March Winds

Part V

Kite Building

Rhonda Rabbit cheerily opened her door and breathed in the fresh, clean morning air. Birds swooped and dived over the pond on a brisk northerly breeze. Bright sunshine sparkled on the water. Nature had given itself a good shower and was ready for spring.

Rhonda was also ready for spring as she had cleaned her cottage the previous week. She lived with her husband Reginald and children Robbie, Rachel, and Rain, on the south shore of the pond.

She provided flowers to the residents from her beautiful, large garden. Typically, the flowers were arranged in bouquets or colourful baskets. Like Dr. Brigit, she had a greenhouse that allowed her to continue some gardening during the cold-weather months. Rhonda was a dressmaker, also. Her husband was the Ballymore tailor and cobbler. He made clothes, shoes, and other fabric-related items. The children helped with everything.

Rhonda was an exquisite cook, and the Rabbit family ate very well. They were plump but not fat and took pride in maintaining that appearance.

This year, for the first time, she and Morris would work as a team to create the kites for the upcoming contest and flying season. Morris, and now Birk, would build the frames, and she would cut and attach the cloth. With the additional help, Morris planned to offer larger and more varied kites than in previous years.

A few years ago Reginald placed an old wooden bench at water’s edge, so that they could rest and enjoy the view on nice days. Rhonda planted small evergreen bushes around it. Although she was busy, a few minutes on the bench would be alright. Just as she sat down, she noticed the Swans hoisting the weather forecast flags. She laughed to herself. She could never remember what colour meant what weather. It didn’t matter. It was a nice day, and that’s all she needed to know.

Every once in a while, some small fish jumped out of the water. Perhaps they were catching bugs. More likely they were simply playing with each other.

To her pleasant surprise, she spotted Birk skipping up the path. Birk and his family had arisen early at Morris’s. After breakfast everyone but Birk returned home, by way of the land route. Better safe than sorry. Morris had asked Birk to visit Rhonda and set up a meeting to discuss the details of the kite building project.

“Well, good morning, Birk,” she said. “Did you and your family have any trouble with the storm last night?”

“Good morning, Mrs. Rabbit. No, but we did see the Pond Creature.”

“The Pond Creature?” she asked.

Every time Rhonda heard a story about a sighting of the Pond Creature, it seemed to occur in bad weather or at night. No one ever got a good view. She had her suspicions about the whole thing.

“Yes! We were at Morris’s cottage when the storm came. At about 8 bongs we looked out the window, and there it was, next to the dock. It was gigantic with huge red eyes!” he exclaimed.

“Then, what happened?”

“Well, it stared at us for a long time and then disappeared under the water.”

“Wasn’t it difficult seeing through the storm?”

“Yes, but it was so big, you could hardly miss it. We all saw it,” answered Birk.

“Well, that was an exciting night for you.”

“Yes, it was, but,” as he remembered the reason for his visit, “that’s not why I’m here. Morris asked me to come and invite you to a meeting about building the kites. Last night, Morris offered me an apprenticeship, and this is my first job.”

“That’s wonderful. Congratulations! I’m sure you’ll make a great apprentice,” she said warmly. “I’m available later today around 3 bongs if that’s okay?”

Birk said, “Thank you. I’m sure 3 bongs will be fine. I’ll go and tell Morris right now. See you this afternoon Mrs. Rabbit.”

“Goodbye, Birk,” Rhonda shouted as he hurried away.

As agreed, Rhonda arrived at Morris’s cottage at 3 bongs. Birk had also just arrived after helping his family with a small wall repair job.

The meeting went well. Morris would design the kites. They would range in size from about one to four feet. Most would be of traditional shape with long colourful tails. They would have lightweight frames consisting of two crossed sticks. The larger kites would have framed edges. For the first time there would also be a few box kites. Rhonda would make the fabric parts out of thin, colourful cloths. Birk would be responsible for gathering sticks from the forest and cutting the framing pieces to the right size. They planned to make about fifty kites in all.

The kites needed to be ready in two weeks. On Saturday of that week, everyone would come and make their selection. Then, they would have one week of practice before contest day. As in previous years, Morris and Bartholomew would be the judges.

