The little boy tore his eyes away from the schoolroom’s open window to the handwriting practice paper on his desk. He picked up his pencil stub and laboriously printed his name in the upper left hand corner. A fly flew on his paper, and the boy froze his fingers so as not to disturb his visitor, memorizing the insect’s body for later reference. The bell rang, startling the fly into flight and the boy into embarrassment as he turned in his empty worksheet.
“Mrs. Wright, your son is lazy when it comes to written exercises. He daydreams constantly! I’ve tried moving him farther away from the window so he will have fewer distractions—without success. Copying the words from the board onto his worksheet may be difficult for him, but it is not impossible.”
Will’s mother’s face fell. She had hoped this recent move would provide a fresh start for her errant son, but it seemed that Willy failed to apply himself. His hands had been injured in a plowing accident, but that just meant he had to work harder and longer to write, an allowance made by his teachers.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Hall. We’ve tried rewards, punishments, logic—even help from fellow students, but nothing seems to work. I’m at my wit’s end.”
“Will is an intelligent lad, Mrs. Wright. We just have to figure out how to channel his energy into appropriate channels. How does he use his spare time?”
“He’s always got his head in the clouds, that one. He likes nature, I guess, and birds. He has quite a collection of feathers in his room . . .”
That same moment, Will was in the family’s barn loft, playing with his younger brother, Villy, their mother’s ragbag and sewing basket closeby.
“Ma’s gon’na whip you good if she ever finds out,” Villy warned. “She’s bound to miss her favorite knitting needle.”
“Oh, hush, Vill, and stand still! Hold your other arm out so I can attach this ribbing like the other one.”
“I’m tired of this game. I wanna go to the swimmin’ hole. Why don’t you wear this ‘speriment yourself?”
“I told you a hundred times. I’m not the right size. My proportions are all wrong--remember the sparrow? Look! I wrote down exact measurements,” he replied, handing Villy a meticulously drawn diagram of the bird with crossed lines labeled with “c” and “g” and “wc”, and other initial codes lining the margins of the paper. “See?” he continued, “c stands for current, g stands for gravity, wc for wingspan conductivity.”
“Wow! You should show Ma—she’d be real proud to see this!”
“Aw, you don’t know nothin’, kid. This isn’t the kind of writing the teacher wants. That’s why it’s just our secret, right?” Will slung his arm around the padded torso of his smaller brother.
Susan Wright walked home with the homework tablet in hand, determined to have it out with her stubborn son. Rounding the corner to their property, she stood, petrified. Standing precariously on the barn’s roof peak were her two youngest offspring.
“What outlandishness is this,” she cried, “are you both plumb addled? Get down from there at once, do you hear?”
Startled, the children gingerly slid into the hayloft window, scrambling to cover their materials. Their mother’s head popped up over the ladder into their space.
“Will, I have no doubt that you are at the bottom of this escapade, and Villy, what on earth is that contraption you have on?”
“I was just trying to fly, Ma—you know like a bird,” Villy flapped his arms to demonstrate.
“You boys could have broken every bone in your bodies! Villy, take that thing off and go clean yourself up and Will, you get into the house and I’ll tend to you in a few minutes. Scoot, now, both of you!”
Their mother sat down in the hay, massaging her trembling limbs. Absently, she rescued a rustling sheet of paper beside her. She discovered more pages scattered about, all elaborate diagrams of birds, wings, trees and soaring thing-a-ma-jigs in the sky. Astonished, she saw that this son of hers was talented and realized she held in her hand a tool to help improve his education!
“Mrs. Wright, Will is doing wonderfully! Your creative ideas about vocabulary words related to his unique interests seem to have improved his handwriting skills. He wants other folks to read his experiments!”
Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright went on to develop America's first effective airplane.
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