The Naughty Woodpecker
By Dave Gregson
Not many animals moved into The Hollow, so it was quite a special day when Mr and Mrs Woodpecker and their son, Young Walter arrived. They were moving into a large beech tree on the edge of the wood – not very far from where Mr Squirrel lived. All the animals were excited about it – and wanted to meet the new arrivals.
“Can I get you anything?” asked Mrs Waterfowl, who had called on the Woodpeckers.
“Oh! No thank you,” said Mrs Woodpecker, popping her head out of a hole in the trunk of the beech tree. “It’s very nice of you to offer.”
“That’s quite alright,” said Mrs Waterfowl.
“I knew a Mrs Woodpecker once. She lived on the edge of the Great Wood away up North. You don’t know her, do you?”
“I don’t think so,” replied Mrs Woodpecker. “We come from down South.”
“Oh! Well, I won’t keep you talking,” said Mrs Waterfowl. “You must have a lot to do.”
“You must meet Young Walter,” called Mrs Woodpecker as Mrs Waterfowl turned to go.
Mrs Woodpecker shouted something into the hole in the trunk and in a moment a small green head appeared – with very bright and sparkling eyes.
“This is Young Walter,” said Mrs Woodpecker. “Say hello to Mrs Waterfowl, Walter.”
“Hello, Mrs Waterfowl,” Young Walter said in a very polite voice and bowed his head.
“My, what a fine young fellow,” said Mrs Waterfowl wishing that some of her own children were as well mannered as Walter.
After Mrs Waterfowl, many other animals called on the Woodpeckers that day. They all wanted to help if they could. And, of course, they were all very curious to see the Woodpeckers.
“What a nice family,” said Mrs Rabbit to Mrs Mole when they met the next day. “And what a police creature Young Walter is.”
“Yes,” said Mrs Mole, “I think they’ll settle down very well in The Hollow.”
On the next Sunday Morning, Mr Squirrel was sleeping late as he always did on Sundays. He was dreaming that he was about to eat the largest nut in the world. He heard a tapping noise. Mr Squirrel thought he was still asleep and that the tapping was coming from inside the nut. Then he woke up with a big jump. The tapping sounded much louder now and was coming from outside the tree.
“Good gracious, whatever is it?” he asked out loud.
He jumped out of bed and rushed into the kitchen.
“Did you hear that?” he said to Mrs Squirrel, who was busy making breakfast.
“What?” she asked.
“That knocking sound,” said Mr Squirrel, looking quite annoyed at being woken up just in the middle of a lovely dream.
“No,” said Mrs Squirrel. “I’ve been too busy to listen to knocking sounds.” She was very glad that something had got Mr Squirrel out of bed because usually she almost had to drag him out on Sundays.
“Well, you just come here and listen,” said Mr Squirrel. And he marched back into the bedroom with his wife.
All was silent. Mrs Squirrel looked at her husband as if she was rather sorry for him.
“You’ve been dreaming,” she said.
Mr Squirrel stood, and his whiskers were twitching as they always did when he was angry. But he was puzzled.
“I wasn’t dreaming,” he said out loud, though Mrs Squirrel wasn’t listening. She had gone back into the kitchen.
Two other very strange things happened that morning. One happened to Mr Badger and made him so cross that he shuffled out of his house, slammed the door, and came to tell Mr Squirrel all about it.
“Mr Squirrel!” he shouted from the ground.
Mr Squirrel appeared on the branch with a piece of toast and acorn butter in his hand.
“Hello, Mr Badger,” he said with his mouth full. “We don’t usually see you out on Sundays.”
“I want to know which rascal did it,” shouted Mr Badger in a worse temper than ever. “I’ll be having words with him!”
Mr Squirrel had not seen Mr Badger so angry before. He came down to his friend.
“Whatever is the matter?” he asked.
“I’ll tell you what the matter is!” shouted Mr Badger, shaking his great grey and black head and with his eyes shining fiercely. “Some scallywag has ruined my door!”
Mr Squirrel knew that Mr Badger was very house proud. Everything at Mr Badger’s home was neat and tidy. And only the week before Mr Badger had made a fine new door for his house and painted it bright green.
“Good heavens,” said Mr Squirrel.
Mr Badger was walking backwards and forward stamping on the ground. He told his friend what had happened. He had been working away in his house that morning and had heard someone knocking at the door.
“The knocking went on and on,” said Mr Badger. “Now I don’t like to be disturbed when I’m working, and I was a bit cross. When I got to the door, there was nobody there. But right in the middle of the door, someone had carved the wood.”
Mr Badger stopped before he said anymore – he was so furious that he looked as if he could burst at any moment.
“Someone had carved,” he said again ‘OLD BADGER IS A FOOL’ right in the middle of my new door.”
Mr Squirrel almost laughed, but he knew it was a very naughty thing that someone had done, and so he didn’t. Besides Mr Badger was so angry he might think that he had done it.
“What a terrible thing!” said Mr Squirrel.
Then suddenly he remembered the knocking that had woken him up. But before he could say anything, Mr Rabbit came leaping up the hill.
