A large flock of carrier pigeons lived on a small, rocky island in the middle of the rough Atlantic Ocean. They delivered important mail to the inhabitants of the surrounding islands.
One of the pigeons was named Betty. She liked to fool around and was easily distracted. When the pigeons made their daily flight over the island, Betty was often the last to arrive. Some of the other pigeons thought she was a dreamer and worried she wasn’t reliable.
When the weather was good, all the mail and many packages from the mainland and surrounding islands were loaded onto designated mail ships. But the weather was very variable in this region. During the frequent storms and high waves, the mail ships couldn’t dock in the ports of the small islands. That’s when the carrier pigeons would fly into action.
The island caretaker, William, fed and looked after the pigeons. He knew each one of them very well. He could assess a pigeon’s strengths and weaknesses quite accurately. There were particularly fast pigeons for short distances and others with the endurance to make long trips.
The most important thing was that they all reliably delivered the mail and returned safely to their island. There was always enormous joy at their reunions when they would all tell each other about their adventures.
On a particularly cool and windy day, the carrier pigeons were called up to replace the mail ship. It was a hectic atmosphere at the departure spot. Betty watched from the island’s observation tower as a number of carrier pigeons were getting ready for their journeys. William distributed the respective flight routes as usual.
Kevin and Scott were first in line. They were assigned thin brown envelopes strapped into pouches, and they waited patiently as William gently fastened them to their legs.
“Kevin, this letter needs to get to the mainland as soon as possible. The journey may be somewhat arduous as strong winds are forecast. Plan for breaks but please come back as soon as possible,” William said, looking up at the gloomy sky.
Kevin nodded and William patted him on the head. Then he took off. He was hovering high above the island moments later and then he disappeared in the direction of the horizon.
Then it was the next pigeon’s turn, and so on. Betty worried that she wouldn’t get an assignment since she had dawdled a bit last time and William had been very worried.
Then William called her name, “Here you are, Betty! You have a job waiting for you today, too,” William grinned. “It’s a little closer to home this time,” he said, winking at her. Betty beamed with pride.
She heard one of the pigeons behind her say, “I wonder how long Betty will take this time!”
Another replied as she was about to take off, “Coo, coo! She’s certainly not known for her speed!”
Betty knew exactly what the pigeons were getting at. “It’s not a contest!” she thought to herself. If they only knew what she went through on her flights!
She picked up a few more grains to fortify herself. William fastened the little bag to her leg and wished her a safe flight.
Betty liked her job. She loved getting to know the people to whom she delivered urgent mail. There was usually a lot of gratitude in their eyes. This made her very happy and proud.
Most of the time, the recipients even had a few tasty kernels of corn and a small bowl of water ready for her. After that, Betty would be reenergized for the flight home. She always had the nice feeling of having done a good deed.
Betty read the name of the recipient on today’s envelope and was relieved to see that she already knew the way. From the roof of her dovecote, she spread her wings and took off with a skillful flourish.
How she loved to fly and feel the infinite freedom! With each beat of her wings, the landscape below her became smaller and the rocky island receded further into the distance.
She was daydreaming as she flew when she was startled by a loud clatter and the sound of powerful wings.
Just then, several storks flew past her, skillfully changing their positions. She called out to them, “Hey! You seem to be in quite a hurry. Where are you headed?”
Betty didn’t know much about storks. Only that they traveled long distances and were much, much larger than pigeons. She could see that clearly now.
Most of the storks paid no attention to her, but one of them seemed to be as curious as she was. This stork introduced herself, “I’m Stella and this is the second time I’ve flown this long distance. What’s your name?”
The two chatted happily for some time. Betty told Stella about the letters she was delivering and her experiences on various routes. Stella looked at her in amazement and said, “I’ve never heard of such a thing. It’s different for us storks…”
Now the little carrier pigeon listened intently to Stella’s stories. She said that the storks flew to the same place every year, that it is very warm there, and that the animals are different than here.
“There are giant elephants, and giraffes with very long necks, and zebras that look like horses but have black and white stripes. They all gather at the watering holes to quench their thirst,” Stella reported.
She explained that many flocks of birds also gather at the watering holes to huddle together for warmth. “There are big birds that stand on one leg and have pink plumage! They are especially pretty. They’re called flamingos! Oh, why don’t you come with me, Betty? You can drop off your letter on the way!”
Betty thought about it. It was very tempting.
She decided that she couldn’t pass up this opportunity and told Stella she’d be right back. She quickly took the letter to the small island that was now just below them. She picked up a few grains from a bowl and flew elegantly back up to the storks.
Stella offered her a place in the lee so she could rest a bit. The storks were very fast.
Betty and Stella got along so well that they felt as though they had known each other forever. Stella told Betty all about the beautiful place called “Africa”.
Stella was a very animated storyteller. Her stories made Betty feel like she was there. Stella said that in Africa, even the sun seemed to be bigger and hotter. Betty could almost feel the warmth on her wings and see the elephants and flamingos at the watering hole.
But Betty was getting tired. She was not used to long flights and desperately needed a rest. The storks weren’t even thinking about taking a break and the little carrier pigeon realized sadly that she wouldn’t make it through this long journey.
Then she also remembered that William was probably very worried about her so she made a decision.
“Stella,” Betty said. “Thank you for telling me so many interesting things about Africa on this trip. Your stories made me feel like I was there. I am very glad to have met you, but now I’m looking forward to going home again.”
Betty didn’t think that the rest of the storks had even noticed her, but now they all turned towards her and clattered loudly with their beaks as if to say “goodbye.” She cooed back and joyfully started her flight home, already thinking about what she would tell the others.
The little carrier pigeon was looking forward to her next flight and her next big adventure.