From the Children’s Friend, July 1945 –
The Prize Photograph
By Ann Roe Anderson
Duncan Clinton, known as Dunk among his friends, sprinted down Center Street. The one-ten’s shrill whistle for the crossing told him that the errand he ran for his mother would make him too late to see the train pull in.
As he dashed around the corner of the station an arm shot out, grabbed the slack in the back of his sport shirt just in time to save him from falling on top of a boy about his own age, who lay on a cot against which he stumbled. His breath came hard after his run, but he tried to thank the porter for saving him from what might have been a serious spill, and to apologize to Mr. and Mrs. Weston. About all he could gasp, however, was “I – I’m sorry!”
“No harm done,” Mrs. Weston said kindly as she and Mr. Weston helped the boy from the cot into the big automobile, waiting nearby, that whirred quickly away; but not before the boy’s friendly gray eyes had flashed a smile into Duncan’s apologetic brown ones.
Dunk had planned to be on the platform when the express packages were taken from the train – for he had an important duty to perform. He had been appointed by the members of the Bird Club a committee-of-one to get the club’s new camera from the express office, and take it out to the Shack – the club house, that was once the bandstand in the old picnic grounds back of the Weston place.
He waited impatiently at the express window, wondering the while who that boy was and what was the matter with him. At last the express package for which he had been waiting was handed to him, addressed to:
“The Bird Club
The members of the club were already gathered at the Shack when Dunk burst in – Molly, Dunk’s sister, the Trevor twins, Paul and Paula, and Chet Thompson.
In the excitement of opening the package and examining the camera, he forgot to tell the others about the boy at the Westons’. But when he and Molly passed the Weston place on their way home, he noticed that a canvas covering had been stretched part way over the sun-deck at the back of the house. He saw Mrs. Weston come outside carrying a glass of orange juice.
“Wait for me, Molly,” Dunk said, “I have to go in here for a minute.”
“What for?” Molly asked. “We hardly know Mrs. Weston,” but Dunk was already on the porch, a determined thumb pressed against the bell.
“I’m Duncan Clinton, Mrs. Weston,” Dunk said, when Mrs. Weston opened the door. “I guess you remember seeing me down at the station. I want to apologize for almost smashing down on that boy.”
“My nephew, Brickley Howard,” Mrs. Weston told him smilingly. “Perhaps you would like to come in for a few minutes, Duncan, and get acquainted with Brickley.” Dunk accepted eagerly, and they went up stairs to the sun-deck.
“This is Duncan Clinton, Brickley,” Mrs. Weston said and left them together.
“You’re the fellow that –” Brickley began, then stopped, embarrassed that he should have spoken of something that had been an accident.
Dunk grinned. “That’s why I stopped in, Brickley. I sure am sorry I was so clumsy.”
“That’s all right, Duncan,” Brickley said, “probably you would never come to see me if that hadn’t happened. And say, don’t call me Brickley! In the city I’m Brick to all the fellows.”
“O.K., but you will have to cut out that Duncan stuff – I’m Dunk!”
“Sit down for a while, Dunk,” Brick invited. “I’ve come out here by Aunt Mary’s to breathe in some extra sunshine. I caught a fever when Dad and Mom and I were in China. I’m all right now, though – just weak. Sit down,” he invited again.
“I can’t this time,” Dunk said, “my sister is waiting for me. But I’ll be seeing you soon.”
“What kept you so long?’ Molly asked. “And why did you have to go in there, anyway?”
“I went in to see Brick Howard, Mrs. Weston’s nephew. He’s been in China! I almost landed on top of him down at the station.”
The Bird Club members had put in many long hours before they had been able to send for their camera. Twenty-five subscriptions to a Home and Farm magazine had been solicited. Every house in town, and many of the ranch homes had been visited before they had the required number of subscriptions. Three rolls of film came with the camera.
The club members were eager to take pictures of the birds that came to the feeding trays the boys had made and placed near the Shack. The first roll of film was light struck. After that they were more careful when loading and unloading the camera. But while the backgrounds of the pictures, and the children themselves, were fine, their bird friends were nothing more than blurs on most of the prints. It was disappointing after all their hard work, and they lost interest in the taking of pictures.
