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“I tell you, Sweetie, Gertie Goatbuster is in big trouble now.”
Swiftness Swallowpater didn’t stop to catch his breath, not even once, as he shared the news with Mrs. Swallowpater. All the little Swallowpaters kept up an unceasing chatter asking impertinent questions of their unheeding elders.
“What, Daddy …?”
“How, Pappy …?”
“Where, Padre…?” (This particular Swallowpater was at the head of his Spanish class. As you know, swallows vacation in Capistrano, Argentina.)
“I overheard … er … heard it personally from Clarissa Cowbell herself. Gertie got up at the Barnyard Brethren Assembly and spoke.
Sweetie looked puzzled.
“Gertie is always bleating about something, so what’s …”
“Mama, goats don’t bleat,” admonished the Swallowpater who thought he was smarter than every other bird in the nest.
“… so unusual about her speaking?” asked mother without missing a beat.
“Dear, that’s Harry Horsenpfeffer’s job. Remember, he went away to Equestrian College and learned the meaning of all the knee nudges and the whip whaps. He’s schooled. Gertie’s a goat—garbage in, garbage out.”
“Swiftness, the children are present, please watch your beak!”
“Sorry, but this upsets me so. Percy Piglettington is calling a meeting of the Barnboard to discuss the situation. You know what he’s like when he gets his tail in a curl.”
Sweetie cocked her head, ruffling her feathers at the thought of Percy on a rampage.
“I don’t understand. Did Harry know this was going to happen?”
“That’s what Percy is going to bring up at the meeting. Harry knew. In fact, he encouraged the outrage. He told Percy that Gertie was gifted and that he wanted to help her use the gift.”
“Oh cool. Do we get presents too, Daddy?”
“Hush, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying that Harry told Percy, who told Clarissa, who sort of told me, that Gertie has a special ability to speak to the Barnyard. It’s a gift she got from the Cre-itter-ator.”
The mention of the Cre-itter-ator inspired silence in the little Swallowpaters, if only for a brief moment.
The smart-beak hesitated, not wanting his question to reveal any ignorance on his part.
“She’s a she.”
The elders exchanged puzzled glances.
“I mean; Gertie’s a nanny goat. Didn’t you tell me that nannies were not allowed to speak in the Barnyard? The Cre-itter-ator must have made a mistake if he gave her that gift.”
Father Swallowpater considered for a moment. If he said that the Cre-itter-ator, who held all their lives in his hands, had made mistake—well, that was unthinkable. However, if he said that Gertie did have the gift, he would be building his nest in the farthest corner of the pasture next year, no longer welcome in the barnyard. Percy would see to that.
“Well, maybe Gertie has the gift so that she can tell the Cre-itter-ator’s stories to people like Calico Caterwaul, or Penny Heninger, or …”
Swiftness looked at his good wife. There was a glint in her unblinking eye that warned him that he might be building that new nest BEFORE next year.
“Swiftness, if Gertie has the gift, her stories wouldn’t be any different than Harry’s, would they?”
“No, but …”
“If the stories are the same, who delivers them doesn’t matter, does it?”
“But, we’ve never had a she tell the Cre-itter-ator’s stories before.”
Swiftness turned to the littlest of the swallows.
“Gertie’s been telling the kids, the calves, the foals, the chicks and the piglets, all those stories for years. Everything we know about the Cre-itter-ator, we know because of her. Did she do something bad talking to us?”
Swiftness’ heart was torn at the troubled look in his youngest son’s eyes. More importantly, the question had reminded him that just about everything HE knew about the stories he had also learned from Nanny Gertie. She’d always had the gift.
Truth triumphed over custom.
“I’m sorry, Sweetie. Kids, please forgive me. I shouldn’t have said what I did about Nanny. She does have the gift. I know it, you know it, and Harry knows it too. I’m sure the Cre-itter-ator wouldn’t have given it to her, if he didn’t expect her to tell the stories to anyone who would listen.”
Sweetie pecked her husband on the cheek.
“What about that Barnboard meeting?”
“How about we take the fledglings? Gertie isn’t the only one with a Cre-itter-ator-given right to speak.”