Peter And His 300 Year Old Friend

Peter And His 300 Year Old Friend

Being an outsider comes with challenges. Peter had moved to the village a year ago yet he still felt like an outsider waiting to be accepted. He was always picked last at games and excluded from social invitations. Luckily he enjoyed his own company and he would fantasise about millions of things. His Daddy called it daydreaming.

But he had one true friend in the village who welcomed him straight away and never judged him. The day Peter and his family moved into their new home, Peter walked into the kitchen, looked out the window and there he was, Kao. The word magnificent came into Peter’s head right away. Now magnificent wasn’t a word that Peter often used. It wasn’t an adequate description for Kao either as he is much more than magnificent.

Peter rushed out of the house and into the park to meet Kao in person. He was beyond tall, he looked exceptionally strong and extremely beautiful. Kao’s presence filled Peter’s heart with joy and hope. They were instant friends.

Peter was desperate to find out all about Kao. He soon discovered Kao was the oldest living creature in the village. Surprisingly no one knew Kao’s real age. He was definitely hundreds of years old! No doubt about that.

Can you imagine being hundreds of years old?

You might have guessed by now Kao isn’t a person.

What do you think he might be?

Kao is a giant oak tree that stands majestically in the park next to Peter’s house. His grandeur makes Peter’s house look small and insignificant.

The first thing Peter did when he met Kao was to try and put his arms around him. His arms went only a little way round Kao’s enormous trunk. Peter stroked Kao’s bark it reminded him of elephant skin. It was rough, tough and lined with time. Next, Peter put his ear to Kao’s trunk and listened, he swore he could hear a heart beat. Peter looked up and saw Kao’s branches reaching up into the deep blue sky and beyond.

Peter stood, stared and wondered if fairies lived in the many nooks in Kao’s trunk. They were perfect places for fairy families to live.

Peter visited Kao daily. He sometimes lay on the ground looking up at Kao daydreaming. Sometimes he would climb Kao and pretend Kao was a castle. Kao was a great lookout station too. Other times he sat on one of Kao’s many branches watching the world go by.

Peter would talk to Kao as if he was a real person. He even hid some of his treasures in Kao’s nooks and crannies, a key ring from Spain, a toy car and a shell from his Granny’s favourite beach.

When the weather was bad, Peter would sit at his bedroom window and watch the birds flying to and from Kao. Kao had many visitors and there was always something to see and wonder about.

At the beginning Peter worried about Kao, especially at night time. Was he lonely in the park all by himself? Then one night he got up out of his bed and quietly went over to the bedroom window to check on his friend. He smiled as he saw Kao had a blanket of stars covering him like a glimmering duvet and the moon as his night light. From that night Peter was satisfied Kao was safe.

Peter soon noticed Kao changed dramatically with the seasons, each morning he looked out his bedroom window he noticed something new about Kao.

During spring, buds spurted, clothing Kao’s naked twigs. In autumn his tired leaves changed from green to copper. Blown by the cold wind they scattered throughout the park and filled Peter’s garden with a carpet of copper. Peter didn’t mind raking up all the Autumn leaves in his garden, they were Kao’s after all. Peter would often hear acorns crunch underneath people’s feet as they walked by Kao, it made him smile, it was like Kao was saying ‘Hello, it’s me.’

Most people of the village took Kao for granted. Peter had seen many of them walk right by Kao seemingly unaware of his presence. But Peter once saw a man try to hug Kao, but like Peter, the man couldn’t get his arms round him either.

Peter loved Kao, he would hug his trunk best he could, stroke his rough bark and tell him secrets.

Peter was sure Kao had seen a few things in his lifetime. He went to the library and looked online to see what life would have been like for his friend growing up. In his early sapling days he would have seen a farmer with a hand plough working hour after hour trying to make a living so he could feed his family. As time passed he would have seen a horse pulling a plough turning over the same precious soil. As Kao grew older and taller he would have seen tractors switching on their lights and working through the night.

Peter wondered what Kao thought about the day the builders came to build his house. And how many little boys and girls had stood underneath him staring at his magnificence.

One morning during the school holidays a group of men arrived in the park wearing hard hats. They were carrying technical equipment that Peter had never seen before. They prodded, poked and pruned Kao.

“Excuse me but is Kao alright?” Peter asked one of the men in the hard hats.

“This old tree just might have had his day. If his roots are not strong enough it will have to come down. It’s a hazard to the community. Something this size can be unpredictable.” said the man.

Peter ran crying into his house. He could hardly tell his Mummy why he was so upset.

“They are going to kill Kao!” sobbed Peter.

“Who are?” asked Mummy.

“The men in the park.” sobbed Peter again.

Mummy hugged Peter then went into the park to talk to the men.

“We need to save Kao Mummy.” said Peter when Mummy came back.

“We certainly do. We need to write letters to the council, our MP and environmental groups.” said Mummy.

Together they worked on letters that told everyone about Kao. They wrote about his history and what he meant to those who loved him. How he had seen the village evolve and generations come and go. Little Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian boys and girls had all attempted to climb him in the past. Some had even engraved their names on his bark, a living history of those who were now gone.

Boys and girls weren’t Kao’s only visitors and admirers. Red and grey squirrels had danced and played amongst his branches. Birds, thousands of beautiful birds had made their homes and raised their babies in his loving and strong branches.

If Kao was cut down, memories and history would disappear much quicker than they were created. Kao was the heart and soul of the park. An iconic figure in the landscape.

Kao gave gifts of life, wonder, mystery, pleasure and excitement. We were only a page in Kao’s story. He deserved to continue his story and decide his own ending.

Letters were sent. Then photographers from the newspapers, radio and TV journalists arrived. Kao’s story was reported everywhere. A group of protesters arrived and camped underneath him protecting him from the hard hats.

Eventually the council announced they would not be cutting Kao down. Their MP arrived to say that Kao would be entered into a register of ancient and important trees meaning he would get regular health checks and be protected now and in the future.

When Peter went back to school after the summer holidays his teacher asked the class what they did during the summer. Peter told the class how he and Mummy had saved Kao. The whole class applauded Peter’s story. That afternoon he was picked first for football and the next day he got invited to a sleep over.

Thanks to Kao Peter had finally been included into the community. Peter made many new friends but he continued to visit his best friend who still stands magnificently in the village park today and hopefully for many years to come.

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