At least half the people in the world eat potatoes. And they eat them often nearly every day. But that wasn’t always so. Four hundred years ago only the people who lived in Peru and Ecuador two countries in South America knew about potatoes.

The Spaniards came and explored that great faraway continent. When they sailed back to Spain, they had barrels of potatoes on board their ships along with the other treasures that they had found in South America. The people standing around the docks in Spain, watching the adventures unload the cargo from their ships, must have wondered. They saw shining silver, gleaming gold, fire colored jewels and in the midst of all these riches were those dull, drab, funny, bumpy, ball-shaped things. They didn’t look much like treasure!


But afterward the people were glad that some of the valuable space on the ships had been filled with potatoes. They found that potatoes taste very good and can be cooked in many ways. And they grow quickly.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Long ago, in a faraway country there lived a king who had 12 daughters. He loved them all dearly and guarded them with great care. They slept in one great bedroom and the king made sure each night that the door was locked and bolted. One morning when he opened the door, he saw 12 pairs of worn-out shoes lined up in a row.It seemed that the princesses had left their room and danced all night long.

It went on this way night after night. Each morning when the king unlocked the door, he found 12 pairs of worn-out shoes. At last he sent a messenger throughout the kingdom. “Hear ye, hear ye!” shouted the king’s messenger. “If any man can discover how the king’s daughters leave their room and where they dance at night he may choose one of them to be his wife. And when the king dies, the man will then become king.”


Many princes answered the king’s call for help. Each stayed near the princesses’ bedroom for three days and three nights but each morning the worn out shoes were lined against the wall. In some mysterious way the princesses continued to escape from the palace and dance all night long.About this time a poor soldier just home from the wars walked along the road toward the town where the king lived. On his way he met an old woman who stopped him and asked,” Where are you going young man?”

The soldier laughed at this because he had nowhere to go and no money. “Why can’t you see?” he said jokingly.” I am going to discover where the 12 dancing princesses go each night. I plan to marry one of them just as the king promised and be king myself one day.”To his surprise the old woman didn’t laugh. “Just don’t drink the wine the princesses give you,” she warned,” for it will put you to sleep.” She then gave the soldier a little cape.” Take this,” she said.” When you wear it nobody can see you. In that way you can follow the princesses and find out where they go.”


The soldier thanked the old woman and put the little cape away in his pack. He continued his journey and at last came to the palace, where he told the king that he had come to solve the mystery and marry one of the princesses. The king shook his head sadly, for by his time many men had tried and failed to discover his daughters’ secret. But he took the soldier to room near the princesses’ bedroom and introduced him to the 12 lovely maidens. After that he locked and bolted princesses’ door for the night.

Before long the oldest brought the soldier wine.”From my sisters and me,” she said smiling sweetly. But he had tied a sponge under his chin and was ready for this. The sponge was hidden by his collar. When he lifted the cup and pretended to drink the wine, he let it run down into the sponge. “Thank your, Tour Highness.” He yawned as he felt sleepy. The oldest princes tiptoed back to the bedroom where her sisters were waiting. The soldier heard the youngest princess say,” I have the funniest feeling that something terrible is going to happen tonight.”


“The oldest princess made fun of her.” Oh, you’re always afraid of something,” she said. “Come and look at the man for yourself.” The soldier closed his eyes tightly and listened while all 12 of them tiptoed into his room. “You see?” the oldest princess said.” Listen to him snore! I hardly needed to give him the wine. Why, he’s so tired that nothing could keep him awake. As the soon the princesses went back to their room, the oldest knocked on her bed three times. Immediately it sank down through the floor leaving a large hole. The princesses stepped through the hole and the soldier quickly put on the cape that made him invisible and followed them.

The youngest princess was the last in line and in dark the soldier stepped on her dress by mistake. “Oh,! she called in fright.” Something pulled at my dress.” ” Nonsense, child,” cried the oldest princess.” You caught it on splinter, that’s all. At last they reached the bottom of flight of stairs and there the soldier saw a road which led through a forest of beautiful trees. The leaves on the the trees were made of solid silver. “I never saw anything like this! thought the soldier. ” I must take some of these leaves home,or no one will believe me.”


