The phone on my desk rang this morning. “We are at the gate. We need a shrubbery. Now.”
“Um, who is this please?” I asked.
“We are knights sent by the Knights of Ni. Prepare the shrubbery.”
“I’m putting you on hold, Sir Knights, while I prepare preparations,” I explained, playing for time. I’d seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This seemed to call for our own Monty (Python) Sloan, so I called him on my cell phone. He replied that he would be along as soon as he had coffee.
Thinking about the knights’ request, I realized that this would be a perfect way to “rehome” a bunch of young willows which obscured the view of Turtle Lake. The Lollipup Guild (Fiona, Bicho and Kanti) was in the Turtle Lake enclosure at the time so there was no need to lock up
The Kraken Wolfgang while we obtained a shrubbery, but we might need some backup to reduce “helping” by our four-legged friends. I called Brian, who offered to call Ryan too, while I went to meet the knights sent by the Knights of Ni.
The knights proved to be two pleasant gentlemen, who had been cantering in circles and figures of eight, with their coconuts, while waiting in front of the gate. They were on a quest for shrubbery, or better yet, two shrubberies, one taller than the other, so one could be placed in front of the other for a nice two level effect, with a little path running between them. While I gave the coconut knights the safety orientation*, Brian was still trying to reach Ryan, who had stayed up late.
By the time the safety orientation was over the coconut knights were eager to get started and pranced to the castanet-like accompaniment of their coconut shells. Monty brought his garden wagon, and Brian and Ryan brought a couple of our large wheelbarrows. Once inside we showed the coconut knights the willows we wanted removed. After the long cold winter they looked like sticks, not having yet leafed out. Were they shrubbery?
At first the coconut knights were not convinced, but we led them to the older stand of willows and showed them the paths the wolves had made through them. Bicho, Kanti and Fiona came over and wove convincingly through the little paths among the willows. And just think, we pointed out – these willows are young and trainable. You can trim some to get the much desired two-level effect. You can even trim them so that the shorter ones undulate against the background of the taller ones.
The coconut knights were much taken by the word “undulate,” and agreed. One of them set down his coconuts and pulled a curious corkscrew like instrument from inside his chain mail shirt. Kanti immediately seized the coconuts and ran off with them, pursued by Bicho, Fiona, and the other coconut knight, whose hollow clopping that he made with his own coconuts, was so fast that it resembled machine gun fire. Kanti dropped one coconut, and Bicho grabbed it. The two brothers veered in opposite directions.
The coconut knight gave up his pursuit and returned to help his fellow knight uproot willow saplings. In doing so, he put down his coconuts and Fiona got them. She let them go and they started clopping off, on their own, through some of the underbrush. The coconut knights briefly tried to recapture them, but the coconuts successfully evaded capture, at least by humans.
After about an hour’s work the wagon and wheel barrows were full of trainable young shrubbery. The shore of Turtle Lake was clear again. We could still hear hollow clopping from time to time, and so could the yearlings, who were doggedly hunting the coconuts, occasionally mouse pouncing in attempts to pin them down.
The coconut knights thanked us profusely in their British accents. “Oh, it’s no problem, we always do something involving medical procedures, environmental enrichment, or training on Mondays” we said.
“Yes, but today is Tuesday**,” they replied, further adding that they would leave their coconuts here since the coconuts seemed happy at the Park, and much less repressed. We let them use the office phone to call for a conveyance to take the willows somewhere hence, and this afternoon, Bicho, Kanti, and Fiona, were still happily playing with the coconuts.***