Old Crock and Raccoon

On a long, hot, lazy summer day, Old Crock lay snoozing peacefully on his very own hummock, a low mound of earth surrounded by the marsh. His was the best hummock in the whole swamp, flat, close to the water, and sprinkled with lots of grit for tummy scratching. Just now Old Crock was dreaming a beautiful dream of green birds in a golden sky above a crystal blue lake. He was smiling in his sleep. But suddenly his dream was interrupted. Someone was calling his name.

“Crock! Crock!” a voice came from the cattails.

Crock stopped snoozing for a moment and opened one eye a wee, tiny bit, just enough to see who it was.

The long, green reeds shook and swayed as Crock’s unseen visitor approached. Then a furry head with pointy ears and a wet, black nose popped up right at the edge of Crock’s hummock. Both of Crock’s eyes popped open wide. The head was wearing a black mask across its eyes!

“Are you awake, Crock?” asked the masked visitor.

“Are you a robber?” asked Crock.

“No! I’m your friend, Raccoon!” came the reply.

Crock turned his head carefully one way and then the other as he looked at his visitor warily.

“Why, yes! So you are!” said Crock in a relieved voice. “I thought you might be a robber come to steal my green birds. I’m glad it’s you, Raccoon, but why are you wearing that mask?”

“I don’t know, Crock. I always wear it.” Raccoon looked a bit confused. Crock often had that effect on him. “What green birds?”

“The ones I was just dreaming about,” replied Crock.

“Oh,” said Raccoon. “I see.” Which he really didn’t, but he didn’t want to ask how Crock’s dream birds could be stolen. Sometimes Crock had some pretty strange ideas.

“Well,” said Crock, “thank you for stopping by!” With that he closed his eyes and yawned a great big, comfortable yawn. His mouth opened so wide that Raccoon nearly fell in right on top of Crock’s thick, pink tongue and sharp, white teeth! Suddenly Crock’s mouth snapped shut and he began to snore.

“Crock!” Raccoon cried. “Don’t go back to sleep! Wake up and let’s do something!”

Crock slowly opened his eyes again and looked at Raccoon sleepily.

“Like what, Raccoon?” he asked. “Would you like to chase butterflies while I take a nap?”

“No, Crock! Let’s do something together! Let’s go berry picking, or...or fishing! Yes, that’s it! Let’s go fishing!”

“O.K., Raccoon,” replied Crock, more awake now. “But what should we fish for?”

“Why, fish I suppose,” answered Raccoon, looking confused again. “What else?”

“Oh, how ordinary!” said Crock. “Fishing for fish! Let’s use some imagination, Raccoon. Let’s fish for root beer floats, or watermelons, or maybe even a rainbow!”

“A rainbow, Crock? How do we fish for a rainbow?” asked Raccoon, now completely lost.

“Ah-hah,” said Crock, smiling secretively. “Come along and I’ll show you.” And off they went to Crock’s home.

Crock lived in the hollow space under an old cypress tree’s roots. Lots of brush had piled up around it, making it snug and comfortable. Soft moss covered the floor inside. The thick roots arched and met high overhead.

“First,” said Crock, “we’ll need a fishing pole.” He rummaged around in one corner and came up with a cane pole. “Here, you hold it, Raccoon.” Raccoon took the pole.

“Will we need some string?” asked Raccoon.

“Oh, absolutely,” said Crock. “Lots!” He bent and looked into a hollow log against one side of the room. “Ah! Here we are!” Crock reached into the log and tugged out a tremendous ball of string with a few daddy-long-legs spiders clinging to it. He shook them off and scurried away to find new hiding places.

“Where did you get so much string, Crock?” Raccoon asked.

“Oh, I pick up bits and pieces here and there, wherever I find it, and I just keep adding it on.” Crock’s ball of string looked lumpy and colorful with so many knots holding so many different sizes and colors of string together.

“Let’s see,” said Crock. “We’ll need some kind of bait, too.”

“Rainbow bait?” asked Raccoon.

“Yes indeed, Raccoon. What do you think we should use?”

“How about worms?” offered Raccoon. “Do rainbows like worms?”

“I really don’t think so. Besides, rainbows are way up in the sky, and everyone knows that worms are afraid of heights. No, worms won’t do at all,” said Crock. “But clouds might work. Rainbows spend a lot of time around clouds.”

