It was three days after the Apple Tree ‘BIG WATER’ had broken through the hillside, and the wonderful, clear, blue water still flowed. The new Drinking Pool was full of Birds splashing each other, and having a big drink. They were laughing, and talking, with the Words they had just learned.
It was not all just fun, though. There was a lot of work going on, too. There was a line of Birds waiting their turn to join in the organized digging of the stream. It would flow down the hill to form a new Lake, below the new Drinking Pool.
SNAG and POSEY were off in the distance putting in little marker sticks to show where they would build the Lake wall.
High overhead, the COMMANDER, THE LITTLE, BLACK BIRD, and TWITTER, were circling around in the sky looking down on all the happy activity. It was more than Water, and Words, and Work. It was a wonderful feeling that had become a part of everything.
There were hundreds of happy Birds being helped to do new things by the Friends of Our Pond and, of course, they were having fun together.
There was also one mystery that was getting louder and louder. There were many Birds going up into the woods, and they did not come back. Those that went up to find out what it was all about, also, did not return. JAZZ went up in the woods frequently. Even SNAG went up in the woods for a few hours. He did return, though--looking a bit tired, but he had a big smile on his face, and, also, seemed very happy.
It was four days after the ‘BIG WATER’, and no Birds were thirsty, so SHARD flew off on his powerful wings to get some exercise.
High in the hills he saw something that bothered him. He flew down closer, and he smelled something that really bothered him. He turned swiftly in the sky, and flew at full speed back to find NOZZLE.
All the Friends, and Birds, could hear SHARD coming. It was not like when POSEY arrived, with her galloping sound. This was a powerful hum, with the sound of a great wind that suddenly stopped. Here SHARD was, and he was looking for NOZZLE. They found each other, and had a brief talk.
Then, SHARD flew swiftly away, again. This time, he flew nearer to the ground, and went up the valleys to look closely at the trees. Yes, there was a smell—and, now, there were traces of smoke. This was very important! There was not much wind at the moment. Very high, up on the mountain peaks, fire was burning—but, it was not moving down the valleys, yet. With little wind, and some rain, these small fires might die out. Every few hours, SHARD would have to go back to this region, and check to see what was going on.
In the meantime, SHARD would have to tell NOZZLE, and the COMMANDER, not to alarm everybody yet. That would spoil the ‘escape from thirst’ celebration, and the wonderful fun they were all having with the ‘BIG WATER’ still flowing down the hill.
But, they must plan for the worst. What if the fire spread and did come down the hills, and valleys, towards Our Pond. How would The Friends of Our Pond get away? What would happen to the Pond? For the moment, they just hoped it would not happen—that the fire would not come!
NOZZLE had another worry, too. Now, he could not find the COMMANDER. He even sent WHIZZY to find him. But WHIZZY came back, and said, “I have been everywhere around here, and the COMMANDER must be hiding because I did not find him. I did see THE LITTLE, BLACK BIRD and TWITTER singing together. They seemed normal. THE LITTLE, BLACK BIRD usually keeps in contact with the COMMANDER, so she must know where he is and what he is doing.”
“I will ask her tomorrow,” said NOZZLE.
Early the next morning, TWITTER flew down from her nest, high in the old Pine Tree, and found NOZZLE during his morning swim. He held up his long nose, and she sat on it, in her usual spot. “I have a sort of ‘non-message’ for you,” she said quickly. “ We know you are looking for the COMMANDER. It is a fact--he is busy, and he is hiding from you. My friend, THE LITTLE, BLACK BIRD has been instructed not to answer your questions about the COMMANDER. She is sorry, but she will not be able to say anything.”
That same afternoon SHARD flew back, at full speed, to find NOZZLE. He had some bad news to report. SHARD found NOZZLE, and told him, “The wind has come up, and there has been no rain. The fire is moving towards us slowly. It is still a long way off, but, if the wind gets higher, the fire might start jumping forward and head for Our Pond.”
NOZZLE asked SHARD to fly back at once and keep watching the fire, and immediately report if the situation changed. One leap into the sky, and SHARD was gone!
As he turned to find JAZZ, NOZZLE noted that there was no “buzzing” noise going on in the forest. There was activity where SNAG and POSEY were preparing the first log for the Lake Wall. And, there were a few Birds working on digging the stream toward the Lake--deeper and deeper, as the water continued to flow.
Two hours later, everyone heard SHARD coming towards them at full speed. His message was quick. “It has happened--the wind has increased, and the fire is jumping, and may come our way.”
NOZZLE immediately pointed his huge nose toward the sky, and blew the “trumpet” sound that meant Emergency for all the Members of Our Pond! Everyone came, and, for the first time, the COMMANDER was there! He directed his wing tip toward the new Drinking Pool and everybody rushed in that direction. This was also the first time the COMMANDER had taken any action with the Our Pond Members! Hundreds of White Cloud Birds flew in and began digging the Drinking Pool deeper and deeper. Still more birds arrived, with sticks and mud in their beaks, to build a wall around the Drinking Pool making it a safe place from the heat of the approaching fire.
Even in the middle of all this confusion, NOZZLE had some new thoughts. BOING, the mother kangaroo, while doing her “ideas dance”, had told him that a big problem needs big strength. And this is what actually happened. The COMMANDER had the combined strength of hundreds of Birds equipped with Words. They could talk and work with each other. The COMMANDER was clever, and had asked JAZZ for help. “Yes,” JAZZ had said. He and his fast fingers knew how to weave. He could help, and he did. So, what had happened?
The Friends of Our Pond saw something very strange coming towards them in the sky. As it got closer, they could see it was some kind of “roof” woven of reeds--that was being pulled along by lines and lines of Birds, flapping their wings at full power to keep it in the air. Still other Birds were zooming down above it with beaks full of water--spitting on the roof to make it fireproof.
NOZZLE waved for the Our Pond Members to hide in their special mud, and water places, deep in the Drinking Pool. The “roof” was dropped lower and lower, until it was fitted in place over the pool. The fire was coming closer. It was getting pretty hot everywhere, but the wet Roof, and deep water, protected everyone from the fire, including a lot of tired Birds.
Suddenly, the COMMANDER, and another mass of Birds, high in the sky, away from the heat, turned and headed in the direction of Our Pond. They seemed to know where they were going, and what they were going to do. Every beak was full of mud and stones.
Hours later, a very, very tired, and slightly singed SHARD flopped down from the clouds, and announced, “You are all safe! The fire has been put out! From here you could not see it, but the COMMANDER, and his Birds, built a great, huge, mud wall all around Our Pond. The fire never reached it. Nothing important was damaged. Tomorrow, you will all be able to go home, as if nothing had ever happened."