The Eponymous Hippopotamus


Africa is a continent in the southern hemisphere.
Kenya is a country in Africa.
The Masai Mara Reserve is a wildlife reserve in Kenya.
Lake Nakuru is a soda lake in the Masai Mara Reserve.
Wendell and Steve were in Lake Nakaru.
Well, Wendell was.



Wendell was a hippopotamus.
Steve was an oxpecker.
Wendell was big and gray with a pinkish hue.
Steve was small and brown with a brilliant red-tipped yellow beak.
Wendell spent most of his days cooling his chubby frame in the lake.
Steve spent most of his days perched on Wendell.



Everyone called Wendell “Big Daddy”, except Steve.
Wendell had a wife named Beula, but he called her “Boo”.
Wendell had a son named James, but he called him “Jay”.
Wendell had a daughter named Margot, but he called her “Mags”.
Wendell had an oxpecker named Steve, and he called him “Steve”.
Steve had Wendy and Boo and Jay and Mags.



Steve ate ticks and flies and other nasty things off Wendell’s back.
Steve ate ticks and flies and other nasty things off Boo’s back.
Steve ate ticks and flies and other nasty things off Jay’s back.
Steve ate ticks and flies and other nasty things off Mags’ back.
Steve was busy and happy and very well-fed.
Wendell and Boo and Jay and Mags were happy and very healthy.



Wendell and his family lived with other hippopotamuses.
A group of hippopotamuses is called a pod.
There were 10 other hippopotamus families in their pod.
The pod attracted many oxpeckers like Steve.
But Steve was loyal to Wendell and his family.
And they were loyal to him.



Wendell had his family.
The other hippopotamuses in the pod had families.
The other oxpeckers who hung around the pod had families.
The other animals—lions and tigers and giraffes—had families.
It seemed like everyone on the savanna had families.
Steve had no family.



Steve once had a family.
Her name was Harriet.
She flew away one day and never returned.
Steve was sad when he thought of her.
Steve missed her.
But she obviously didn’t miss him.



One hot day, Wendell was in the lake.
Steve was perched on his head.
Steve was not eating ticks or flies or anything nasty.
Steve was just staring at shore of the lake.
Steve was not the same old busy happy Steve.
Wendell knew something was wrong.



“What’s wrong buddy?” Wendell asked.
“Nothing,” Steve sighed.
Wendell knew this was not true.
Wendell knew it was a “nothing” that really meant “something”.
“You can tell me, I’m your friend,” Wendell said.
“I don’t have a family,” Steve said.



Wendell scrunched up his big nose, then said, “What do you mean?”
Steve pinched shut his small beak, then said, “You have Boo and Jay and Mags.”
Wendell thought about this, then said, “Yes, I do.”
Steve sighed again, then said, “I have no one.”
Wendell thought about this, then said, “Yes, you do.”
Steve pinched shut his small beak, then said, “Who?”



Wendell said, “Us!”
Steve said, “Well…I’m not a hippopotamus.”
Wendell said, “So…I’m not an oxpecker.”
Steve said, “So…we can’t be family.”
Wendell said, “Well…you are.”
Steve said, “How?”



Steve hopped to the tip of Wendell’s big nose and looked into his big dark eyes.
Wendell explained to Steve that a family was more than just relatives.
Yes, family was grandpas and grandmas and dads and moms and sons and daughters.
Yes, family was uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces and cousins and cousins.
But, family was also those whom we love the most even if they weren’t grandmas or grandpas or moms or dads or daughters or sons or aunts or uncles or nieces or nephews or cousins and cousins.
Steve looked off at the shore of the lake and thought about this, a lot.



Boo and Jay and Mags swam up alongside Wendell.
Steve’s small eyes darted between Wendell’s and Boo’s and Jay’s and Mags’ big eyes.
Wendell wiggled his big nose.
Steve’s small eyes focused on Wendell’s big eyes.
Wendell said, “We are your family!”
Boo and Jay and Mags nodded their big heads in agreement.



Steve was smiling.
Steve was happy.
Steve was home.
Steve felt like a family.
Steve felt like a hippopotamus.
Steve felt like a superstar!



Steve had a big smile on his beak.
Wendell said, “If you’re in our family, you need a nickname?”
Steve said, “OK! What is it?”
Wendell thought for a minute, then said, “Hippopotamus Steve.”
Steve did a little dance in the tip of Wendell’s big nose.
They had an oxpecker named Hippopotamus Steve, but they called him “Hippo Steve”.

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