“I suppose they do,” said Raccoon. “They’re always up there together. Do you have a cloud in here, Crock?” Raccoon was looking around with wide, curious eyes.

“No, I’m afraid I don’t,” said Crock sadly.

“How about a bird, or maybe a moon?” suggested Raccoon.

“Now there are two very good ideas!” said Crock, happy again. “Did you bring any with you?”

“No, just this old ribbon I found in the woods,” Raccoon said as he held up one end of a wide, white sash he had tied around his neck.

“Hmmm,” Crock considered the ribbon. “Now that gives me another idea. Why not use a kite?”

“Yeah,” said Raccoon, getting excited. “A kite would be great! Do you have one?”

“No, but I’ll bet we could make one!”

“Do you know how?”

“Sure! Let’s see. We’ll need two sticks, some paper, some glue, and some of this string.” Crock handed the lumpy ball to Raccoon. “I have some old newspapers and some glue somewhere around here.”

Crock started poking around in some old crates near the doorway while Raccoon stood there holding the string and the cane pole.

“Well, what do you know? I even have a pair of scissors here!” Crock brought all the things to the middle of the room and dumped them on the floor. “Now all we need are the sticks. I’ll go out and find us a couple of good ones. While I’m gone, Raccoon, you find both ends of the string. We’re going to tie one end to our fishing pole and the other end to our kite! I’ll be right back!” With that Crock ducked out the doorway.

Raccoon set the cane pole down and tied the loose end of the string to its tip. Then he started looking for the other end of the string. Hand-over-hand he began to unwind the big ball. There were pieces of red string and white string, and green string and fat string, and skinny string and smooth string and rough string. Yard after yard of string! He hoped he could find the other end before Crock got back! There was so much string!

Finally, Crock did return. But where was Raccoon? Crock looked all around his home, even in his hollow log and old crates, but there was no Raccoon!

“Raccoon,” he called. “Where are you?”

“Brf e ym,” came a muffled reply.

“My word. What was that?” said Crock.

“Yf mi crk,” came the voice again.

Then Crock noticed the pile of string on the floor and a furry brown paw sticking out of it!

“Raccoon!” cried Crock in alarm. “Are you in that string?”

“Ys,” said the pile of string.

“Well...well...my goodness!” Crock was amazed. Carefully Crock began to untangle Raccoon. “Did you find the other end?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,” Raccoon said as Crock pulled him out. “I have it right here!” Raccoon held the loose end tightly.

“Good! Now don’t let it get away or we may never find it again!”

“I won’t,” promised Raccoon.

“Well then, let’s get to work,” said Crock.

Raccoon watched while Crock cut off a piece of the string and tied the two sticks together, noticing that one was longer than the other. They made a ‘t’ shape. Next Crock took the loose end of the string and tied it to one end of one stick, and then from the end of that stick to the end of the next stick, and then the next and the next, until he had come back to where he had started. Now it looked like a diamond. He cut the string and handed the loose end back to Raccoon.

“Well, it sort of looks like a kite,” said Raccoon.

“It’s getting there,” said Crock. “Now we’ll put a paper cover over this stick and string frame.” Crock reached over and pulled out part of the newspaper.

“Crock! It’s the funnies! Look! There’s the one about the little bear and the pig, and there’s the one about the old lady and her dog! Won’t you read them to me, before you make them into a kite?”

Crock smiled. “I’d be glad to, Raccoon.” And he sat down and read every one of them to his friend.

“Thanks, Crock!”

“My pleasure, Raccoon. Now let’s finish our kite!”

Crock spread the funnies out on the floor and placed the kite frame on top of them. Then he folded the corners of the paper in and across the strings and glued them down.

“Wow! It really does look like a kite,” said Raccoon, getting more and more excited.

“Of course!” said Crock. “Now let’s take a break and let the glue dry. Just tie that loose end of string someplace safe and we’ll go get a cold root beer at Bill Stork’s place.”

“All right! That’s a great idea! Let’s go!”

And they did

When they came back they were refreshed and ready to put the finishing touches on their kite.

“O.K., Raccoon. You cut another piece of string. Make it a little shorter than the kite is wide.” Raccoon took the scissors and carefully did as Crock said.

