Fluegar and the Magic Thistle

While going through a collection of some of my old writings, I came across this piece I wrote when I was 11 years old.  It is only one chapter and I don’t remember where I was going with it or what inspired me to write it.  I did find it an interesting insight into my mind at the time.  Do any of you still have stories lying around that you wrote as a child?  Can you see any correlations between fiction and the reality at the time?


The evening shower came to an end.

A young woodpecker hopped along the edge of the rocks, his dark eyes darting about as he peered into the mountain stream.  Excitement rippled from his throat as two silvery creatures swam near the surface, flashed their rainbow colors, then disappeared into the murky shadows.

“Fluegar?  Fluegar, where are you?”

“I’m over here, Mama!  Come look at the swimmers.  They’re super fast.”

“Oh, honey,” Mama said, “how many times have I asked you not to come down here by yourself?”

“Ah, shucks, Mama, I’m all right.  Look at me.”  Fluegar spread his small wings and puffed his feathers.  “See, I’m a big boy.  Why, I could scare off the largest fox by giving him the old one, two.”

Mama stifled her laughter as her young son snaked his neck down and walked towards her, flapping his wings.

“Oh, my,” she said. “I see what you mean.  If I were a fox, I’d be very afraid.  Nonetheless, I’d like you to stay close to home until you get a bit bigger, okay?  Now come along.  It’ll be dark soon and we have to go to bed.  You know what Grandpa says about the early bird.”

“Early bird, smirly bird.”  Fluegar folded his wings across his chest and strutted up the embankment.  “I hate waking up when old fatty Brewster crows.  It’s not natural to get up that early.”

“Fluegar, what did I tell you about saying nice things?”

“Ah, Mama, you know I’m right.  All he does is eat and sleep until it’s time for the rest of us to get some shut-eye and then he perches up on Farmer Trapp’s fence post and cock-a-doodle doos at the sun, like the sun gives a hoot.  Heck, if Mr. Sun could hear him, I’m sure he’d get pretty mad at being woken up with all that racket, too.”

Mama shook her head and chuckled.  “My, my, you are full of opinions tonight.  I think you need to get home so you can put some of them to bed.  Now, come on.  Let’s fly the rest of the way home.  You know how.”

Fluegar watched Mama fly toward the big elm that stood proud and tall at the corner of Old Orchard Road and Farmer Trapp’s gravel driveway.  They shared the tree with several families:  the Robins, the Jays and the Chippers, a family of acrobatic squirrels who kept everyone amused for hours with their death-defying leaps and antics.  Through the tall grass, he could make out Baxter the Boxer curled up in a ball on the front porch of the old farmhouse.  Lying in one of the downstairs windows was Princess, Mrs. Farmer Trapp’s gargantuan white cat.  Princess never went outside, which was a good thing according to his folks, ’cause birds were allergic to cats.

Caught up in a daydream, Fluegar hopped toward home.  He hadn’t gone far when a rat came scuttling out of nowhere and ran into him, flipping him head over heels and tumbling into a rock.

“Hey.  Whatcha’ go do that for?”  Fluegar picked himself up and preened his feathers.

“I’m so sorry,” the rat said, running frantic circles around Fluegar.  “Should have watched where I was going.  Oh, my.  I have to warn the others.  I have to tell everyone that they’re coming.”

“Who’s coming?” Fluegar asked.

The rat stopped, raised his pointy nose, listened and said, “The goblins.”

“Goblins?  What’s goblins?”

“No time to answer.  Run.  Hide.”  The rat bounded away through the grass.


The little woodpecker startled at the familiar deep voice.  He gulped and looked up into his father’s black and white mottled face set beneath a crown of red feathers.  He hadn’t even heard his father approach.

“Didn’t you hear your mother?  It’s time to stop exploring and come home.”

“I was, Dad, it’s just . . . well, you see, this psycho rat ran into me blabbing about goblins coming and how we all had to run for our lives and hide.”


“It’s true, Dad, cross my heart.  What’s a goblin, anyway?”

His father looked into the distance.  “A dead race vanquished long ago by the great wizard, Thistle.”

“So if they’re gone, why did the rat say they were coming?”

Fluegar’s father stared down at him, his face stern.  “Why are you talking and listening to strangers when you’re not supposed to?”

“It’s kind of hard not to when they run into you and knock you down.”

“All the more reason you shouldn’t be out here all alone.”

“I’m not a baby, Dad.  I can take care of myself.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.  You’re still too little to be on your own.  Now let’s go home.  I’ll race you.”

A smile settled on Fluegar’s face. “You’re on, Dad.  Hope you’re prepared to lose!”

He lowered his head and spread his wings.  After a running start, he found himself airborne, hovering just above the grass, his dad soaring high above him.  Fluegar stretched his neck, elongating his body, and flapped with all his strength.  Up, up, up he went, soaring slightly ahead of his dad.  He glanced behind him.

“I’m beating you, Dad.  You’d better hurry.”

“Son!  Watch where you’re going.  Pull up!””


“Pull up!”


Fluegar smacked head on into the elm, bounced off and plummeted to the ground.  He lay there for a moment before getting to his feet, dazed.  His dad landed next to him and laughed.

“Heh, heh, my little Flying Ace.  Stand up here and let me have a look at you.”

Fluegar shook the stars from his head.  “Am I going to live, Dad?”

“Yeah, I think you’re going to make it another day.  I don’t see anything broken, but I’m not quite sure what to do about this?”  He plucked a feather from Fluegar’s head.