“This club ought to do something for somebody else instead of just having fun ourselves,” Dunk suggested.
“Aw, who is there to do anything for?” asked Paul, as he looked over the last batch of prints.
“There’s Brick,” announced Dunk. “We could do something for him – to keep him from being lonesome.”
Brick could have only one or two callers at a time, for he was still weak from the effects of the fever. The members of the Bird Club had all been to see him. They enjoyed hearing him tell of his travels in China, but too much talking tired him, so after several visits the boys began to feel it wasn’t much fun to sit there and do nothing.
“I guess it must be pretty uninteresting,” Dunk continued, “for Brick on that sun-deck all day with nothing to do but read. How would you fellows like to stay in one place all the time?”
“Well, what can we do for him?” Chet questioned.
Try as they might no one could think of a plan to make the days more interesting for Brick.
It was not until the next day that Dunk thought of something. He called Molly and they hurried to the Shack. Dunk pulled the bell rope of the old-fashioned farm-dinner bell that hung from the limb of a tree – the “call-to-council” for the club members. When they hurriedly responded, Dunk explained his idea, and at once they set enthusiastically to work.
For the next few days the only callers Brick had were Molly and Paula. When he asked for the boys, the girls, a bit too hastily, said that the boys were busy doing something special. On the way home, Paula said, “I almost wanted to tell Brick what the boys are doing. He kind of looked as if he thought we were just making excuses, and that they didn’t want to come to see him.”
“I’m glad you didn’t tell him,” Molly said. “Everything will be ready most likely tomorrow.”
The next morning Dunk telephoned to Mrs. Weston and asked her how many of the club members could come to see Brickley at one time that afternoon – that they wanted to bring him something.
“Brickley is so much stronger,” Mrs. Weston told him, “that I think you might all come. We will make it a party, and have ice cream and cake.”
“That will be great, Mrs. Weston,” Dunk exclaimed, “and thanks a lot.”
“Hi, yuh! Brick,” was the greeting of the Bird Club members as they filed out onto the sun-deck that afternoon.
As spokesman, Dunk said, “We’ve brought you some things to keep you interested when you are alone,” and he handed Brick two bird-feeding trays made from hollowed out tree branches. Chet came forward with a rustic, open-topped tripod, made from tree branches, about four feet long, bound together with rawhide. Paul stepped up and placed on top of the tripod a shallow adobe bowl that he had hand-molded and baked in the sunshine until it was hard and would hold water.
Paul and Chet, grinning broadly, announced, “It’s a bird-bath.”
“Bird seed for the seed eaters,” Paula smiled, and placed a box of seed on the table beside Brick.
“Cut-up cherries, for the mocking birds, and honey for the birds that like it,” Molly giggled, as she set two small jars beside the box of seed.
Brick’s face flushed with eager pleasure. “You’re a swell gang!” he exclaimed. “Do you suppose the birds will really come and eat and bathe here on the sun-deck?” he asked.
“Just try them!” Dunk laughed. “We stopped feeding them at the Shack for the last two days, so they would be glad to drop down here when we have things ready for them.”
“The mocking birds will come right down beside you on the table to get the cherries if you put some in one of the feeding trays,” Molly told Brick.
“We have learned a lot of interesting things bout birds out there at the Shack,” Paula said. “They are so tame now they eat out of our hands.”
“We tried to take pictures of them,” Chet said, and handed Brick the prints. “They didn’t turn out so hot, but you can see that the birds come right up to us.”
Brick looked over the prints. “What you ought to have,” he said, “is a camera with a speedier lens. I’ll send for mine and you fellows can use it. It takes swell pictures.”
Brick was immediately elected a member of the Bird Club.
Before the afternoon was over, the birds had discovered their new feeding grounds, and were making themselves at home on the sun-deck, much to Brick’s delight.
