Midsummer's Eve

Part III

The HMS Ballymore

The week passed quickly. The swans had some sailing experience and took the boat out for three evening test cruises. They would be crewing it for the Midsummer’s Eve presentation. All went well. Some minor adjustments were made, and the HMS Ballymore was ready her debut.

On Midsummer’s Eve, everyone had gathered at the community park, on the south shore of the island. The park had a pavilion and large recreational area. It was used frequently for events. By noon it was full.

Today, of course, the main attraction was the HMS Ballymore. The residents were eager to see their new boat. Some had caught glimpses of it, but this would be the real presentation. Everyone was chattering and moving about when Bartholomew moved to the pavilion stage. The animals took their seats and quieted down.

“Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to our annual Midsummer’s Eve picnic. This event has probably been going on for as long as Ballymore has existed. We are all part of this rich history. Today’s big event will be the presentation of the HMS Ballymore. Before that, though, I have something to tell you that might be an even bigger event for Ballymore.”

A murmur went through the crowd as they were not expecting a surprise.

Bartholomew continued, “Earlier this month, Petunia Porcupine came to me with an old letter that was found buried near her cottage.”

He held up the letter.

“I would like to read it to you now.”

Then, he read the letter but omitted the sentence regarding the location of the box. The animals began talking among themselves, but they weren’t sure what to make of the letter. Bartholomew held up his wings, and again, they quieted.

“Cyrus Owl and the residents of Ballymore of 1801 have had the foresight and generosity to contact us from the distant past. We are very privileged to have found this letter. In it, Cyrus has expressed his concern that the values that made Ballymore a special place to live may be lost. It is 1891 now, ninety years later, and we have not lost those values.”

Then, the crowd stood and cheered Bartholomew. They remained standing as he finished.

“Thank you very much. It is good to be reminded of them. Together, we will solve the puzzle and locate the gift that has awaited us for so long. We will begin the hunt soon. Now, let’s enjoy this wonderful day. Your new boat will be here directly.”

The crowd clapped and cheered again. Then, they jumped onto the stage and surrounded Bartholomew. He ushered them towards the dock as he answered numerous questions.

Stoddard and Sean flew off to the boat to prepare. She was anchored at the northwest end of the island.

About one-half hour later, Brie Bluebird brought a message for Bartholomew. The boat was on its way and should be there in about fifteen minutes.

He told the waiting crowd, “Fifteen minutes to go!”

Everyone stood on the dock or shoreline, looking to their right, and trying to be the first to spot the boat. They were silent with anticipation and expectation. The boat would come around the west end of the island about one-quarter mile away. The bluebirds flew out over the water a short distance and had the best view.

The weather was warm with partly cloudy skies and a slight breeze from the west. There were only small waves on the pond.

About ten minutes later, Branna shouted, “They’re coming, I can see them!”

The crowd leaned forward in anticipation.

“There she is!” yelled Birk.

First, the shiny, black bow cleared the trees. Quickly, the dark red sails followed, and the crowd broke into a roar. Silently and so smoothly the HMS Ballymore glided slowly through the water. Her large sails rippled slightly in the breeze. At the top of the mast, flew a dark red pennant with the single name “Ballymore” lettered on it. The rails and sails were trimmed with decorative gold bunting.

Sean was standing at attention near the mast. Stoddard, also at attention, was at the tiller. They wore long, dark red capes specially made for the event by Rhonda Rabbit.

Just when they thought it couldn’t get any better, it did!

Branna was still hovering out over the water. She yelled, “Something else is coming!”

If it was possible, the crowd looked even harder but saw nothing. Then, a buzzing sound was heard, and it grew progressively louder.

The crowd let out a gasp, and several “Oh my’s” were heard.

Trailing the boat, but drawing closer, was a squadron of about one hundred bumblebees lined up in the familiar V-shaped formation, which geese use. At the head of the V, was their queen. The formation was about five feet above the boat. Within seconds a second V-formation appeared behind the first and then a third and a fourth. Each group was led by their queen. The crowd clapped and cheered even louder in appreciation.

The queen leading the first V lined herself up directly over the mast. Each following formation of bumblebees was ten feet behind the group in front. They matched the speed of the boat exactly and maintained perfect alignment.

The procession approached the dock about thirty feet off-shore. The boat went past by about three hundred feet and then executed a smooth U-turn. The bees did the same. The buzzing sound, from the four hundred bumblebees, was now quite impressive.

The procession had one additional element to it, but no one noticed. Following the boat underwater was a large dark shape. It was Sam Snapping Turtle.

The boat docked. Sean jumped off and secured it. The crowd, still cheering, gathered around.

The bumblebees stopped and briefly held position over the water. They then began to move off in the direction they had come, still in formation. When the crowd realised they were leaving, they gave them another appreciative ovation. The bees continued to head west. The buzzing faded, and eventually they were out of sight.

There is only one word that does justice to what had just occurred: Majestic!

Bartholomew had to admit, to himself, that he was pretty impressed. For a moment he was overcome with emotion, which was rare for him.

Bartholomew raised his wings to briefly quiet the crowd. “You see what we can accomplish when we work together. His voice quivered a little. Ladies and gentlemen, I am honored to present to you, your new boat, the HMS Ballymore. Isn’t she beautiful!”

The crowd roared and then began yelling “Bart, Bart, Bart.”

That embarrassed Bartholomew, and he blushed.

As the animals climbed all over the boat, he managed to slip through them and made it to a picnic table on the pavilion. Grenby had also escaped the overflowing dock and soon joined him.

“I’m not much for crowds either,” said Grenby. “I do congratulate you, Bartholomew. You’ve done a superb job.”

“Thank you, but everybody deserves the credit. This a perfect example of Ballymore cooperation,” responded Bartholomew.

“Yes, that’s true,” agreed Grenby. “I think I’ll go grab my favorite morsels while ‘Ballymore cooperation' is focused on the boat.”

He headed for the food tables.

“I’ll be there soon,” yelled Bartholomew.

Bartholomew was thinking about the letter when Dr. Brigit approached.

“Hello, Bart. This is a great day for Ballymore.”

“Yes, it is,” responded Bartholomew. “The boat will be an important asset. Soon, we will start sailing classes, if you are interested.”

“I certainly might be. It sounds like fun,” answered Brigit.

After pausing, he suggested, “How about some food.”

They smiled at each other and walked to the tables.

When a significant event happened in Ballymore, at least one painting was made by the frogs. The frogs had brought their canvases, paints, and brushes and were ready.

Farley Frog had given considerable thought as to how to paint the event. The scene included the boat, the crowd, and the bees. It was a very wide scene, so he settled on a multiple canvas concept. Three canvases were be placed side-by-side. Each canvas would cover one-third of the scene. He, his wife, and daughter would each paint one canvas. Since they had the same painting style, it would look as if one artist had done all three paintings. This was the first time they would be using this method.

HMS Ballymore

HMS Ballymore

With Bartholomew’s help, Farley gathered everyone and arranged them to create a most pleasing composition. It took one hour for the artists to complete three nice sketches. Of course, the bees had already left. They and other details would be added later. Farley thanked everyone for their cooperation. The animals quickly scattered with half running for the food. The other half went back to the boat.

For the rest of the day, everyone enjoyed the food and games and the boat rides. Many said it was the best Midsummer’s Eve they could remember.