A Little Cedar and a Big Storm

A Little Cedar and a Big Storm

 

Fierce winds tugged at Little Cedar. His scrawny boughs bent and swayed but he dug his roots deeper and hung onto the rock buried beneath the mountain soil.

“The wind is so cold,” said Little Cedar. He shivered from his topmost limb to the bottom of his twisted trunk. “It must be nearly Christmas again.”

Little Cedar could see his brother and sister trees far down the mountainside. They looked lovely with snow heaped on their full, green boughs. Soon many of them would be taken into warm homes and decorated with dazzling ornaments. Children would love them and grown-ups would pile presents under them. Little Cedar knew all about Christmas. His friend Cardinal told him what he saw when he looked in the windows.

“Nobody wants me,” whispered Little Cedar. “Who would want a bent and twisted little tree to decorate for Christmas?”

Try as he would, Little Cedar could not grow any larger. The soil this far up the mountain was just too poor and scanty for a tree to grow tall and straight like the cedars farther down. Strong winds blew across the mountaintop and tore at him. It was all he could do to hang on, much less grow.

“Better hold tight, Little Cedar,” chirped Cardinal, darting down to light in his branches. “Tonight the Big Blizzard is supposed to get here. Owl says it will be the Storm of the Century.”

Little Cedar shivered. He was so small, how could he ever last through the Storm of the Century?

As the sun slipped farther over the mountain, clouds scudded across a darkening sky. They thickened and roiled, bringing sleet in the wind. Little Cedar tried to scrunch behind rocks to hide, but of course, he couldn’t move. Nothing at all shielded him from the blizzard. It seemed to him that the whole mountain would go sailing away, taking him with it.

“Br-r-r. Excuse me, Little Cedar, may I shelter under your branches?”

Little Cedar looked down. A half-frozen rabbit shivered at his feet.

“You may, for all the good it will do,” answered Little Cedar.

Rabbit scurried close and tucked his pink nose between his paws.

“Is there room for me?” asked Red Squirrel as the wind whipped his tail over his eyes.

“Yes, scoot under,” invited Little Cedar. “Hurry or you’ll freeze.”

Rabbit and Red Squirrel huddled together against Little Cedar’s thin trunk.

Something thunked against Little Cedar’s branches. He looked down and saw a wet clump of red feathers.

“It’s Cardinal!” he shouted. “Quick, pull him in.”

Rabbit and Red Squirrel made a place for Cardinal between them.

“Who-Who-where else can I go if you do not let me under your branches?” quavered a gravelly voice.

The wisest bird in the forest sat in an icy heap at Little Cedar’s feet.

“Rabbit, Squirrel, Cardinal, Owl needs your help,” cried Little Cedar.

The friends pulled and pushed and shoved until the whole bundle of soggy gray feathers which was Owl lay propped against Little Cedar.

“I hope no one else comes,” complained Rabbit. “We do not have any more space.”

“Now, Friend Rabbit,” said Little Cedar. The winds whipped his words eerily. “You know that we cannot turn anyone away on such a night as this.”

“I am so glad to hear you say that,” barked a weak voice.

“No, no!” squeaked Red Squirrel. “It is Gray Fox. He’ll eat me.” Squirrel tried to hide behind Rabbit who tried to slip  behind Squirrel.

 “If you will let me under your wonderful branches, Little Cedar, I promise not to harm your friends now or ever,” he said.

Little Cedar dug his roots more tightly around his rock just beneath the soil. “Come in but see that you stick to your promise.”

With so many animals around his trunk, Little Cedar felt strangely warmed. His friends were depending on him for their very lives. That thought gave Little Cedar an extra surge of courage and he gripped that rock just beneath the soil with determination. The wind and sleet hammered him  cruelly. He closed his eyes and felt like he supposed a ship at sea would feel if it were tossed about by surging waves.

At last morning came, Christmas Day, and with it came the sun. The wind roared off to the east and Little Cedar felt a sudden stillness throughout his branches. He had survived the Storm of the Century! He, a stunted cedar, growing too far up the mountain, had done battle with a mighty blizzard and won! He gazed down the frozen mountainside. Far below lay the splintered tops of many large, beautiful trees, victims of the wind.

“Oh, Little Cedar, you saved our lives,” whispered a warm and safe Red Squirrel, shaking snow from his tail.

“Thank you for your shelter,” chirped Cardinal. “I can safely fly home now.”

“You are welcome, friends,” answered Little Cedar. “I don’t know how you all managed to find room under my scraggly limbs, but I am glad I could help.”

“Scraggly limbs?” echoed Owl. “Friend Cedar, look at yourself.”

Little Cedar glanced down. He blinked his eyes. Had the storm frozen his brain? Those full, green boughs could not be his!

“Look at our Cedar!” cried Gray Fox. “He is no longer little.”

Little Cedar gulped. “What has happened to me? Did I grow overnight?”

“Yes!” came a chorus of voices.

“But how? Why?” Little Cedar felt that he must be dreaming.

“Last night was Christmas Eve,” Rabbit said. “Wonderful things happen on Christmas.”

Little Cedar was still trying to make sense of this miracle. “Could it have been because you all kept my trunk so good and warm?” asked Little Cedar.

“Perhaps it was because of your big heart,” hooted Owl. “You had to grow to match it.”

 “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cardinal chirped, “not even when I flew by the people houses. You are far more beautiful than any of their Christmas trees.”

“You are not Little Cedar any longer,” Red Squirrel chattered. “You are now Big Cedar.”

“I like Friend Cedar better,” said the amazed tree. “Perhaps I was put up here on this crag so that I could save your lives during the Storm of the Century. Maybe one day there will be another storm and I can help again.”

“Merry Christmas, Friend Cedar!” shouted the animals.

The morning sun glinted off the cedar’s magnificent green branches. “Merry Christmas, friends,” he said.

–The End–

 

 

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