Bartholomew was amused by the snowball fight and found it gratifying how
the animals joined together to finally win one against the weasels. It
was all in good fun.
He looked up at the sky. Since Grenby was hibernating, he found he was
observing the weather more than usual. Frequently, after a snow, it
turned clear and colder. That didn’t happen this time. It had remained
cloudy, and the temperature seemed slightly warmer (or less cold). Hmmm.
The following morning it began to sleet. The sleet rat-tat-tatted off of
the cottage windows. After a couple hours of the noise, the sleet
changed to a cold light rain. Since the temperature was still below
freezing, the rain froze, and a slippery, shiny glaze quickly covered
The chipmunk kids thought it looked like fun and went outside to play,
but it was too slippery, and that idea was soon given up. Slowly they
managed to crawl back indoors. A little later, Petunia Porcupine needed
some water for baking. Without thinking about the ice, she walked out to
the water pump. She immediately slipped, and before she knew it, she
slid all of the way down to the pond. She wasn’t hurt, but it took a
while for her to crawl back in her cottage, without any water.
The light freezing rain continued throughout the day, and the layer of
ice covering Ballymore grew thicker. Tree branches began to bend under
the added weight.
As darkness fell, the rain stopped, and all was quiet. The clouds
cleared, and a crescent moon rose. Bartholomew gazed out his window at a
magical, sparkling wonderland. Every branch, on every tree, glistened as
though lighted from within. Long icicles hung from cottage eves. Ice
crystals even created a halo around the moon. He wished he had a
painting of this incredible scene. Across the pond, Farley Frog was also
looking out his window and appreciating the view. He had the same idea
as Bartholomew and was making sketches that would one day result in an
Overnight, the temperature rose, and the magic melted away. By morning
there was little left. It was almost as if it had been an illusion or
dream. Many stuck a nose or paw out their door and were pleasantly
surprised by the temperature. The weather wasn’t warm, but compared to
frigid, the change was very welcome.
Bartholomew, quickly, made it clear that no one should venture out onto
the pond anymore. The ice could not be trusted. The warmer weather
stayed for the next few days, and the snow melted. The ground unfroze
and became soggy.
On Thursday, in the middle of the night, Sam Snapping Turtle was
awakened by a loud noise. It was obviously coming from outside. He got
up and looked out his front window towards the pond but saw nothing. It
was a quiet, starlit night, but every couple of minutes, the silence was
shattered by a loud cracking sound. He went outside and walked down to
the pond. The noise was, in fact, coming from the pond. The ice was
Large chunks of ice were breaking off and trying to float down the
creek. However, the creek wasn’t wide enough, and they were getting
stuck. Worse than that, they were forming a dam that was blocking the
water flow. Sam realised that this was serious. If the water couldn’t
flow down the creek, Ballymore would be flooded.
Even though it was 3 bongs in the morning, he felt he had to tell
Bartholomew. He immediately left for the owl’s home. As he walked along
the edge of the pond, he saw that jagged cracks had appeared everywhere
in the ice. The water level had already risen a bit. He reached
Bartholomew’s and climbed the steps to the treehouse.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
In all of the years that Bartholomew had watched over the Ballymore
community, no one had ever banged on his door in the middle of the
night. He was awakened from a sound sleep and immediately became
He rushed to the door and opened it. Sam was out of breath as he walked
“Sam, what is it?”
“The ice is cracking, and the pond water is rising! We’ll be flooded!”
said the turtle breathlessly.
“Now, calm down,” instructed Bartholomew. “Here, sit down, and I will
make some tea.”
Sam told Bartholomew everything he saw and heard. It didn’t take long.
Bartholomew agreed that it appeared to be a serious matter and thanked
Sam for coming so soon. After the quick tea they hurried back to the
Bartholomew saw that the ice was, indeed, piling up, and there was
little water getting by. This was a problem that needed action, but it
needed thinking first.
“Well, there is nothing to do tonight, and we do have some time. Let’s
both go back to bed and deal with this in the morning,” said
Sam agreed, said goodnight, and returned to his cottage. Bartholomew
flew home. Before going inside, he pushed a tall stick into the mud at
the edge of the pond. He marked the water height on the stick and noted
that the time was just now 5 bongs. That would give him the information
he needed to calculate how fast the water was rising.
