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4:33 AM Sun, Dec. 16th

Column: Tolly the flying turtle

Tolly sat on the small hill that overlooked the pond where he lived. He had a dreamy look on his face as he gazed up at the clouds floating by.

His reverie was broken as Jake and Morley, two crows that lived in the woods nearby, flew over and landed by him. "Hey Hardback, whatcha up to?" said Morley, as he slapped the turtle on the back.

"Not so hard," cried Jake, "he'll get shell shocked." This exchange produced a round of laughter from the two birds. Tolly paid them little attention. He knew they did not mean anything by it; that's the way crows talked.

"Oh, nothing I suppose, I was just wishing." He replied.

"So what ya wishing for?" asked Morley, "A new house or a two-car garage?"

"No," replied Tolly, "I was just wishing I could fly."

"You would be better off wishing for the house," Jake said. "You know turtles can't fly. Who ever heard of a flying turtle?"

"My mother told me about a elephant once," said Morley, "that was learning how to fly. I think she just made that story up so I wouldn't be afraid to leave the nest."

"So what happened?" asked Tolly.

"Well, she kicked me out of the nest and just before I went splat, I stuck my wings out and started to fly."

"But I don't have a nest," said Tolly. "I can't even climb a tree. How will I ever fly?"

At that moment, Tolly brightened as an idea popped into his mind. "You guys are smart," said the turtle, "Could you teach me to fly?"

For once in their lives, Jake and Morley were speechless. It was no secret that they were able to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in their pursuit of food and other treasures, but to help a turtle fly? That was a problem they would have to think on.

The two pucks flew off, each trying to figure a way to make a turtle fly. They never, not even for a moment, considered the task impossible. Crows, by their very nature, are clever and resourceful in their pursuit of mischief, and the greater the challenge, the more determined they become.

They flew over a beaver dam and spotted an old friend down below busy cutting sticks and trees for his dam. "I say," said Morley, "I believe that old Gomer can help us solve our problem."

Gomer was busy gnawing at a tree, moving from side to side to insure that when the tree fell, it would land in the best position for the beaver to harvest the leaves and branches.

Intent as he was with his work, he was startled when Jake and Morley came up behind him, causing him to take a larger bite of the tree than he wanted, causing the tree to break off and fall.

"Timber!" cried Jake.

"Fore!" shouted Morley.

Startled at the sudden intrusion, the beaver spun around. Then, seeing the birds, snarled "What are you numbskulls ranting about? Can't a beaver work in peace without all that bothersome shouting?"

"You don't need to be insulting, Gomer," quipped Jake, "but we have a little problem and you're just the beaver to help us to find a solution."

"Sorry," the beaver replied, "but as you can see, I'm very busy. I have to get this dam finished."

"Hmm" sighed Morley "it seems to me that you have been building this dam ever since I was kicked out of the nest. And besides, this shouldn't take too much of your time, and anyway, it should be loads of fun."

The beaver looked at the two excited birds, and knowing full well that he would not have a moment's peace until he helped them, he reluctantly agreed. As Jake and Morley began to explain the problem, Gomer exploded in astonishment.

"That stupid turtle wants to what? Bust my dam if that don't top everything. You want me to help a turtle fly? You two featherheads ain't got the brains of a woodpecker."

"So, will you help us?" the crows asked.

"Hrumpf" was the reply, "I'll probably regret it but I guess I'm willing to give it a try; it might prove interesting."

A crowd had gathered on the hill as word spread through the forest about the turtle that was going to fly. Gomer ignored the excited chattering of the forest creatures as he paced back and forth, scratching his head, testing the wind and making various mental calculations.

At long last, he announced his plan. "We'll use a catapult to throw him in the air. After that, he's on his own."

"A cattle what?" exclaimed Jake. "How's a cow going to help a turtle fly?"

"It's not a cow," Gomer replied. "It's a ... here let me show you." Picking up a small rock, he sat it on his broad flat tail, then with a quick flip, the rock went sailing through the air.

"You're gonna flip Tolly though the air with your tail?" asked Morley.

Disgusted, Gomer never bothered to answer. Instead, he walked over to a small tree and began to bend it over. "Now when I get this tree in place, you help Tolly climb on. As soon as he gets set, I'll let it go and the turtle goes flying."

As Tolly watched the arrangements being made, he began to have second thoughts. "Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all," he whimpered. "Maybe I should just keep my feet on the ground."

"Nonsense!" snipped Morley. "After all the work we've gone through, you're going to fly. Now, let's get you up in the tree."

The two crows were nearly exhausted when they finally got Tolly in position. Gomer, seeing that he was ready, or at least as ready as he would ever be, cried out "Here we go" and released the tree.

The tree snapped forward and the turtle flew through the air. Straight up. The two crows flew up after him shouting encouragement and words of advice.

"Spread your wings out!"

As the turtle began to trace his journey back to earth, his legs and tail were tucked tight inside his shell. Now, whether the landing was by plan or by luck is still being debated on the hill, but the turtle landed safely with a splat in the soft mud at the edge of the pond.

Fearing the worst, Jake and Morley rushed over and were relieved to see Tolly climbing out of the mud.

"Well, kid, how does it feel to fly like a bird?" Jake asked.

"I don't know," he replied. "I had my eyes closed."

This brought shrieks of laughter from everyone.

"He had his eyes closed - the first flying turtle and he didn't even open his eyes." The laughter was deafening and poor Tolly pulled into his shell trying to escape the sound.

"Don't listen to them," Morley said. "Tell you what, we'll do it again."

"No!" protested Tolly. "I don't want to. I can't remember much about flying, but the landing was no fun at all."

"Well, we can fix that," Jake said. "I'm sure it was just a slight miscalculation and the next one will be much better."

Reluctantly, Tolly let himself be led back up the hill. As they neared the tree, they saw Gomer carefully studying it.

"Sorry about that," Gomer said. "Seems I made a slight miscalculation. Won't happen again."

The tree was again bent back, and with much coaxing and prodding by Jake and Morley, the reluctant turtle was again ready to take off.

"Now," said Morley, "as soon as Gomer lets go, stick your wings out and this time keep your eyes open."

"But," whimpered Tolly, "I don't have any wings."

"Just stick your legs out," Jake replied. "That will work just as well."

Before Tolly could say another word, the beaver released the tree, sending him flying high into the sky.

It was wondrous! Tolly found himself flying across the meadow. As he sailed through the sky, he was amazed at how far he could see.

"Gosh," he thought, "this is wonderful! If I were a bird, I would never want to land."

His reverie was soon broken by the realization that his flight was almost over and he was heading right toward the pond.

Tolly pulled his legs and head inside his shell. But instead of making a splat, his belly hit the water and he began to skip across the water.

Jake and Morley flew over to Tolly. There was a look of rapture on the turtle's face. "So how does it feel to fly?" asked Jake.

"It was wonderful!" Tolly replied. "Thank you both so much."

"Anytime, kid," Morley said. And with that the two flew off in search of new adventures.