To appreciate fully just how remarkable it was that Big Slow Fred saved the day, it is important to know all about who Big Slow Fred was. Mrs. Sand and Mr. Sand were the happy parents of a brand new baby boy. That would have been about twenty years ago now. The Sand’s had waited a long time for a baby and thee wasn’t a happier pair of parents in all of the valley. They were so happy that it went unnoticed for a very long time that Big Slow Fred was not like other little boys.
Big Slow Fred did not look like other babies exactly, his head was large and his eyes looked very oriental. He was a bit clumsy with eating. Mrs. Sand was too happy to notice, or perhaps it already made her unbearably sad that Big Slow Fred had problems looming in his life, problems that she had no way of fixing.
Big Slow Fred was about two when his mother and father took him to the city and had him looked over by a special doctor. The doctor told them exactly what they knew already, their little Freddy would not grow up to be the clever successful man that ideally any set of parents would like. Their Freddy would remain a lovely happy child his entire life, even when he became an adult.
He would learn to tie his laces, and read a little bit, write a little bit and do his daily chores. Little Freddy might some day even fall in love and be a very good daddy, just not easily, and he would unlikely ever be the clever and successful man his mother and father thought he would be on the day he was born. Nevertheless, they loved their little boy and always would, no less than had he been just perfectly normal.
Still, it made his mother sad, his daddy was devastated. Some say that he worked so hard because he could not face going home to see his wife so sad. Others thought he was just trying to bank away as much money as Fred would need his whole life so his wife need not spend her days worrying how Fred would manage if they died.
In time, after Big Slow Fred started school at Mrs. Miller’s the sadness wen taway. This was a kind and gentle valley and everyone worked together to help Big Slow Fred become as smart as possible, that one day he could earn a living and live on his own. Some even envied that the Sand’s had a child who loved them living with them their whole lives as parents watched their own children grow up and leave them in an often too quiet house.
Even when Big Slow Fred was and adult he continued playing with all the children in the valley. Big Slow Fred could handle the responsibility of making sure none of the little ones got into trouble, fell in the water or wandered off into the forest.
At home Big Slow Fred looked after the fowl the family kept for eggs. Geese, ducks and chickens, Fred gave them all names, he cleaned them and fed them and hatch-lings were kept safe under his watchful eye. Every morning very early Big Slow Fred would collect up the eggs, and if there were too many for just their little family, he would take the eggs to the neighbours. Some times neighbours would give him a little money for the eggs. Fred would go to the store and buy something pretty for his mum, or a chocolates for his dad. Fred was always generous, and kind. Fred could not be smart, but that was just alright with everyone.
Maybe it does not seem right to call him Big Slow Fred but you’d need to know that the name came from what all the little kids had called him, not to be cruel, but because everyone in the valley had some kind of descriptive name. After all there being about six Fred’s in the valley you had to tell them apart, there was Little Fred, Cheese Farmer Fred, smiling Fred, Skinny Fred and Loud Fred. Fred was big and slow and you needed
to know that so you would not have unkind expectations of him.
Now, one day, Rose Gilly, a sweet little girl living a ways down the lane from Big Slow Fred got a little cat from her mum. She loved that cat so very, very much. It was always chasing butterflies down the lane. This was May and there were butterflies all over the place. Well, wouldn’t you know it, but one day the little cat found her way up a large tree on the lane, just in front of Big Slow Fred’s house. It was up there a long time before anyone knew the little cat was in trouble. Rose was so worried she went from house to house asking if anyone had seen the little grey kitten. The grey kitten was silently watching fairies playing tug of war on top of the old ash tree.
Eventually Big Slow Fred heard of the missing kitten. Fred smiled, “must have been chasing fairies up trees again.” Of course no one thought to tell Big Slow Fred that there were no such a thing as fairies. It was alright for him to think it, just as it was alright for all children to think it. He was right of course, as you will see, the fairies had a little something do do with it.
Of course none of the adults in the valley knew that there were real fairies all over the valley. Children could sometimes see them. Fred, for all his innocence could also see them. So could kittens. Quite often when Big Slow Fred was feeding the geese and ducks fairies would be racing the fowl around the barnyard.
Some nights Big Slow Fred would spend a few entertaining hours just watching them play and race geese and ducks around. Pixies too would come and watch. Late at night you could see fairies flitting about in moonbeams. Of course if you hadn’t seen the fairies up close you would only think that they were fireflies. Very big fireflies.
That day, indeed, the little grey kitten had chased fairies all the way up the tree. They were teasing the kitten to run after them. Now the poor little thing was stranded on top of the tree looking down, just hoping someone would figure a way to come and get it. The Sand’s had a cat named Russell, a big fat red tabby. He heard the occasional me-ow coming from the ash tree. He went to see what the great fuss was all about. Obviously the fairies were at it again.
So Russell climbed up atop the arboretum at the Sand’s gate and quickly spotted the kitten, and the fairies. He tried to explain to the kitten how to get down from there. His instructions fell on deaf ears the kitten was still far to interested in watching and possibly catching a fairy or two.
A little boy named Luke spotted the kitten and tried unsuccessfully to get it down. He shouted at Big Slow Fred to come and help him, but Fred instead turned around and walked to the back of his house. Repeatedly the little boy tried to climb the tree and get the kitten down from there. The little kitten was mewing, probably because by now it was hungry, but still too distracted to come down from the tree, and just out of reach for Luke to grab him.
It wasn’t a very long time, except maybe for the hungry little kitten, before Big Slow Fred came back. It seems Big Slow Fred had a particularly clever idea and had taken his father’s fishing pole to the pond in the back and caught a fish. He had then broiled it over the barbecue which his mother was using to make dinner on. Now he came to the bottom of the great ash tree with a handful of tasty, aromatic fish, something no cat or kitten could refuse.
Fred, being very big reached up toward the kitten, his very substantial hand holding out a small pile of fishy bits nicely crisped by the flames of the barbecue pit. Not too frightening for the kitten whose only thought was the fishy treat held out to him. Once Big Slow Fred felt the kitten entirely on his hand he brought the kitten still feasting on the
fish down to Rose who’d been crying all this time for fear her kitten was gone forever.
No one except for Big Slow Fred had been so clever as to do what he did. Big Slow Fred saves the day, and it would not be the last time.