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Once upon a time, there was a forest which was the home to many animals, but three, maybe four in particular are of interest to this story.

For there was Ol' Rabbit, happily hopping around eating his diet of grass and leaves and berries; there was Ol' Fox, scowling and snapping at whatever little living prey he might sink his teeth into, and there was Ol' Wolf, much like Fox but even bigger and tougher and meaner!! There were days once when Wolf and Fox had got along well enough, but now they were the bitterest of foes, each blaming the other for a long list of interferences and other wrongs, some imagined, some real as rain, and neither willing to admit to a thing claimed by the other. Besides, both were after the same food, but naturally they wished it to go to different bellies!!

Now then, Fox had got the idea in his head that Rabbit would be the tastiest of treats. And so Fox slunk around until he came upon Rabbit's tracks, and then he found Rabbit and gave chase!! And he chased Rabbit through the trees, and through the bushes, and through the streams, and through the fields, and through the hills. And Rabbit was getting tired of being chased, when suddenly a big ol' idea popped into his clever little brain. Rabbit turned and ran straight to Wolf's favorite spot!! Sure enough there was Wolf -- and Wolf could not believe his eyes, it was as though his dinner was going to run straight into his mouth. And when Fox saw where Rabbit was headed, he skidded to a quick halt for fear of Wolf.

Rabbit, in the meantime, ran right to the feet of Wolf, and huffing and gasping he said to Wolf, "you must protect me from the Fox!!" Wolf licked his lips with delight and bared his vicious fangs and slowly replied in his gritty, growling manner, "Fool rabbit, you will be far from the reach of Fox once I have devoured you!! Now I will tear you limb from limb, rip out your guts, swallow your flesh down my gullet, and drink your blood to wash it down!!"

But Rabbit was prepared for this. He said "devour me you shall, you shall, but look how scrawny I am right now!!" He sat up on his haunches and pulled out a limp fold of skin for emphasis. "Enough of a meal for a mangy Fox, I suppose," he shrugged. "But for a big Wolf like you? Protect me from Fox, and I'll have the time to go fatten myself up -- by next Spring, I'll be big and round and plump, think how satisfying a meal I will be then!!"

Wolf thought about it for a moment. There was plenty of prey in the forest that he could fill his belly with -- and a big, round, plumped up Rabbit would be a particular treat, surely the tastiest he had ever eaten, even worth waiting for the Spring to come.

"Very well, then," growled Wolf, and the pact was made. Rabbit immediately bounded off to find some tasty leaves and flowers to nibble on in order to show how he was fattening himself up, as promised. But along the way, he heard a voice from above -- and who should it be but wise Ol' Owl sitting up in the tree, observing everything as he often did. "You know," Owl began, with a decidedly owlish tilt of his head, "One of these days, Wolf is going to make good on this debt you have promised him!! And then he will tear you limb from limb, rip out your guts, swallow your flesh down his gullet, and drink your blood to wash it down, for that is his nature."

"Oh, I'll worry about that then," said Rabbit, nibbling on berry, "I'll fatten myself up, but I'll do it very slowly, and I can always promise to plump up even more for the next Spring to come!!" So now whenever Fox comes skulking around looking to catch hold of Rabbit, well Rabbit just goes a'runnin' to Wolf, and sometimes Fox and Wolf tussle a bit, and Fox gets whupped quick and scurries off, and sometimes Fox just skulks away scared. But that doesn't stop Fox from forever figurin' up ways to catch Ol' Rabbit!! Oh no!! And that Wolf is a long time waiting for Rabbit to plump up enough to be ripped to shreds for a tasty snack.

And over all this, wise Ol' Owl just looks down at them and shakes his head. Wouldn't you?

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