“Ow!  You don’t know what to do about what?”


Fluegar’s eyes grew big, a grin stretched across his beak.  “My first red feather!  I got my first red feather!”  Fluegar hopped to his feet and danced around.   “Oh, goodie, goodie.  Now my stupid brothers can’t make fun of me anymore.”

“Don’t call Malley and Deek stupid, Son.  It’s not polite.”

“Sorry, Dad.  Ooo, I gotta show Mama.  Can we hop the rest of the way home?  It’s just up the trunk.  Besides, my wings feel a little sore.”

“You didn’t hurt your wings.”

“It’s a precaution, Dad, you know, just in case.  You wouldn’t want me to not be able to use them at all, would you?”

Dad rolled his eyes.  “Oh, all right.  But this time only.  Now scoot.”

They climbed the tree and popped through the hole into the living room.  Fluegar ran to his mother.

“Mama, look!  My first red feather!  I’m getting big, huh.”

“And uglier, too,” his brothers said in unison.

“Deek.  Malley.  Enough,” Mama said.  She looked back at her youngest son.  “Yes, sweetheart, you are getting bigger every day.  Soon, you’ll be a big, strong woodpecker like your father.”

“Yeah, but Dad doesn’t crash into trees,” Deek said, drawing a belly laugh from Malley.

“Leave me alone, you big bullies,” Fluegar said.  “It hurt.”

“Well,” Deek answered, “if you were paying attention…”

“Maybe his eyesight’s bad, too,” said Malley.

“Boys, that’s enough.  Now eat your worms and get ready for bed.  Then you both can take Fluegar to his new room I pecked out for him today.”

The three youngsters grumbled, ate their worm dinner, and then fought their way into a line to say goodnight to their parents.

“Baby’s last,” Deek said.

“Yeah,” Malley echoed, pushing Fluegar to the back.

“Now, now.  No fighting boys,” Mama said, pecking each of her sons on the top of their heads.  “Sweet dreams.”

“Good night, Mama,” said Fluegar as he followed his brothers upstairs.

“Good night, brat,” said Malley, nudging Fluegar into his new room.

“I’m not a brat.”

“Are too.  The babies in the family are always brats.”

“I’m not a baby.”

“You’re the last one hatched, that makes you the baby.”

“But I have a red feather.  I’m big now.”

“You’re still the baby.  Mama’s little boy.”

“And you’re ugly, too!”  Deek chimed in, his head poked in the doorway.

The two brothers laughed, gave each other pecks, and headed off to their rooms.

Fluegar hung his head and hopped into his cotton-lined twig bed. Tears dripped from his beak.  Outside, the last bit of daylight vanished behind the mountains.

“Hey, Fluegar,” the voice whispered from the window.

Fluegar turned around and buried his head beneath his wing.  “Go away.”

“Ah, come on, Fluegar, it’s me, Skipper.  Don’t tell me you’re down again.  What’cha crying about now?”

The youngest member of the Chipper family scurried into Fluegar’s room, his tail bushed out behind him.  He sat back on his hind legs and gave Fluegar a nudge.

“Stop it, Skipper.  Leave me alone.”

“Nope.  No can do.  Friends don’t let friends cry alone.  Now tell me what’s wrong or I’ll have to start crying, too.  Here is comes.  Ah.  Ah.”

“Okay, Okay!”  Fluegar sat up.  “If you have to know, I’m tired of everyone making fun of me, especially Deek and Malley.  They’re my brothers.  Why do they have to be mean?”

Skipper washed his face with his paws and twitched his nose. “Are you still hung up on that?  How many times do I have to tell you, Fluegar?  They’re not being mean.  They’re being brothers.  It’s what they do.  Pops says it makes us stronger, prepares us for the real world.  Makes us tough.”

“Yeah?  Well all it makes me want to do is run away.”

“Really?”  A wide smile settled on Skipper’s face. He hopped over to Fluegar’s bed and sat down.  “Where do you want to go?”

Fluegar sat up and shrugged.  “I don’t know.  The apple orchard?”

“Are you joking?” Skipper said.  “Of all the places in the world to go, you want to camp out next door?  Where’s your sense of adventure?”

Fluegar stared at his feet.  After a few moments he said, “I supposed I could try to find the goblins.”

Skipper’s ears perked up.  “Goblins?  What are goblins?”

Fluegar shook his head. “I don’t know. Dad said a Thistle person killed them a long time ago, but this rat told me they were coming and we all needed to hide.”

Skipper rubbed his paws together.  “Ooo, now this sounds like fun.”  He scampered to the window.  “Come on.  Let’s go.”

Fluegar’s eyes widened.  “Now?  You want to go out there in the dark?”

“Why not?”  A wry smile appeared on Skipper’s face.  “You’re not scared are you?”

Fluegar thought of his brothers’ mocking laughter and scowled.  “No.”

Skipper perched on the sill, his bushy tail fanned over his back.  “Then let’s go.  Let’s hunt some goblins.  I promise we’ll be back before sunrise.  Come on.”  Skipper bounded down the tree.

Fluegar stood at the window and glanced behind him at the safety of his room.  You should leave a note.

He plucked a writing tablet from the night stand and tapped a message with his beak:

Gone to find the goblins.  Will be back by sunrise.

He placed the tablet on the center of his bed and whispered, “I’m not a baby.  You’ll see.”

With a quick turn he hopped to the window sill, spread his wings, and soared into the moonlight.