The next few days were spent gathering the materials needed to build the kites. Since the storm, there was no lack of small branches lying in the forest. Birk brought many of them back to the cottage. With Morris’s help, he chose the best ones for kite frames. Morris had plenty of string and glue to assemble everything. Rhonda searched through leftover cloth from her husband’s tailoring and found a large number of appropriate pieces.

Besides the kites, Morris had other ongoing furniture projects. So he couldn’t work full-time on the kite project. He provided direction to Birk on how to cut and assemble the kite frames, but Birk did most of the work. It was a good arrangement, and the young beaver was a great help.

Birk was a quick learner and fast worker. He had no trouble building the frames, but occasionally he would accidentally tie one of his claws to a kite. Despite that, the kite frames were completed in a week. Then, Rhonda brought over the cloth pieces. She laid them over the frames and, with Birk’s help, cut them to the right size. The cloth was then attached to each frame with string. Finally, long tails were made and attached to complete the kites. Morris’s cottage and shed became very colourful with kites lying everywhere.

The two weeks passed quickly, and soon it was kite selection day. Since the event was scheduled for 10 bongs, Rhonda and Birk arrived at 9 to help Morris set up. They carefully laid each kite on the ground in its appropriate group — 1-foot, 2-foot, 3-foot, 4-foot, and box. What an impressive sight they had created! They were quite pleased.

It was a Blue-Green-Blue day, and many animals came early to admire the kites and do preselection. The atmosphere was like a festival. Everyone was given a ticket with a symbol on it. Bartholomew would draw the matching ticket from a barrel and announce the symbol. The holder of that ticket got to pick the kite of their choice. It was a fair method and had been used many times.

After a brief welcoming speech, Bartholomew reached into the barrel and grabbed a ticket with a fish symbol on it. He held it up, and Brie Bluebird yelled, “It’s me!”

The animals cheered as she flew over to the kites. After about five minutes she chose a 1-foot, blue and white kite with a yellow tail.

The next ticket drawn had an oak leaf on it. The winner was Merwin Mole. Again, everyone cheered. Merwin had arrived early, so he knew exactly which kite he wanted. He walked directly to a multicoloured, (Red, Blue, Green, Yellow) box kite and proudly picked it up.

So the selection process continued until there was only one ticket remaining. The last one to choose was Dr. Brigit. There were six kites left, and she selected a solid green box kite.

The whole process took about two hours, and everyone was very happy with their kite. They were eager to begin practicing.

But now it was Bartholomew’s opportunity to present his sailing ship idea.

He began. “Today, has been a great success. There are so many beautiful kites here. Thank you very much Morris, Rhonda, and Birk for the fantastic job you’ve done.”

Everyone stood and clapped.

“I am sure that everyone would like to start practicing with your kites, and today is a perfect day for it. However, before you leave, please let me propose a new project to you. As you know, I do a lot of reading. Recently, I began reading this book about sailing ships.”

He held it up for everyone to see.

“I saw all of the beautiful ships in the book and thought it would be nice if Ballymore had a similar ship or boat for the pond.”

An “ooh” went through the assembled animals. Bartholomew noticed and smiled.

“The boat could be used for general sailing and for transportation. Right now, we only have the ducks’ raft. Based upon our needs and the size of the pond, I estimate that it would be about fifteen feet long and four feet wide. There would be a single mast about fifteen feet high and three sails.”

The crowd “oohed” again.

“It would take significant effort to build and maintain, but the boat would be a wonderful and useful asset for Ballymore. I would design it and manage the building project. The boat would look like this one but about one-half the size.”

He held up a picture of a beautiful Irish Hooker on the high seas. It was obvious that everyone was impressed.

“I ask for your interest and support. Would everybody who likes the idea, please raise their paw or wing.”

About 90% of the animals raised their paw or wing and cheered.

“Now, would everybody who does not like the idea, please raise their paw or wing.”

No one raised anything.

“The project is approved. I thank you so much,” he said.

Another cheer went up.

“I will be organising the project soon and will be in touch with you. My goal is to have the boat ready for the Midsummer’s Eve celebration. Thank you, again. Now, please go and enjoy the day and your kites.”

After some final cheering, the group began to breakup and return to their homes with their new kites.

Morris thanked Rhonda and Birk for their help.

“You’ve made a great start as my apprentice,” he said to Birk and patted him on the back.

Birk smiled and looked down bashfully at his furry paws.