Oscar was moaning again. “It’s no good, Percy” he said to his erudite pigeon friend, “It’s just no good. I never seem to learn anything. Just as soon as something new goes in the front of my head something else falls out of the back.”
Percy smiled benignly. He could see that the his little friend needed cheering up. “Learning things is not as important as it might seem, young Oscar. You don’t need to fret.”
“But I’m an owl” wailed Oscar. “Owls are meant to be wise and I’m not, I’m stupid.”
“I think you will find that it it is old owls that are meant to be wise, hence the saying ‘a wise old owl.’ Young owls like you have plenty of time to acquire wisdom as you grow in maturity and experience.” Once again Oscar was confused by the erudition of his friend but he did not want let him see that he, Oscar, had not a clue about what the pigeon was talking. He scratched himself and let out a long sigh. A quiet descended on the house and farm yard. Both birds began to doze off.
Crash! The garden gate swung open and through it charged Buster, the dog formerly known as Yapper. He had a satchel over his back.
“What-ho, chaps!”, he called and gave a series of yaps which indicated that he had not been entirely cured of the annoying habit that had earned him his alternative name. “What-ho, Oscar! What-ho, Percy!”
Percy, known to be a very tolerant bird was distinctly flustered by the dog. “Quieten down, Buster. There’s no need for all that row.”
“But I’m too excited. It’s my first day at school. That’s where I’m going. It’s going to be great.” Percy was sure that that was the case for the over-exuberant dog but wondered whether the other school pupils would think the same. Buster charged off down the lane, trailing his satchel in the dust.
“Stupid dog” muttered Percy under his breath. Oscar stared after the rapidly disappearing Buster. A thought was beginning to form itself in his mind, a tantalising, possibly exciting thought.
“Percy. What happens at school?”
“What happens at school? Oh, lots of things,” responded Percy and the erudite pigeon bade his little friend farewell and flew off to the farmer’s bean field where the crop had just ripened and was ready to be raided by pigeons like Percy.
Oscar, meanwhile, was being convulsed by the workings of his little brain. A new idea was coming into his mind and Oscar did not care if it pushed out all the other ideas that were lingering there. After all, they were not terribly important ideas, mostly about the whereabouts of caterpillars and how to avoid bad-tempered sheep. No, a really important idea was growing in his tiny owl brain, an idea that would solve the dilemma about not being very wise.
He must go to school.
That’s it he thought. School. If the people at school could accept a half-brained dog like Buster they would surely welcome a small owl who was Willing to Learn. Just think what I could learn, thought Oscar and he gave a little excited hop on his perch.
He must make a move. He found a small bag and popped in a few caterpillars from his store. That was for his dinner. He had heard about school dinners and wondered whether they would be suitable for a young owl. Then he launched himself off his tree branch and flew away down the lane in the direction that Buster had charged down a few minutes previously.
School was not far away and Oscar arrived at the same time as a panting Buster.
“Pant, pant, whatyer doing here, Oscar, pant, pant” went the little dog.
“I’m going to school, Buster. Just like you.”
“You! But you’re an owl. They don’t have owls in school.”
Oscar had been staring through the door into the main hall. Children, sheep, a pony, goats. “They don’t have dogs either, Buster. You and I will just have to bluff our way in.”
Well, let me tell you that they didn’t have to bluff – which was fortunate because Buster had no idea what bluffing was about but suspected that it was slightly rude.
The teacher accepted a new owl and a new dog quite happily. “Buster, you can go and sit with those sheep. They’re learning how to count but they keep falling asleep. I’m sure you’ll keep them awake.”
“Please, Miss” said Oscar, blushing under his feathers, “I want to be wise.”
“And wise you shall be” replied the teacher with a friendly smile. “Those goats over there are discussing Socrates so why don’t you go and join them. I’m sure you’ll catch up.”
Oscar and the goats got on like a house on fire. Soon they moved on to Plato and thence to Aristotle before the school bell rang and it was time to go home. Oscar had quite forgotten to eat his caterpillars, so absorbed was he in learning. He flew home a very happy owl. The teacher called after him.
“See you in the morning, Oscar. It’s quadratic equations tomorrow.” Oscar had no idea what quadratic equations were, probably what was on the menu for school dinner. He thought he might stick tohis caterpillars.
Percy was in the farmyard when Oscar returned. With his head held at a quizzical angle he looked at his old friend. “You look full of yourself, young owl. Where have you been all day?”
“I’ve been to SCHOOL” hooted Oscar triumphantly “and I’ve learnt all about Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and tomorrow it’s quadratic equations for dinner.”
Percy smiled benignly. “Well, well, Oscar. You really are a wise young owl.”
That made Oscar feel very happy – even though he couldn’t remember for the life of him where to find some caterpillars.