“What will you do with it?” he asked.

“This gets tied across the back of the kite,” Crock explained. “It makes the shorter stick have a little bend in it, and that helps the kite to fly a lot better.” Raccoon helped Crock tie the string in place.

“Now we’re almost ready!” said Crock. “Help me turn the kite over.”

Very gently they turned it front side up.

“What next?” asked Raccoon.

“Another piece of string!” announced Crock, looking pleased with their work. “Make this one a little longer than the kite is tall.

Raccoon cut the string and handed it to his friend. Crock tied it to either end of the longer stick so that it lay loosely across the face of the kite.

“Very good!” Crock said. “This is a first-class kite, indeed!”

“Now is it ready?” Raccoon asked.

“Just about! Tie that loose end of the string to the middle of the piece I just tied on.” Raccoon tied it tightly.

“Great! Now just one more thing! A tail!”

“A tail!” Raccoon exclaimed. “Kites have tails?”

“Of course, just like you or me, or anyone else,” Crock said. “Nice long tails with lots of bows tied in them.”

Raccoon was looking back at his own stubby tail, trying to imagine it with bows tied around it.

“In fact,” Crock continued, “it was your white ribbon that gave me the kite idea in the first place! Your ribbon can be the tail for our kite!”

“Ooooh!” said Raccoon. “Yes! Yes it can be!” He untied it from his neck and gave it to Crock. Crock tied it to the bottom of the kite, and knotted seven little bows along its length.

“Ta-da! That’s it, Raccoon! We’re ready! Let’s go skyfishing!”

“All right!” cried Raccoon.

Together they picked up the kite, the string, and the cane pole and headed out the doorway.

Just as they stepped out someone called to them. There, coming along the path from Bill Stork’s place, were several of their friends hurrying toward them. Bill Stork was there, and behind him came the four O’Hares from the edge of the swamp, Judy Skunk and her two children, Olly and Sam, as well as Bob Cat and his cousin Roscoe. They all came trotting up breathless and excited. Amid the ooh’s and aah’s and curious questions of the throng, Bill Stork explained that they had all come to watch Crock and Raccoon catch the rainbow. Raccoon had told Bill what they were up to when he and Crock had stopped by earlier.

“You’re just in time,” said Crock. “Come along!”

Off they all went, down the trail leading to the small meadow near the forest on the edge of the marsh. Crock led the way, carrying the kite, while Raccoon brought up the rear with the cane pole. In between, everyone else helped out by carrying the long, colorful string above their heads so it wouldn’t get tangled in the bushes along the way. Soon they filed into the clearing.

“Okay, everybody!” called Crock. “Turn loose the string!” All down the line the helpers let go and stepped to either side. “Are you ready, Raccoon?”

Raccoon, far away at the other end of the line, holding tightly to the pole, shouted back, “Ready!”

“All right!” cried Crock. “Contact!”

With that he took hold of the string with one hand, held the kite high over his head with the other, and began to run zigzag, back and forth across the tall grass. Crock was trying to move fast enough so that the air would begin to lift the kite. But he was, after all, Old Crock, and just couldn’t run as fast as he could when he had been Young Crock. So, when he went running about in the meadow that day, it looked rather like a hopping, bobbing sort of a slow, heavy Crocodile Dance. Very soon he came huffing and puffing back to where he had started with the kite still in his hand. He looked altogether flummoxed and distraught.

But all his friends gathered around him and patted him on the back and told him what a really good try it was. Judy Skunk offered him one of her scented hankies to dry the big crocodile tears that had begun to well up in his eyes. Crock thanked her politely and took the hankie, although he was very careful to hold his breath as he dabbed at his damp eyes and sniffy nose. Then Bill Stork had an idea!

“Say there, Crock,” he said. His long, yellow beak made a clicking sound when he talked. “Why don’t I just take the kite, fly up in the air with it, and put it in the sky? Sure would be glad to help out!”

Crock brightened at the suggestion. “That would be very helpful,” he said. “Thank you, Bill. thank you very much!”

Everybody spread out again as Bill Stork took the kite cautiously in his beak. He turned to face the light breeze that was blowing, spread his trim, white wings, took a few long strides, a couple of flaps, and lifted himself into the air. Everyone on the ground cheered.