He tried to break off a branch quietly but the silver leaves tinkled against each other. “Did you hear that?’ the youngest princess cried nervously. “Yes,” said the oldest princess impatiently.” They are so glad we have come that they are ringing bells to welcome us.” The next passed through a forest of trees with golden leaves then a forest with leaves made of diamonds. Each time the soldier took a branch and each time the youngest princess cried out at the sound.

At last they came to wide, dark lake. Twelve boats were waiting and the soldier could see a handsome prince in each one.” Greetings, beautiful princesses,” they called. The princes helped the princesses into the boats. Because of his magic cape nobody could see the soldier as he sat down in the boat that carried the youngest princess. Soon they reached the opposite shore where a great castle stood.The soldier followed them into a great ballroom where an orchestra of trumpets and drums played strange, lively music.


By three o’clock in the morning the princesses’ shoe were all worn out and the music came to an end. The 12 princes helped them into the boats again and rowed them back to the far shore. Reaching the palace ahead of the princesses the soldier took of his magic cape and pretended to sleep in his bed. The first thing the princesses did when they came up the magic stairs was to look at him. “You see?” the oldest princess said. ” He sound asleep and hasn’t heard a thing.The soldier followed the princesses for three night in a row. On the third morning the king came to the princesses room and unlocked it. The worn out shoes were lined up as usual and the king shook his head sadly.

“I suppose you slept through all this,” he said to the soldier. “Not at all,” the soldier replied. He put his hand into his jacket and pulled out a branch of silver leaves a branch of golden leaves and a branch of diamond leaves. “These leaves came from three enchanted forests,” he explained.” Each night the princesses met 12 enchanted princes who took them to a great castle. There they danced to strange music until three o’clock in the morning.” So this is what the old woman wanted me to know! the king cried in amazement. He then told the soldier bout an old woman who had once come to the palace with a strange story.


“She told me that my daughters could not escape the magic spell until a man watched them dance three nights in a row and now you have done just that! the enchantment is broken forever. I am more grateful to you than I can say.Which of my daughters will you take to be your wife?” The soldier thought a bit.” I am not a young man,” he said.” I should pick the oldest princess. But I have become rather fond of the youngest for she has sharper eyes and ears that the others. I will pick her to be may wife.

The soldier and the youngest princess were married and soon afterward the other princesses found husbands too. When the old king die, the soldier became king. He was very good king and was loved by his people.


It’s Not a Dog at All

It sounds like a dog.It even looks a little like a dog.But even though it is called a prairie dog, this cunning little animal, with its thick body and its round head, is is not really a dog. Prairie dogs are called prairie dogs for two reasons. They live in the wide grasslands or prairies of the American West and when they’re excited they make those little yip-yip-yipping sounds.

They are really more like squirrels than dogs. But they don’t climb trees as squirrels do. Instead they dog deep tunnels in the ground. Prairie dogs are friendly little creatures. They live together in “towns” of their very own. There used to be many more prairie dogs than there are now, and they lived in very big towns. In some of prairie dog towns there were more prairie dogs than there are people today in some of the biggest cities in the world.


Prairie dogs romp and play in the sun. Or they stir about hunting wild grasses and roots to eat. Or they just sit on top their hills and look around. Some prairie dogs are always on guard against danger to their town. If they see a snake or a coyote or a man on a horse, or if someone should pass in a car, they bark and shake. And quick flash they disappear. Where do they go?They dive into holes in the ground. The prairie dogs’ towns are under the ground.

In making its home a prairie dog digs with its paw. It digs straight down deeper than the space between the floor and the ceiling of most houses-a long way to dig for a little animal not much bigger than a fat puppy. At the bottom of the hole the prairie dog digs long hallways and then digs out the rooms where it will store food and where its babies will live. The dirt from the hole has to go somewhere. So the prairie dog kicks it to the top of the hole and makes a hill around the entrance to its underground home.


These frisky little animals are fun to watch. They were a welcome sight to the early settlers of the American West. But after the settlers became ranchers they no longer liked to prairie dogs because the little animals ate the grass that the ranchers wanted for their cattle. So millions of prairie dogs were killed and soon almost none were left.

Just in time, the government set apart a hilltop park in Lubbock, Texas and saved the biggest prairie dog town in the South West. The prairie dogs have made Lubbock a famous place. People from many lands have come to see these friendly little creatures which were once so much at home everywhere on the big prairies.