March Winds

Part IV

A Bad Flight

Earlier, Branna Bluebird had just finished delivering a message to the chipmunks. That would be the last delivery of the day because soon it would be too windy to fly. To return home, she had two choices. She could fly directly across the pond or follow the shoreline. She chose the direct route because it was quicker. As she took off from the chipmunks’ dock, the wind blew a small branch off a nearby tree, and it hit her in midair. She was knocked back onto the dock and was a bit shaken but apparently uninjured. Her left wing did hurt a little. She flexed it a few times and then took off again. Branna was not a bluebird who changed her plans because of minor obstacles.

The flight across the pond usually took only a minute. However, as soon as she was in the air, the wind buffeted her, and it was difficult to remain stable. Immediately, her left wing began to hurt. With each flap, the pain became worse, and she began to lose altitude. She wasn’t going to make it to the north shore! Also, for all practical purposes, she couldn’t swim. She had to land on something. In order to stay in the air as long as possible, she began a circular, bumpy glide. Branna searched the choppy water for anything floating as she dropped lower and lower.

Suddenly, she spotted a small board on the water and immediately adjusted her path to land on it. The wind almost blew her off course in the final seconds, but she was able to grab an edge and pull herself onto the board. The board was well-weathered and appeared to be a piece of someone’s dock. She dug her tiny claws into it and hung on as it bounced up and down on the water.

Branna was not in a good situation. She couldn’t fly or swim. She was a small bird on a small bouncing board in the middle of a big pond. The wind was blowing, and the water was choppy. She was wet, cold, and tired. Her wing hurt. Everything was getting worse.

As she looked around, she judged that she was about one-quarter mile from the north shore. The wind was pushing the board in that direction. Under normal conditions, that’s not a long distance. But in this situation it was. Her father had instructed what to do if you had to make an emergency landing on the water. Rule #1 was to stay calm, which she tried to do, but it wasn’t easy. Rule #2 was to land on anything floating, and stay there if you couldn’t fly. It was likely that your “raft” would be pushed to shore by the wind. She had done that. Almost an hour went by, and she was still about one-eighth of a mile from shore.

The situation was already bad enough, but then the board stopped moving. Apparently, it got hung up on something. Maybe there was another piece of the board underwater, and it had caught on something. The water was shallow there, so it was certainly possible. She waited ten minutes, but the board remained stationary except for the bouncing. Darkness was closing in, and it seemed like the wind was even stronger.

Suddenly, the board lurched towards the shore. It wasn’t just moving with the wind. It was moving at a good pace as if some invisible force was propelling it forward. She hung on tight, and before she knew it, the board had beached itself on the shore. She fell off and looked around but saw nothing but the log and dark water. Branna didn’t know what had just happened but she was very grateful for it.

She was near Mrs. Porcupine’s cottage, but there was no light coming from the windows. She looked to her right towards her home, which was about one-quarter mile away. Through the wind blown spray, she thought she saw her family on their dock.

The wind had awakened Bartholomew at 7 bongs. It was gusting through the tree branches, and the time had come to close the storm shutters. He got up, went to each of his four windows, and closed and latched the heavy wooden shutters. That made the wind much less noticeable. Flying would be more difficult tonight, but it must be done if at all possible. As a matter of fact, it would be a good idea to check on things now, while there was still some daylight.

Flying was somewhat demanding in the wind, but he managed. As usual, he flew counterclockwise. Everything was uneventful until he was nearly finished. Then, he spotted the Bluebird family on their dock. They seemed concerned about something, so he landed. He noticed that Branna was not with them.

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

“Hello, Bartholomew. Branna has not returned from her last delivery to the chipmunks. She should have been back over an hour ago. The wind is too strong for us to fly out over the pond to search,” answered Bartley.

Bartholomew heard the anxiety in his voice. The rest of the family huddled together on the dock. They were trying to keep warm as they looked out over the water for Branna.

“I will begin a search now,” said Bartholomew. “Everybody, stay here.”

He took off and flew south over the pond. He saw well in the dark, but there was a lot of water to search, and Branna was small. When he got to the south shore, he turned back north and flew in a crisscross pattern as he went. He was worried. He feared that he wouldn’t be able to find her.

After laying in the cold mud for a while, Branna picked herself up and began stumbling along the shore towards home. As she got closer, she saw her father, mother, and sisters on the dock staring out over the pond. She knew she was safe now and let out a sigh of relief.

She approached the dock and quietly walked onto it. She was a pitiful looking bluebird with her soaked and matted feathers.

Shivering in the cold, she sobbed, “Looking for anyone I know.”

Her family turned around. Stunned, they rushed to her. They were now crying, also. The Bluebird family hugged for a long time, and then she told them what had happened.

Her father said, “We are so proud of you, honey. You did everything exactly right.”

Bartholomew then landed on the dock. He had planned on giving them a gloomy report but was surprised and overjoyed to see that Branna had returned safely.

The relieved and happy group went to the bluebirds’ treehouse. Her mother wrapped Branna in a warm towel and hugged her again. Her wing was still sore but, other than that, she felt pretty well.

They enjoyed a simple dinner of tomato soup and bread. After eating Bartholomew wished everyone well, gave Branna a hug, and flew the short distance back to his home. This was a situation that could have ended very badly, and he was grateful it hadn’t. He settled down next to the fire with his sailing ship book, and the storm provided the reading background he appreciated.

As he read the histories of those ships and looked at their pictures, an idea occurred to him. Would the residents be interested in building a sailing ship for the pond? The HMS Ballymore, he chuckled to himself.

It certainly would be a worthwhile community project. The boat could be used for general sailing and transportation around the pond. Currently, there was only the raft that the ducks used to transport residents and cargo. A second watercraft would be very useful. However, it would take significant effort to build and maintain. Despite a few misgivings, the more he thought about the idea, the more he liked it. Would the residents agree? There was only one way to find out. Call a meeting and ask them. He began to think about what type of boat would be most useful and enjoyable for everyone. Time passed quickly.

Just after midnight, he peeked out the door. The wind was strong and blustery, and it was raining hard. It was no longer possible to fly. The treehouse felt the wind but was secure despite an occasional shudder. As the storm raged on, he would sleep soundly tonight in his warm, safe home. The other residents of Ballymore would also, including Branna.

When they awoke in the morning, the storm had ended. There were debris strewn about, and several old tree limbs had fallen. Happily, none of the cottages were damaged, and everything would be cleaned up by evening. All in all, it could have been much worse. The forecast for the new day was green-green-purple.