“I don’t know who could have done it,” he said.
“Not you as well,” said Mr Squirrel.
“Do you know,” said Mr Rabbit, very annoyed. “A piece of my living room ceiling fell right off this morning.”
Even Mr Badger smiled at this.
“It’s not very funny,” said Mr Rabbit looking rather hurt as his two friends laughed. “It was just as if somebody cut a piece out of the roof and dropped it into the living room.”
“I’m sorry,” said Mr Squirrel. “But I can’t help laughing. It is rather funny, you know; Mr Badger’s front door has been spoilt as well.”
Mr Badger shook his grey head.
“Somebody has been playing tricks on us,” he said. “I wonder who it could be?”
Mr Squirrel said nothing – but a rather serious look came on to his face. He was thinking again of the knocking he had heard that morning. He walked around the tree trunk, looking at it very carefully.
“Oh, dear!” he thought to himself. For there, halfway up the trunk, carved in the trunk, was a little drawing. It was of himself and had two very large teeth sticking out of the mouth. Mr Squirrel said nothing to his friends, but he was also very annoyed.
The three animals sat in the long grass and thought hard.
“No one in the Hollow would do anything like this,” said Mr Badger grimly. “Some animals can be naughty like Young Mole.”
“Or, my young John,” said Mr Rabbit. “But they wouldn’t do anything like this.”
Mr Squirrel had an idea of his own. But as usual, he wouldn’t tell his friends about it. He told them to go home, and he would do whatever he could.
Later that morning, Mr Squirrel wandered up towards the woods. He walked slowly and whistled cheerfully as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Before long, he saw Mr Woodpecker with some soft green moss for the nest in his mouth.
“Hello, Mr Woodpecker” he called out. “Have you finished your nest yet?”
“Oh, hello Mr Squirrel,” said Mr Woodpecker flying down. “Very nearly. Just a little more moss to line it and then it will be finished.”
Mr Squirrel chatted on happily about this and that for quite some time. Then, just as he was about to go, he told Mr Woodpecker what had happened to Mr Badger’s door, to Mr Rabbit’s roof and to his tree-trunk.
Mr Woodpecker said nothing for a time. Then he said very sadly “I thought this would happen. It’s Young Walter who did it. He does it wherever we go. Do you know we always have to leave places because of the silly things Young Walter does.”
Mr Woodpecker looked very unhappy.
“Now I suppose we’ll have to leave The Hollow,” he said. “And the people here seem so nice.”
“Oh, no!” said Mr Squirrel, who felt very sorry for Mr and Mrs Woodpecker. “You mustn’t leave here. Perhaps we can do something about Young Walter.”
“Oh, no!” said Mr Woodpecker. “He’s very naughty. His Mother can do nothing with him.”
“Perhaps you haven’t done the right thing,” said Mr Squirrel, with the usual bright twinkle in his eyes. “Now I have a little idea.” He whispered in Mr Woodpecker’s ear. Mr Woodpecker listened, and then a broad smile spread over his face.
On the next day, Mr Rabbit and Mr Squirrel went up to Mr Badger’s house early. They were humming merrily. Soon all three animals were busy at work putting a fine new door on Mr Badger’s home. It was even smarter than the old one. And when it was finished, Mr Badger brought a large tin out of the house.
“Now we’ll paint it,” he said and gave a large wink at Mr Squirrel and another at Mr Rabbit. All three of them laughed.
When the painting was completed, the door was a fine bright red. The three animals stood back to admire it.
“My, that’s a fine door,” said Mr Rabbit.
“Come inside,” said Mr Badger. “Let’s have some tea.”
He led the way inside and closed the door. Mr Badger didn’t even have time to pour the tea-pot when there was a bang at the door. But only one bang this time – and no more.
Mr Squirrel laughed and said, “Let’s go and look at that fine door again.”
At the door was Young Walter. Well, he wasn’t really at it – he was on it. Stuck on it. As the door opened, Young Walter swung in with it. His beak was stuck, his wings were stuck, his feet were stuck.
“My,” said Mr Squirrel. “That glue is very strong, isn’t it?”
“Now Mr Badger, would you bring a pair of your slippers – I think Young Walter may have learned a little lesson.”
Young Walter couldn’t say anything because his beak was stuck fast with glue. His eyes rolled about in his head.
Mr Rabbit was helpless with laughter.
“Don’t worry, Walter,” said Mr Squirrel. “Your father says this will be quite alright.”
At last, the three animals pulled Young Walter off the door. He looked very sorry for himself. He was covered from head to foot in red paint, and his feathers were all stuck up with glue.
Mr Badger looked very sternly at Young Walter. “Now go on home,” he said. “Your father is waiting. And don’t be a nuisance again.”
Young Walter was miserable. He turned to walk home – because until the paint and glue were washed out of his feathers, he couldn’t fly.
“I think he’s learned his lesson, don’t you?” said Mr Squirrel, brushing his whiskers and winking. “Let’s go and finish that tea now.”