Feathers for Worms
“But we can’t afford it. You must think that money grows on trees!” Mr. Isaac Barnswallow was speaking.
“But we just must keep up with the other Barnswallows,” answered Rebekah; Mrs. Isaac Barnswallow, that is.
“All of the other Barnswallows are lining their nests with down,” and wit that she pulled her handkerchief out from under her wing and started to cry.
“All right, all right,” said her husband, “I will see what I can do, but feathers are very expensive this year.”
Mr. Barnswallow was smart when it came to business matters so he made a plan. He was also very industrious. “The early bird gets the worm” was his motto. So the next morning by the time the other birds came to the barnyard to dig for breakfast worms, he had already collected a supply and had opened a little restaurant under an oak tree in the corner of the barnyard.
On the outside was an attractive sign, “Swallow at Barnswallows.” Mr. Barnswallow stood in the door and called to the passing birds, “Worms for feathers; get your breakfast here. Why take the time to dig for your breakfast. My worms are guaranteed to be slick and boneless.”
“How much are your worms?” asked Speedy Skylark as he paused in front of the door. Speedy’s real name was Joseph, but since he was so fast and quick on the wing, his school mates had named him Speedy. However, Speedy was anything but quick around the house; in fact he was lazy—so lazy that he hated to dig for morning worms.
“Two for a feather,” answered Mr. Barnswallow. “How many will you have?”
“I’ll take four please,” answered Speedy. Turning he plucked two feathers, one from each wing, and handed them to Mr. Barnswallow. He gobbled down his four worms and hurried away to school.
“Two feathers don’t matter,” he said to himself. “It is so much easier to trade feathers for worms than to dig for them. I’m so glad Mr. Barn swallow has opened a restaurant.”
Of course Speedy did not eat there every morning. Sometimes he dug his own breakfast. But there were quite a few mornings when he roosted late or felt lazy. At such times he would rush over to Mr. Barnswallow’s and exchange two or three more feathers for worms. However, after a month or so, he did not have many feathers left. Still Speedy did not think it mattered very much—at least that is what he thought until yesterday.
Yesterday was the day of the big Wing Meet, with birds from all over Skyland County gathered from the race. The Wington School was in first place with 256 points up to the very last race which was the 100 yard flash. Speedy had been selected to represent the Wington School in this particular race because he had won it the year before. It was generally agreed that no bird was more swift and quick on the wing that Speedy.
“Ready,” said the referee, “on your limb, Go!”
Speedy darted forward with all his might, expecting to be in front all the way. To his amazement, three other birds were ahead from the start. Half way to the goal, two others passed him. That left only Pete Buzzard behind. Pete was considered graceful on the wing, but the slowest bird in all of Skyland County. Just short of the finish line, Pete soared past Speedy, leaving him seventh and last in the race and throwing the Wington School from first place to third in total points.
“What was the matter?” said Bald Eagle, the coach to Speedy after the Meet. Speedy could only hang his head. Deep in his heart he knew what was the matter.
That night he could not sleep for worrying. then there came to him what he thought was a wonderful idea. The next morning he was up bright and early and out digging worms, even before Mr. Barnswallow arrived. When Mr. Barnswallow did appear, Speedy rushed up to him.
“Look, Mr. Barnswallow,” he said. “I have a box full of worms. How many feathers will you trade me for these? Please, Sir, I want my feathers back.”
“Trade you feathers for worms?” said Mr. Barnswallow. “Why you silly little bird. My business is to trade worms for feathers, not feathers for worms.” With that he turned and walked away chuckling. Speedy was alone and broken hearted.
Speedy trudged home with the box full of worms and told his mother the whole story. “I am so sorry, Mother What shall I do? Will my feathers grow out again? Will I ever be able to fly fast again?”
“I do not know,” Mrs. Skylark answered slowly. “We can only wait and see. You must remember that God has given us some things which He expects us to guard and keep at all times. If we fail to do that, and allow them to get away from us, we can never buy the back again at any price.”
Poor Speedy! Mr. Barn swallow was right. What a silly little bird to trade his beautiful, wonderful feathers that God had given him, for worms!
Story first published as “The Skylark” by G. H. Charnley, published by Allenson and Co., London, England and used by permission in Birdlife in Wington, by J. Calvin Reid, published by Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI in 1948. Now out of print.
After a search on Amazon.com I found old copies available but at collector’s rate. (range from 25.00 to 86.00) It may be that someone could put it back into print and if so, that needs to be checked first before passing this story on to someone else.