When he finally got back to bed, he couldn’t sleep. He was trying to
think of ways to break up the ice jam. He wondered how much time they
had until the first cottage was flooded. That cottage would be the
frogs’ or Grenby’s, he guessed.
At 8 bongs, the daily knock on the door came from Branna Bluebird. He
briefly told Branna about the new problem and asked her to inform
everyone that there would be a meeting at the creek at 11 bongs.
Branna and her family spread the word quickly. Of course, the animals
saw the ice breaking up, and they saw the dangerous ice jam when they
arrived at the creek later that morning.
When Bartholomew got there, he found many worried looks. There was good
reason. The situation was the same as last night, if not worse. Giant
pieces of ice continued to fight with each other to try to fit into the
small entrance to the creek. They were very slowly shifting, crunching,
and piling up on each other. Almost no water was flowing as the ice
blocked up everything. The creek looked very strange empty of water. You
could walk across it without getting wet.
Bartholomew spoke to the group.
“As you can see we have a problem, but it is a problem that we will
solve. I have taken some measurements and calculate that we have about
two days before the rising water threatens the first cottage — Grenby’s.
After this meeting I will have to wake him and give him the news. We
have to figure out a way to safely break up this ice and let the water
flow into the creek.”
The frogs were safe, at least for a while. He had remembered that they
could close a cover at the bottom of their pool. That kept additional
water from coming in.
He continued, “I have one idea, but do any of you have any thoughts?”
Finn jumped up.
“There is warm water coming into the pond west of the island. If we
could get that water here, it would melt the ice.”
Bartholomew had a quick reply. “Yes, there is. However, it would be very
difficult to get that water here, and it would take too long.”
Branna was next. “We could build a fire on each side of the creek and
melt the ice.”
“Yes, I thought of that, also. It could work, and we will try it. Thank
No one else spoke. So, for the moment, there was only one plan.
Bartholomew said, “Let’s build two fires and hope for the best. I would
like Burton to help supervise. We should start immediately. I am going
to talk to Grenby now. I’ll be back soon.”
Burton came forward and began assigning jobs to everyone.
Bartholomew flew to Grenby’s hut. He knew there would be no point
knocking on the door. Grenby was fast asleep. So, he entered the hut and
walked to the lower level. There, he found Grenby curled up in a ball in
his bed, under a heavy quilt.
He began to shake him gently.
“I’m sorry, but I have to wake you.”
Grenby grumbled but didn’t wake. Bartholomew shook him again. Grenby
rolled over and looked at the owl through one eye.
“I hope you have a good reason for ruining my sleep.”
“Yes, unfortunately, I do,” answered Bartholomew. “The pond water is
rising, and you might be sleeping underwater in two days.”
Grenby sat up slowly.
“What are you talking about?”
Bartholomew explained everything to him. He wasn’t happy, but he
“How can I help?” he yawned.
“We are building fires at the creek. You can help with that if you would
“Let me get dressed, and I’ll be there directly,” said Grenby as he
“Thank you. I am going back there now. See you soon.”
Grenby crawled out of his warm bed and began to dress.
When Bartholomew returned to the creek, the animals were bringing fuel
from the woods. The moles, frogs, and chipmunks were gathering twigs and
small kindling. The beavers, rabbits, and squirrels were carrying larger
pieces. The swans and ducks were assembling two piles of wood, one on
each side of the creek. The remaining animals had built a campfire and
were bringing and preparing food. It appeared that they all would be
there for a long time.
The building of the bonfire pile continued. After three hours Burton
decided the piles were large enough and set them on fire. The flames
climbed ten feet into the air as everyone watched and hoped the ice
would melt. However, before long, they saw that the wind wasn’t helping.
It was coming directly from the south. The heat from the fires wasn’t
reaching the ice jam. That was disheartening after all of their efforts.
Grenby looked at the sky and said that the wind direction was not going
to change soon. More bad news!
They needed another plan to melt the ice. It was going to become dark
soon, which would make the task even more difficult. Bartholomew called
everyone together. With large ice chunks continuing to shift and crack
behind him, he spoke.