Flapping a little harder, he turned three tight circles above the meadow, each one a little higher than the last, and then let go of the kite. It hung still for a moment, began to dip toward the ground, and then the Wind caught it and swept it up even higher. More cheers arose from the excited group below and Bill Stork gave a shrill whistle as he made one more circle over the meadow before gliding gracefully down to join his friends.

Raccoon held tightly to the cane pole, looking as important and responsible as he could. Crock was letting the string slip steadily through his fingers as the kite climbed ever higher, until finally the last knot passed and all the string was gone. Raccoon felt the strong tug of the kite as it soared far above them.

“What will you do with the rainbow if you catch it?” asked Roscoe.

“Oh, we’ll turn it loose right away!” answered Crock. “I don’t think it would be happy if we kept it down here.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” said Mrs. O’Hare, twitching her long, grey ears. “It’s good of you to think of that.”

Everyone had found a place to sit or lie in the grass and watch the kite. A warm breeze scented with good summertime smells drifted lazily over them. One by one, all of the friends gathered there began to yawn, their eyes slowly closed, and soon they were all fast asleep. Poor Raccoon was the last to nod off, even though he had tried so very hard not to do so.

The Wind, who had been watching all their doings, was up to mischief. He had sent the warm breeze on purpose just to make them all drowsy, knowing they would fall asleep. Just as Raccoon’s chin touched his chest, the Wind whipped up a big blast and wrapped it around the kite. With a twang the knotted string went taut and the cane pole leaped out of Raccoon’s paws. He awoke with a jolt and saw the pole dancing away at the end of the string, bumping and bouncing across the meadow.

“Help!” he cried. “Help!” he shouted as he jumped to his feet. Everyone woke up with a start and saw Raccoon pointing frantically at the runaway fishing pole.

“Great horns!” cried Bill Stork.

“Omigosh!” cried Bob Cat.

“Yikes!” cried Crock, and off they all tore, as quickly as they could, to catch the dangling pole.

Bob and Roscoe Cat were the fastest and soon outran the rest. They leaped up to try and grab the pole with their sharp claws. Twice they almost had it! Then with a mighty jump, Bob bounded up the side of a huge dead tree that leaned out over the marsh. He flew off the end of it, clawing wildly for the pole. At the last moment the Wind shifted and jerked it out of his reach. Bob fell with a loud splash and a yowl into the swamp.

Bill Stork was going crazy trying to catch hold of the pole. Every time he almost had it, the Wind would whip it around and bop him on the head with it. Finally he gave up and flew to the ground squawking.

Raccoon saw what they were doing and tried to think of what he could do. While everyone else was running madly about the meadow trying to catch the airborne fishing pole, he hid himself in the rushes and waited for just the right moment.

Roscoe was prancing and jumping at the pole just out of reach above his head, while the O’Hares and Skunks raced around him shouting. The Wind shifted again and swung the pole back toward the water, and just to the left of Raccoon’s hiding place. He saw it coming and got ready. Closer, closer, almost...NOW!

The Wind was dangling the fishing pole over the water while the group looked on helplessly. Suddenly Raccoon shot out of his hiding place, whish, swish, splish, and splash, bounding out of the reeds, off a rock, a floating log, and the back of a very surprised turtle. He grabbed the pole with both paws.

“I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” he cried.

The Wind tugged furiously, trying to get the pole back, but Raccoon held on fiercely as he was dragged through the water and up onto the bank. There all his friends grabbed hold of him and the pole.

“Good job!” cried Tip O’Hare and his little sister, Nip.

Everyone was pleased except the Wind. He felt that his little prank had been spoiled. Just for spite, he began to blow in some tremendous grey-black clouds. They rumbled together above the swamp and lightning sparked and zipped whenever they collided. Crock and Raccoon’s kite looked very small, lonely, and fragile up there amid the angry looking clouds.

“I think we’re in for it,” said Papa O’Hare. His nose crinkled and wrinkled as he smelt the rain riding toward them on the gusting Wind.

“Maybe we should pull the kite down,” said Crock, worried.

“NO!” said Raccoon. “That’s just what that old Wind wants.”

Just then the Wind let loose the rain in a torrent and a roar. In an instant everyone on the ground was soaked to the skin and standing in a muddy puddle.

