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Monday, 4 October 2004
How the Wise Turkey came to know how patient Opossums are
One evening, in late fall, the Wise Turkey was alone in the house that he shared with two Men. Night was coming, and chilly fog settled in from the ocean. Just as he had built a fire in the fireplace and was settling down to read, he heard a noise that he found unusual.

Tap clunk, tap clunk, it went. It was coming from the woodshop.

This is strange, the turkey muttered to himself. The guys went away to find new wood to bring back down the mountain, to work in their shop. There should not be anyone in the shop now.

Might it be a burglar? Well, they aren't unheard-of in these parts. But a burglar would have to be very clumsy to make the same noise, over and over.

Turkeys are not easily frightened, except by hungry foxes. But turkeys are very careful creatures. Maybe a badger or a dog had stumbled into the woodshop and couldn't find its way out. A turkey opening the door would probably surprise such a creature and the results would be unpleasant.

The Wise Turkey took his lantern, and closed the shutter on it so only a narrow slice of light could escape from it, then he went out through the back door from the kitchen. He crossed the patio, then the garden, went behind the wagon shed, and over to the woodshop. He stepped quietly, without creeping, approaching the door.

Tap clunk, tap clunk, it continued. The windowless door was latched. No glow of lanterns from within lit the edges of the door. He heard no snuffling or snorting of some animal trapped inside.

So he quietly slipped the latch upward and opened the door a crack. It was utterly dark within, but the tap clunk was louder.

He raised the lantern and aimed the narrow slit of light inside. His eyes grew wide with wonder.

A huge machine stood in the middle of the shop, with tools and wood shavings laid about it on tables and sawhorses. It was almost to the ceiling of the high shed of the shop, and as big around as his Grandmother's dining room table. Wheels and cogs meshed with each other, like children's fingers clasped in prayer, within the wooden frame, all carefully hewn from wood of various colors and grains. The spokes and teeth of the gears all bore oil or grease that sometimes dripped down to other moving parts, or down to the floor.

And with each tap clunk, some gears moved just one tooth at a time. As he entered the shop and stepped near the machine, he aimed the beam of light up to see how high it really stood. There, coiled in a spiral at the very top, was a long band of shiny metal, as wide as his favorite scarf and long enough to wrap around the shed at least twice. It was bent smoothly into the spiral as if it were a spring, storing energy. At each tap clunk, the spiraled band of metal quivered, ever so slightly.

He then stepped around to one side of the machine, facing the rear wall of the shop. There a long beam, at least as tall as a man, hung from the top of the machine's heavy frame. It swung from side to side. At the top end, two smaller levers reached upward to a gear, so that every time the beam swung to the left, it would let the gear move a little, but then the other lever would reach up and stop the gear before it moved too far. Then the beam would stop and begin swinging back to the right, and the other lever let it go again, and the first lever would catch it.

At the end of the beam, there was attached a basket. Though the beam swung quickly, he could peek into the basket and almost see what was inside. But what drew his interest was a little folding shelf on one of the workbenches. As the pendulum swung toward it, it lifted the shelf, then as it swung away, the shelf fell again. Tap, clunk.

The Wise Turkey carefully stepped to the shelf, caught it before the next clunk, and lifted it and latched it shut. It no longer fell into the path of the pendulum to be lifted and dropped.

Just then a small but confident voice piped up. "Hey, dere's someboddy here!" The voice seemed to approach, then recede. "Can you help me? I'm-a caught in dis!"

The Wise Turkey turned his lamp again to the pendulum's basket. Two bright eyes peered out, blinking because the back-and-forth motion was making their owner dizzy.

"I have no idea how to stop this machine and let out. Who are you?"

"I'm-a da Opossum Cicero. I was-a dropping da pebbles into da basket, to make-a da pendulo swing slower."

"You didn't drop enough pebbles in, then, did you?"

"Dat's enough-a da funny joking dere. Da pendulo is-a too heavy for you to stop. But if-a you trow more pebbles in, it-a slow down some more. I get out."

"What pebbles?"

"Dere's a bag of dem inside-a dat shelf you just closed."

And there were. The Turkey had to watch the pendulum swing, and time the drop of the pebble so it fell to the basket at the same time that the basket was in the way. Only about one pebble in three made it into the basket.

The Turkey then moved himself so he was dropping the pebbles from the center of the pendulum's swing. Timing was easier, and soon every pebble fell into the basket. Once in a while, the opossum said "ouch!" because the pebble hit him as it fell in.

After many pebbles, the pendulum seemed to slow down, and the Opossum was able to climb atop the basket and fall out. He thudded to the floor, very tired and dizzy. The Turkey helped him to his clawed paws.

"Tanks. I t'ought I was in dere for good."

"Why were you here?"

"The wood workers offer me the crayfish if I add pebbles until the swing is just the right length."

"That was how long ago?"

"Oh my. Must have been fifteen-a songs."


"I know the pendulo swing right if it swing-a thirty times in my family's song. Dis is what I do. Sing the song same way every time."

"How many days might that be? The men have been gone for a week."

The opossum tried to get up on its hind legs but couldn't from dizziness, and went back to all fours. "Sounds about-a right."

After an awkward pause, which Turkeys normally don't find all that awkward, the Turkey offered: "The pendulum is faster now with your weight gone."

The opossum drew a deep breath and sighed. "Yeah, dis gonna take some time to fix." He hummed to himself, while his eyes followed the swinging basket, then shook his head sadly. "All-a wrong."

And this is how the Wise Turkey came to know how patient Opossums are.

Posted by co4/taxi4driver at 9:32 PM MDT
Updated: Wednesday, 6 October 2004 7:45 PM MDT
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