulations Terrance!”

“Thanks for the prize! As a wood-eater, this truly beats a bag of deli meat,” said Terrance.

The crowd continued to cheer and clap. 

“And finally, our first-place finisher, and a close friend of ours, it’s Mama Raccoon! To Mama Raccoon, we present a wheelbarrow full of canned foods we found inside! We also included the tool to open them, as we know you have human-like hands and can use one.”

“You two are the best friends a raccoon could have!”

Gary and Morris thanked Mama Raccoon again, then thanked the crowd for participating and spending the afternoon with them. After that, they packed up all the toothpicks and everyone hung around to visit and catch up as they watched the sunset.

Once the sun dipped below the horizon, the animals all clapped and cheered, then decided to go home before it got too dark. 

Gary and Morris said their goodbyes and congratulated the top three again, then went inside.

As they walked in the back door, they ran into Marjorie just as she was turning off the lights.

“Hello boys!” she said. “How are you this fine evening?”

Gary and Morris meowed then rubbed up against her legs. Marjorie bent down and picked both cats up, carrying them over to their favourite spot by the window. She put them down and they both curled up on their backs – happy and fulfilled. It was a perfect moment. 

“Hey Morris,” said Gary.


“Wanna know my favourite time of year?” said Gary.

Morris laughed, then sighed and fell asleep. Gary laughed too and fell asleep right after. 


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