“Stand fast!” clacked Bill Stork. “I’ll go for help!”

He shook as much water as he could from his sodden wings and few heavily back toward the trees. The rest of the group stood their ground, held on to the pole, and tried to see the kite through the driving rain.

After a few minutes they began to hear a strange sound coming from the forest around the edge of the meadow. Soon the sound began to come from across the marsh as well, until it was everywhere. Looking about they saw that all the trees were swaying and shaking violently, rattling and rasping and whooshing and swooshing. At that moment Bill Stork came flapping back.

“Hang on!” he cried. “The trees are blowing up a little breeze of their own!”

Indeed they were! The trees were bending and waving and carrying on like woodsy giants gone amuck. A tremendous moaning and sighing had filled the air, as though something very large and very alive were rushing through the very treetops. Then a blast of air exploded across the meadow and swept up into the sky.

The storm clouds were taken by surprise as the Wind of the Woods barreled into them, sending them tumbling and scattering. When the Sky Wind saw that his army of thunderclouds was being defeated, he gave a long, shrieking whistle and went sailing away into the distance. The confused storm clouds quickly sped after him and the sun once again beamed brightly.

“Look,” cried Crock, pointing to the sky above the marsh. “There’s the rainbow!”

And so it was. A broad, high, luminous band of colors arched across the sunlit sky. Everyone looked up in wonder and amazement.

“I see the kite,” said Nip.

“Where?” asked Olly. “Where’s the kite?”

“I see it too!” cried Bob Cat. “It’s straight above that big cypress tree near the yellow flowers.”

“I see it now!” said Olly.

“Raccoon,” said Crock, “do you see it?”

“Yes! Yes! I see it!” he said.

“Can you move the kite a little closer to the rainbow?” Crock asked.

“I think so. I think I’ve gotten the hang of it now.”

Raccoon tugged to the right with the cane pole and the kite dipped a bit. Then he gave a long backward pull and it climbed a little higher. Suddenly Raccoon let the line go slack and the kite swung off to the left, straight toward the rainbow. Just as it was slipping under the shimmering band, Raccoon pulled back quickly on the pole and the kite shot upward. The string caught on the bottom of the rainbow and the kited looped back over the top and once around. The line went taut. They had it! Raccoon had caught the rainbow!

“Yippee!” yelled Sam and Olly.

“Yahoo!” screamed Tip and Nip O’Hare.

“Hooray!” cried everyone else as they danced around excitedly.

“Good job, Raccoon!” said Crock. “Excellent!”

“Thank you,” said Raccoon, “but now what do we do?”

“Oh,” said Crock, “that’s the easy part! Everybody grab hold!’

With that Crock, Bill Stork, Judy, Sam and Olly Skunk, and Bob and Roscoe Cat, and Tip and Nip and Mama and Papa O’Hare all got a grip on the cane pole.

“Okay,” cried Crock. “On the count of three, everyone pull HARD! One, Two, THREE!!!”

The colorful, knotted string hummed and twisted in the breeze as they all pulled harder, and harder, and harder until...umph!, they all fell over on top of each other!

“What happened?” cried Raccoon, who was on the bottom.

“I think the string broke!” someone said.

“No! No! Look!” cried Roscoe as they all struggled to untangle themselves. They looked up in time to see a silvery-white gap in the rainbow just closing up. At the end of the long, curving string, something dazzlingly bright was plummeting toward the ground with a glittering tail trailing behind it.

“Quick, everyone!” cried Crock. “Let’s go!”

They all jumped up and raced after the falling object. They crashed through the tall grass and into the bushes and trees along the edge of the meadow. Squish, sqush, squash they tromped through a shallow stream, through some more bushes and trees, and out into a sun-filled clearing. There, stuck tip down in the soft earth and flowering weeds in the center of the glade was their kite. It was glowing softly with bands of violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red, with a bow to match each band along its silvery ribbon of a tail. The group of kite fishers stood wide-eyed and awestruck.

“Wow,” Raccoon whispered. “We did it! We caught a rainbow!”

Crock and Raccoon looked at each other and smiled.

(This is the original version of this story. An altered version was published by Windstorm Creative under the title “David and Dad Catch the Rainbow".)

David K. Aycock 2013