The White Heron

Reads: 193  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 1

More Details
Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Young Henry hears about the legend of the White Heron

Submitted: July 16, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 16, 2016

A A A

A A A


‘Tomorrow’s Mother’s Day,’ Dad told Henry, ‘hop on your bike and go to old Bradbury to pick up a Cyclamen plant for your Mum. He knows you’re coming.’

Mr. Bradbury lived at the end of Ashgrove Terrace, beside the Heathcote River where he tended two glasshouses. One of the glasshouses was overrun with grapevines and the other was neat and tidy because it was the old man’s passion to grow seasonal flowers – Cyclamen being the autumn kind. He had eked out a living selling the grapes and flower plants as well as vegetables he grew on his large property, but his bones were creaky with age and arthritis so now he only just managed to look after his flowers.

Most boys think it’s a bit sissy to be interested in flowers! Old Bradbury was no sissy though. He had been in charge of Kiwi horses during WWI and later he knocked territorials into shape before and during the early stages of WWII. Henry’s family often spoke about the old soldier because Dad and Henry had for a long time kept an occasional eye on him, usually dropping off a pint of milk as an excuse to call.

‘Old Bradbury doesn’t have much company these days.’ Dad said, ‘Don’t rush away, just give him a hand for a wee while.’

There was no answer at the back door, so Henry went through the hedge to the glasshouse and found Mr. Bradbury sweeping the path.

‘Hello Mr. Bradbury!’ Henry called, sorry to see the old man jump out of his skin because he hadn’t heard Henry’s approach.

‘Gidday young nipper.’ The old man replied when his heart had settled down. Henry realised old Bradbury remembered him all right, but suspected he didn’t recall his name.

‘Ah, Mr. Bradbury, I’ve come to pick up the Cyclamen for Mum.’ Smiled Henry brightly. ‘Dad rang you I think.’

They went into the glasshouse and absentmindedly old Bradbury began pulling weeds from the pots, so Henry joined in. They chatted about school and rugby and plants until quite suddenly the old fellow remembered about the Cyclamen.

‘Oh sorry son, I got carried away there.’ He apologised.  ‘Here, this white one will be spectacular for Mother’s Day.’

‘I didn’t mind helping at all.’ Replied Henry. ‘Actually I enjoyed talking to you.’

‘You’re a good lad.’ Bradbury said. ‘Come, I’ve something to show you that nobody else knows about – it’s not a secret, but don’t say anything.’

Out the back there was a lagoon, a swamp really because it was only filled only by the rain. There were bullrushes, sedges, water fern, duck-weed and toi-toi.  Henry was a master at catching tadpoles and frogs, so was delighted with the scene! The old man put his finger to his lips for quiet and they crept close to a clump of bullrushes. There wading in the shallow water was a magnificent large white bird.

‘That’s a White Heron,’ whispered old Bradbury, ‘isn’t he a beauty!’

‘Wow!’ Henry muttered.

‘The Maori call them Kotuku,’ old Bradbury whispered, ‘do you know any Maori people.’

‘Yeah,’ replied Henry, ‘there is a family at the end of Rose Street, opposite my friend Jessie’s place.’

‘Silly duffer Henry!’ Laughed the old man – he did remember the name after all. ‘I know them, they’re from India.’

‘Oh yeah,’ Henry recalled, ‘the girl won dux at school, she left last year. I think her father gave Jessie’s father a job too.’

‘They’re a good family.’ Said the old man seriously, ‘But I wanted to tell you that the Maori legend is that the Kotuku escorts the spirt of their dead to the place of their ancestors. They are very rare birds and only breed at the Okaito Lagoon ‘way over in South Westland.’

They watched the bird stalk and catch tadpoles and then fly up to an old Macrocarpa stump to perch.

‘Graceful isn’t he?’ Asked the old man and Henry saw the tear in his eye. ‘He’s been coming here regular as clockwork for the last five years. Dunno why, checking on me maybe. But he won’t be back next year.’

‘Oh why not?’ asked Henry.

‘Progress, son,’ he replied, ‘they’re going to drain the lagoon so they can build houses here. They hit me with some act of parliament that said I couldn’t hold up progress. They’ll take the glasshouses down too, so this is the last Cyclamen for your Mum.’

Henry was a bit young to understand the implications of what the old man said, but he recognized his sadness.

He told his Dad about his day but he could offer Henry no words to mollify his anxiety about the future of the beautiful bird. Dad didn’t quite understand.

Almost a year later, Henry was biking along Ashgrove Terrace with his mate, Tubby on their way to set an eel trap at the fork in the river. It was a Saturday so the heavy machinery wasn’t working.

Tubby was first to spot the big, white bird.

‘Oh lookit!’ Called Tubby. ‘You ever seen a bird like that before?’

‘Oh yeah,’ replied Henry morosely, ‘poor thing, he’s probably looking for somewhere else to catch tadpoles!’

Then he remembered Mr. Bradbury.


© Copyright 2017 moa rider. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

More Memoir Short Stories