While reading our local rag, I came across a column by a man named Burt Baldwin. I was drawn to the article by the picture of a stuffed bunny on a bookshelf. It was a fluffy sitting-bunny with big feet. Something told me there was a heart-warming story behind the picture and I am a sucker for heart-warming stories, I was not disappointed.
As Burt was getting his mail, he saw something that he said looked like a leg protruding from the ice on the road. Most rural residents have mailboxes on main roads and this one happened to be on a county road. Burt was intrigued so he looked around in the growing dark and found a stick to dig it out. When he got the thing out, it turned out to be a “small tattered stuffed rabbit”. The rabbit had been lying face down so he turned it over and it was missing one of its glass eyes. He surmised that the rabbit had been thrown out, replaced by a newer gift during the holidays and probably had fallen out of a trash bin before the trash was picked up. Burt says that he looked at it for a minute and “a strange warmth” came over him. He picked it up and dropped it onto his passenger side floorboard and headed home.
A few days later, Burt noticed the rabbit smiling up at him from the floorboard as he was gathering groceries from the passenger side of his vehicle. He says there was something about that smile that made him grab it up with the groceries and throw it into the washing machine. He talked about how important stuffed animals could be to us as children. He talked about comfort, companionship and a feeling of protectiveness our stuffed “friends” provided to us in a sometimes-harsh reality.
I know that my two of my grandchildren had these “friends” that would bring about not just tears but extreme crying spells if their stuffed animal could not be located. When they came to stay with us, we always made sure that the stuffed friend came along. A grandson has a stuffed giraffe named “Ba” that has been torn apart by dogs many times. Its leg is partially missing and has been taped up looking like an amputee after having surgery to remove a limb, his fur is patchy and matted and he is missing an eye. You would think my grandson would be more careful with Ba but he abuses and leaves him lying around inside and out. However, when he is unhappy or sleepy and always at bedtime, he cries for Ba. Ba often smells bad even though he gets washed often so Danny has tried hiding him and/or trying to convince our grandson that he doesn’t need Ba any more, to no avail. There are several Ba’s, each grandparent’s house has one just in case Ba gets left behind and he has one with his mom and one with his dad. The Ba’s have names like Daddy Ba, Mommy Ba and Baby Ba. No one but his mom will keep Daddy Ba on a permanent basis. When our grandson sleeps with us, Danny and I have awakened in the night to hide Daddy Ba under the covers or toss him onto the floor because he stinks, mostly like bad-breath. Yet, no one will toss him into the trash. One of our granddaughters had “Piggy” who was a stuffed Piglet. Piggy was replaced many times without incident but the necessity to have it was just as important. When we were packing to move, I found the “Piggy” that was kept at our house and when I told our granddaughter who is now 6, she kept asking me where it was. We finally found it and it was returned to her bringing a nostalgic smile to her face. I believe that these animals were as important to the children as was “home”.
Burt believes that certain events can thrust us into curious activities. When his wife discovered his new friend in the washing machine, she removed it with the tips of her fingers and stared at him in “disgust”. She scolded him for bringing the “germ-riddled” thing home and it was isolated to a separate wash. Burt was undaunted and was happy to see that the bunny actually looked “pretty good” after his “bath”as he had fluffed up in the dryer. Secretly, Burt replaced the bunny’s missing left eye with a button from his wife’s sewing basket, sewing it on himself. When his task was finished, he placed the bunny on the bookshelf in his studio. That is not the end of the story, however, because a few weeks later, Burt heard a crying in his back yard. He opened the door to a “pitiful” black cat. The cat was emaciated and oddly had a severely damaged left eye. He took the cat to the vet and was told that the cat would never see out of his left eye again but would “make it through with tender loving care”. No doubt, Burt was just the person to provide that care. At the end of the article, Burt tells that the cat was sleeping quietly on the couch “just under his new friend’s abiding smile far from the darkening, frozen county roads of winter”.
So do you think that it was a coincidence or divine intervention? Whatever it was, I can say that if I were abandoned cold and lonely on a county road, I would wish that Burt would find me.