By the time Brick was strong enough to go to the Shack, the boys had taken a number of really fine photographs. Brick was as enthusiastic as they were over the bird pictures taken with his camera. And then, without warning, Brick announced that he was going home – and he insisted upon taking the last roll of film with him to have it developed in the city.
“I’ll send prints of the pictures to each of you,” he promised.
The Bird Club members waited impatiently, but the prints failed to arrive.
“Maybe Brick is sick again,” Dunk suggested.
“He could get his dad to mail the prints if he’s sick, couldn’t he?” Paul asked, and added, “I want to see those pictures!”
“Who doesn’t?” Dunk asked quickly, “but I guess if you were sick –”
“Aw, forget it,” Chet interrupted Dunk’s excuses, “you don’t even know if he’s sick.”
That afternoon Chet was passing the drug store. He stopped suddenly and stared at a city newspaper, so placed that a headline and a photograph were in full view. It was the photograph that had caught Chet’s eye. When he had read the headline he dug into his pocket for a five-cent piece, bought the one copy of the paper that the druggist had, and ran all the way to the Shack. Once there, he pulled the bell rope with such force that the bell almost turned over. The clatter and din brought the other members on the run.
Chet spread the newspaper on the workbench. “Take a look at that!” he exclaimed angrily.
The picture they saw was one of Molly in her play suit, with the fringe-like branches of a pepper tree as background. A mocking bird, with wings spread, was settling down on her out-stretched hand, eager to peck the cherry she held between her lips.
“Say,” Dunk roared, “I took that picture of Molly!”
“Sure you did,” Chet agreed. “And I guess you read that headline.” He pointed to each word.
“First Prize in Amateur Photo Contest
Goes to Brickley Howard.”
“That old Brick is a ‘swell’ member of our club,” Paul growled.
“Well,” Dunk began slowly, and rubbed a hand over his hair thoughtfully, “of course, it was Brick’s camera – and, anyway, it might be a mistake,” he added hopefully.
“How could it be a mistake?” Chet asked. “It says right there that he got first prize.”
“It just has to be a mistake!” Molly broke in. “Brick wouldn’t do such a thing, and every one of us knows he wouldn’t!” Molly winked hard to keep back the tears.
“Molly’s right,” Paul agreed, “I was wrong to –”
The group was so intent in the discussion that no one heard the door of the Shack open. They turned in quick surprise when Brick’s familiar voice cried, “Hi, everybody! Dad drove up here with me, so I could tell you the news. Aunt Mary said she heard the ‘call-to-council’ bell so I knew I’d find you down here.”
Brick was so eager to tell his news that he had not noticed the silence that greeted his entrance. He put the package he carried on a chair, and started to unfold a newspaper, when he spied the one already open on the workbench. His face turned a deep red.
“Say, where did that paper come from?” he asked, and added quickly, “they sure had things mixed the day the awards were posted. Because I entered the picture somebody had the idea I was the one who took it. Here is the next day’s issue.” Brick laid the paper he opened over the one already on the bench. The photograph was the same, but the headline read:
“Out of Town Boy Takes First Prize
Duncan Clinton of Springdale
Photo Entered by Brickley Howard
For the Springdale Bird Club”
“I read about the contest the day before I went home,” Brick said. “that was why I was in such a hurry, and took the film with me. I wanted to surprise you if we took a prize. But we almost lost out. The photographer mislaid the roll of film – that’s why I didn’t send prints. He didn’t find it until the day before the entries closed.
“Oh, I ‘most forgot,” Brick exclaimed, and turning, picked up the package from the chair and handed it to Dunk. “Here’s the first prize,” he grinned, “open it!”
When the wrappings were torn off, Dunk was too overcome to speak.
“A swell camera!” Brick gloated. “Speediest lens made. And a dozen rolls of film! Say,” he asked suddenly, “what did you think when you saw that first announcement? I hope you didn’t think –”
It was Molly who spoke quickly and firmly. “We knew it was a mistake, Brick – just like you said.”
“You’re a great old pal!” Dunk exclaimed, as he and the others began to pommel Brick.
“Cut it out!” Brick laughed, trying to defend himself from both praise and thumps.