The Bell Tower

Part IV

A Cottage For Sam

The building of Sam Snapping Turtle’s cottage commenced the day after the butterfly picnic. The weather was cool, and there was more than a hint of autumn in the air. An early morning mist was on the pond. That was a sure sign of the changing seasons. Burton Beaver sniffed the fresh air as he left his cottage to go and meet with Sam. He loved fall. It was so refreshing. It was refreshing as long as you weren’t trapped in the woods by fog, that is. The beaver entered the water and swam down the cove to where Sam lived.

Sam was waiting for him at the farthest end. Devon Duck and Sedgewick Squirrel would be joining them, also.

“Good morning. How are you?” said Burton.

“Good morning. I’m fine, thank you.”

“It’s a beautiful day to begin building a cottage,” said Burton. “Have you thought about the style you would like?”

“A little. I only need a small cottage, and the only special feature I can think of is an underwater entrance.”

“Ah, similar to our cottage but smaller,” said Burton.

“Yes, that would be great. Thank you.”

“Then, we will start immediately. The first step is to assemble the building materials. The squirrels will gather pine needles, straw, and reeds for the roof. My family will find wood from fallen trees. Perhaps you can help the ducks with the stones,” explained Burton.

“Yes. How can I help?”

“A short distance down the creek, a lot of stones have accumulated near the bank,” said Burton. “We use the raft and take what we need for cottages or other projects. Of course, the ducks pull the raft. Your extra strength would be a great help, especially if the current is strong.”

“I’m ready whenever you need me,” answered Sam. “I very much want to help build my cottage.”

As they were talking, Devon and Sedgewick arrived. Burton told them about the style and size of the cottage that was to be built. It was pretty routine except for the underwater entrance.

Devon said, “We can be here tomorrow morning at 8 bongs with the raft to get the stones. It will probably take most of the day to bring them here. Sam, your help will be important since the creek is running strong.”

“I’ll be ready,” said Sam.

The meeting ended with everyone agreeing that the material gathering should start immediately.

The next morning, the ducks brought the raft. They had modified one of their harnesses for Sam, and he was eager to try it. It took a couple of minutes for him to hook up, and some adjustment was needed. It seemed his beak was even larger than the ducks had guessed. The ducks and Burton boarded the raft, and Sam easily pulled it into the pond. That was a rare treat for the ducks as normally they were the chauffeurs.

It was time to head down the creek. No pulling would be needed, but there would be a lot of steering required. Sam remained harnessed in front, but all five ducks hooked up to the back of the raft. Sam pulled it towards the creek. As they approached, the raft was caught by the current and began to speed up. The ducks had to paddle backward and Sam backed up against the front of the raft. They had it under control but just barely. The raft careened downstream as the water swirled around.

When they reached the location of the stones, Devon yelled, “We’re going to have to beach it on the left shore now!” The ducks steered the raft in that direction as best they could. Sam dove under the water to avoid being squashed between the rocks and raft. With a loud splash, it crashed onto the rocky shoreline. Nothing and no one was damaged or injured.

Devon said, “Well, it wasn’t an elegant landing, but we made it.”

Now, they had to refloat the raft. That required a lot of pushing and pulling and yanking and tugging. Finally, they got it back in the water and anchored. Then, they began the loading process. Burton knew what was needed and selected the best stones. As the raft took on the stones, it lowered in the water. Eventually, Burton decided that they had enough stones for that trip. Everyone hooked up to their harness, and they slowly headed up stream. It only took five minutes to rush downstream but over an hour to return. It would not have been possible without Sam.

The first load was finally delivered to the building site. It would take two more trips to get the needed stones. By evening they were finally done. It had been a tiring but successful day. Morris Muskrat stopped by around 7 bongs and kindly invited them to dinner.

After dinner everyone returned to their homes for a well-earned sleep. Sam lay down in the nest he had created and looked at the piles of stones, wood, and straw. Soon, the piles would be transformed into a cottage. It was something he was having a hard time believing. After all of these years, it seemed like magic. He was learning an age-old lesson. When you help others, you frequently get back more than you give.

Material gathering was the most difficult part of the construction. Next, the foundation and underwater entrance were dug. Then, construction proceeded rapidly. By the second week in October, the cottage was finished. Bartholomew arranged a dedication ceremony and sent out invitations to everyone.

On 14 October most of Ballymore gathered at the end of the cove, in front of Sam’s beautiful new home. Morris Muskrat and Birk Beaver had made and delivered furniture. Everything was cleaned and polished. The front door and the woodwork had a rich mahogany like glow. It was very homey. Sam could have slept in the cottage the night before but decided to wait until the dedication.

Bartholomew stood before the group and began.

“Welcome, everybody. The main purpose of this get together is to formally welcome Sam Snapping Turtle to the Ballymore community. Sam, would you please come up.”

Sam had been standing in the back. He came forward and stood beside Bartholomew. Everyone applauded, and he was a little embarrassed by the attention.

“As you know, Sam made his presence known to us in a most dramatic way. He saved Craig and Colin Chipmunk from drowning just last month.”

Everyone applauded again and Sam smiled.

“Today, we dedicate his new cottage, which was just completed yesterday. We want to thank the many animals who made this possible. Sam, we have one more surprise for you. Will the frogs please come forward.”

Farley, Fionna, and Faith came to the front. They carried three cloth-covered paintings and three tripods. The tripods were set in a neat row near Sam, and a painting was placed on each one.

“This past June, at the Midsummer’s Eve festival, the frogs did the initial sketches for these three paintings. We didn’t know Sam then, but he was there, also. Sam, as a token of our appreciation, we would like to present these paintings to you for your new home. Would you please do the honour of unveiling them.”

Sam was overcome by all of this. He wiped his eyes, walked to the painting on the left and pulled off the cloth. It was a painting of the stern of the HMS Ballymore, the dock, and a number of the residents.

He next unveiled the centre painting. It pictured the centre section of the boat with its beautiful, black hull and large, dark red sails. Above the boat were the bumblebees in formation. On the dock were many more residents. The details and colours were amazing.

The final painting was of the bow of the boat. In front were the remaining residents who had attended the commissioning ceremony. Standing on the very right was Sam. The frogs had painted him in even though he was not there on the dock.

When Sam saw himself in the picture, he broke down completely. He sobbed and shook and sobbed some more. Bartholomew walked over to him and put his wing around him. Everyone clapped and cheered. Bartholomew finally put his wings up and asked for quiet.

Sam turned around and faced them. Fionna gave him a handkerchief. He wiped his eyes and looked at the group again.

He spoke softly and slowly. “I came to Ballymore hoping to make some new friends and find a nice place to live. You have overwhelmed me with your kindnesses. I thank you so very much. I love you all.”

Everyone cheered again.

“I will never forget this day.”

He looked over at himself in the painting and almost sobbed again. Everyone surrounded him to wish him well.

After a short while Bartholomew rescued Sam.

“Thank you everyone. You are all invited inside for some tea and cookies. Please be patient and take turns.”

Everyone was very impressed by the cottage and the cookies made by Petunia Porcupine.

So Sam got his new cottage and three memorable paintings. I’m sure you will agree that he received even more than that from his new friends.