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Churchill and The Tower

No one knows for sure when Churchill arrived. It seemed as though he had always been there, living under that boxwood hedge that ran along the side of the stream, in places surrounding the maze, then finally brushing very close to Twybyl Woods (pronounced Twee-bull). It was the kind of place a fellow could do some serious thinking, or simply wander about and listen to the rabbits gossip. Churchill remembered that it had taken him a very long time to find it, and even longer to convince some field mice to stop playing and help him dig in before Winter arrived. That was so many years ago now. He still did not fully understand why he seemed to age so slowly, and had only dim memories of lying on a stack of fresh greens newly born when that enormous moth landed on the windowsill, shook her wings causing great clouds of powder blue dust to swirl that landed all over him, then flew off. The powder blue dust smelled like . . . . . his Mom, and Dad, and lots of other things he didn’t recognize, but it made him feel warm and safe, and he fell back asleep. In the morning he didn’t remember the moth, so he never had a chance to ask if anyone knew about powder blue dust.

That first winter Churchill lived in what was surely the size of a studio apartment, with his kitchen, bed, and bath close enough that having guests for tea or a toddy was out of the question. And of course at that time he only knew some of the field mice, who preferred green tea anyway, and he had not been able to find any locally. So he tucked in for his first Winter in the valley, and caught up on his reading. By the second Winter he had enlarged to a respectable home with room for three guests, and now he had what could only be called a mansion, with a great hall, and music room, and a superb wine cellar. Guests stayed in their own wing, and the helpers who came in (to help with guests) were always invited to stay in their own wing of the mansion as well, as Churchill didn’t believe in servants, only friends who helped. Tucked nicely under that hedge, however, this mansion was not at all visible unless you knew exactly where the door was, sitting at a slight angle, shaped like a live oak leaf, and dark green, to match the ground colors. While Churchill had grown truly to enjoy his guests, he still preferred to invite them, rather than being surprised by an unexpected knock.

The most astonishing aspect of Churchill’s house by far was the tower. It started in the absolute middle of his house, built deep within the dense hedge. It extended from the first floor pantry directly up 10 feet to the top of the hedge. It had a circular stairway and observation platforms scattered throughout, with an observation platform on top for very starry nights. Churchill often thought about his tower. He had been in his home under the hedge no more than ten years when his friend Edgar, a Raven who kept him up on the county news, first suggested the tower. “Just imagine how wonderful it would be if you could see the grounds like I do” Edgar remarked casually one day. Churchill leaned back in his chair, an odd smile crossing his face. “Yes, yes, that would be splendid!” he replied dreamily. “What a fine idea”.

Thereafter conversation about the tower became more frequent, until one day Churchill and Edgar approached Henderson, a large Red Squirrel, who lived in the enormous oak tree between the hedge and the stream, whose branches overhung the hedge, keeping it cool and shady in the summer. Henderson was known to be an architect of sorts. There was absolutely nothing he could not get into and open to look at, so he was able to figure out how things were made. He could always draw the plans. However, he always left the actual building to the field mice, who could construct anything if you could convince them to stop playing.

After many detailed discussions about the size of the tower, location of the platforms, and need for virtual invisibility from outside the hedge, Henderson had the field mice begin to gather the wood, dried grasses and mortar. For months Henderson could be seen hanging by his toes from various tree branches, whipping his tail about furiously, pointing here and there at the hedge, or at a wayward field mouse caught snoozing. At times, only his rump and tail stuck out of the hedge, in one unlikely place or another.

Edgar and Churchill took to sitting under the tree, leaning against the trunk, watching this marvel unfold. They were joined at various times by a large assortment of neighbors, although the frogs and grass snakes were never around at the same time. They had wonderful picnics, and occasionally the Mongoose played her sitar. “You know” Churchill remarked to Edgar one still August afternoon, “I am very surprised that this activity has not drawn the attention of the main house,” as he sipped his Merlot. “They seem to be so busy, coming and going, never stopping to walk around and just look and listen,” replied Edgar. “Except for the old woman. She watches all of us, and touches the plants, and sits still for hours by the stream” Churchill answered, glancing sideways at Edgar. “When she sits for a while I stroll over and sit beside her. She likes to stroke my head”. “Really!” Edgar replied, his beak half open and eyebrows raised . . . . . . when a loud cheering sound broke out from the hedge. Everyone was dancing around, and clapping. The tower was finished.

Henderson and the field mice stood in front of Churchill, ready to escort him to the stairs in the pantry. Just before he reached the pantry he excused himself. He returned in a moment wearing a backpack, and they all headed up the stairs in the tower. Churchill stopped on all the landings, looking out on the stream and topiaries, and the grounds. Continuously he congratulated one and all for the workmanship, the angle-selections, and the sheer artistry. He examined joints and dowels and seams and complimented all the workers, every one in turn.

When the troop arrived on the top platform, with a 360 degree view, they were awestruck, even those who had been working on the tower. Such beauty! Such an enchanting valley! “We can sit up here and watch the world together” remarked Edgar, to anyone who was listening. “And so much more!” giggled Churchill, a gleeful look crossing his face. “I have waited months for this!” he grinned, and ran full speed to the end of the platform and jumped.

Everyone gasped and ran to the edge to look, just as Churchill pulled the rip cord on his parachute. “Wheeeeee” was the only sound they heard as Churchill rode the thermals to the bank of the stream while Edgar chuckled, knowing exactly how he felt.

Later they all swore that they had seen powder-blue dust flying off of his fur.

-The End-
July 2003


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