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Picture Book
Battlefield Birthday

It was battle time in Scotland. The MacRum clansmen had been fighting all day long. Now they sat around the open fire, roasting rabbit and eating wild blackberries. The stars twinkled in the midnight sky. They were tired and weary; yet there was merriment in the air as the men were filled with zest and eagerness to fight. Morris, their dog, stayed close to the fire. He’d been dodging swords and cannonballs all day and was exhausted.

Murray was the oldest of the MacRum clansmen. His long reddish brown hair and beard showed signs of graying. Milroy, Stalker, Scobie, Lawson, Lyle, Hastings and Taggart were younger but shared the same reddish hair.

"It’s my birthday tomorrow," Scobie said to the others as he ripped another piece of rabbit off the bone. "What a way to spend a birthday, aye men? Sitting round a fire in the highland wilderness, freezing, and not a drop of whiskey in sight!" The men all laughed.

"Be it your birthday?" Milroy asked. "I’d not known that." He sat looking at the sparks popping from the burning wood. They flew into the air and fell like exploding fireworks to the ground. "I’ve got an idea," he whispered to Lawson and Lyle. "Come on, I want to talk to you."

He took Lawson and Lyle into the woods. Nobody noticed they were gone. Everyone else was half asleep. "Men, it’s Scobie’s birthday. I’ve got a great idea. Here, take this money and go into town. There’s a brand new cannon that old man Munro has ready. Get it and being it back here. Take the horses if you want, quietly, and drag it back. It’s big, but imagine Scobie’s eyes when he sees it. If any a man loves a new cannon, it’s Scobie." Lawson nodded, took the money and left, with Lyle, to get the cannon.

Milroy went back to the campfire. Milroy looked around. Scobie was sound asleep. Snores that could knock down a grizzly bear were shooting from his mouth. "Pssst, Murray," Milroy whispered.

Murray opened one of his eyes. "Huh?" he muttered.

"I need to talk to you," Milroy said.

"Huh?" Murray answered.

"Tomorrow is Scobie’s birthday. Lawson and Lyle have gone to town to get a surprise. Stalker will go with you. Take Scobie away for a while. Make something up. Tell him you need him to scope out the battlefield with you. We’ll bring the surprise into camp. You bring him back. Send Hastings to the Morton croft up the glen to make a cake for him. She’s a good cook."

Murray smiled, keeping his eyes shut though. "You can count on me. Now goodnight!" With that, he fell asleep and snored even louder than Scobie.

Before the sun rose the next morning, Murray took Scobie with him to go up the hill and see what the enemy was doing. Hastings ran over to the Morton croft as ordered. She was more than happy to bake a cake for Scobie.

When they were well out of sight, Milroy called for Lawson and Lyle. They pushed the huge cannon into the camp area. The others ran to help. "What’s this?" Taggart asked. "A new cannon. I’ve never seen one so shiny and sturdy looking. This for Scobie, you say? Lucky man."

Stalker walked over to the cannon, followed by Morris, who was wagging his tail. He sensed festivity in the air.

The five of them stood around waiting for Murray to come back with Scobie. Hastings returned with a cake covered with birthday candles. He hid behind the tree, watching for Murray and Scobie. After about half an hour he called to the others, "Hide. Here they come."

Murray put his arm around Scobie. "I’m sorry that I had to put a blindfold on you, but you see, I’m trying something out. Can you hear better with the blindfold on or not?" he asked, after tricking Scobie with some ridiculous reason for wearing a blindfold.

"I’m fine," Murray, "and yes, I hear better. And smell too. I smell something sweet, like pastries," Scobie said, sniffing the air.

Murray sniffed. All he could smell was pine trees and smoke from the cannon fire last night.

"They’re coming," Hastings called again.

Murray led Hastings into the campfire, blindfolded and stumbling over rocks and tree roots. When they stood right in front of the fire, he pulled the blindfold off.

"Surprise!" the others yelled. "Happy birthday!"

Scobie stood gazing at the cannon and the shiny black cannonballs stacked in front of it. A big blue ribbon was tied around the back of it. "For me, lads? The cannon’s mine?" A tear trickled down his face. He ran over and lay against it. Morris barked and ran around the cannon.

"Surprise again!" cried Hastings, as he walked towards him with the big cake.

"Och, lads, you shouldn’t have done it, but I’m glad you did. This is the best birthday I’ve ever had!" he cried.

Instead of eggs and more rabbit for breakfast, they feasted on Scobie’s birthday cake. No sooner had they finished when they heard the roar of cannons in the distance. "Time to get back to the battle lads," said Murray. "Let’s see how good Scobie’s birthday present works," he said.

As the men headed towards the battlefield, all pushing the huge cannon, Morris stayed at the camp and licked up all the rest of the birthday cake. It was on his face, his paws and whiskers. He lay in front of the fire all day, listening to the roar of Scobie’s new cannon.

"Happy Birthday, Scobie," he barked.

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