“We have no choice but to build a fire on the ice in the center. Since
it is too dangerous to go on the ice, the ducks and swans will have to
pick up sticks and branches and drop them in the center as best they
can. Everybody else should continue finding wood and bringing it here.
We will work all night if we have to.”
Wilde raised his paw to speak.
“Yes, Wilde?” responded Bartholomew.
“Someone has to be out on the ice to arrange the wood into a proper
pile. It won’t happen otherwise. Wilder and I will do it.”
Bartholomew looked at Wilde and knew he was right.
He shook his head and said, “Unfortunately, I have to agree with you. We
do need a proper pile, and it will require tending. It is very dangerous
out there. Please don’t take any unnecessary chances.”
“We won’t. The ice is shifting only slowly, and we can move pretty
quickly if we have to.”
Wilde was not as confident as he sounded. However, he and Wilder were
always ready to help, and they always took the most dangerous jobs. They
would take this one, also.
There was plenty of old wood in the forest, but it took time to locate
and bring it to the creek. Most became involved with that task. The
ducks and swans began picking up the kindling that had been found. They
dropped the pieces on the ice near the middle of the ice jam.
Wilde and Wilder crept out onto the ice, carefully climbing over the
jagged pieces. Luckily, they had to go only about fifteen feet from
shore. Every once in a while, the ice cracked, and they jumped
nervously. When they reached the middle, they began to arrange the wood,
which was already there. The birds kept dropping more. It was a slow
process, and it was now dark. Torches were lighted on both sides of the
creek to help. Everyone worked through the night with occasional short
By morning, a large pyramid shaped pile of sticks, branches, leaves, and
other debris from the forest sat on the ice.
A bleary eyed Bartholomew said, “ I think that’s good enough. Let’s
Wilde lighted the pile. They stood back and watched as the flames grew
high. They could feel the heat building, which meant the ice could,
also. More wood was needed to keep the fire going. It was too dangerous
for the birds to drop the wood from directly above because of the flames
and heat. They dropped it on the ice where the weasels could reach it.
The ice was becoming even more slippery as the warmth spread. While
balancing on the uneven ice, the weasels continued to throw wood into
After about an hour the cracking and crunching sounds from the ice
became louder and more frequent. The heat was having an effect.
Bartholomew yelled out to the weasels, “I think you better come back to
shore. Something is going to happen.”
Wilde yelled back, “Yes, we hear it and feel it, but we can’t stop now
because the heat has begun to work. This is our only chance. We have to
keep feeding the fire for as long as we can.”
He threw another piece of wood on the burning pile.
About fifteen minutes later, the end came suddenly. The ice jam
The Ice Dam
Flaming coals of wood and pieces of ice flew in all directions. They
were mixed in with a gusher of freezing water. The animals were showered
with this dangerous mess. The weasels were hurled backward, further out
onto the pond ice. Luckily, it appeared that no one was injured.
Then, ice chunks and water began to move noisily into the creek like a
tidal wave. The ice dam had broken. That was fantastic, but the weasels
still had to get to safety.
They picked themselves up and began to step carefully over the
shattered, moving ice. Each step was slippery and uneven, but they were
getting closer to shore. Then, two pieces of ice separated as Wilde was
trying to cross them. He immediately fell into the frigid pond. Wilder
ran to him and tried to pull him out. He couldn’t get a good grip on his
brother, and now, the ice that had separated was closing back together.
Wilde would be trapped.
Then, Finn hopped out onto the ice to help. He also reached out to
Wilde. Together, Wilder and Finn were able to pull Wilde out of the
water before the ice hole closed. Holding on to each other, the three
cold and wet buddies made it safely to shore. A cheer went up, and they
were immediately surrounded. Someone brought warm blankets, and each was
soon wrapped up. Cups of hot tea followed quickly.
The tidal wave of ice and water continued to rush down the creek. It
rapidly filled to its normal level. The danger was passed. Ballymore
would not be flooded!
Everyone was exhausted, and they sat down by the campfire. The new year
had just begun, and Ballymore had almost been flooded. Apparently, 1892
was not going to be boring either.
Once again, the animal residents had come together to accomplish
something that none of them could have done alone.