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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Practice, Practice, Practice

Way up north, in the highlands of Scotland, where the hills are carpeted with purple heather, lived a wee lad named Alastair.

He liked to chase the woolly sheep through the tall grasses. Sometimes he would sneak up on the highland cows as they grazed and grab hold of their long hairy tail. Other times he picked the prickly purple thistle that grew about the glen; but more than anything in the whole world, Alastair loved listening to his father play the bagpipes.

His father was the best bagpipe player in the glen. Alastair wanted to play the bagpipes too, but he was too wee. "When can I play the bagpipes?" heíd ask.

"When youíre big," his father told him.

One afternoon, Alastairís father brought home a present. "Is it for me?" Alastair asked.

"Aye, laddie," he answered and handed Alastair a wooden flute. "Learn to use this. It will help your lungs grow strong and youíll develop an ear for music."

Alastair was so excited. He took the wooden flute and ran into the heather-covered hills. Sheep were grazing nearby, nibbling on the heather. Birds were busy building their nests and were merrily singing in the trees. Butterflies fluttered around the bluebells and buttercups.

He took out his brand new wooden flute and blew into it. It made a horrible sound. The sheep looked up and began to baa. He blew into it again. The birds looked down from their nests wondering what the terrible noise was. Once more he blew. The butterflies lifted their heads from the center of the flowers to see what was going on. He blew and blew and blew, but all that came out were loud screeches. The sheep and birds finally tired of hearing the noise and left. Alastair wondered how heíd ever get good enough to play the bagpipes, when all he did was make loud noises.

The next morning he woke up feeling happy. He remembered his father telling him to practice. After breakfast, he ran back into the hills. The sheep were grazing and nibbling on the heather, but when they saw Alastair coming, they ran away. The birds in the nests flew away too. The butterflies fluttered to another patch of flowers. Nobody wanted to hear his screeches.

Alastair climbed onto a rock and took out his flute. He blew and blew and made an awful noise, but then something happened; he actually played a note. It was only one note, but at least it wasnít a screech.

He tried it again. It took a long time but he finally did it again. He kept practicing and practicing and once he figured out how he was doing it, he kept playing the note over and over again. He was so excited. He ran down the hill and found his mum. "Mum, listen! I can play my flute!" He blew into it and the two notes came out.

"Thatís lovely, Alastair. Keep practicing and in no time youíll be the best bagpipe player in the glen," his mum said.

Every day Alastair went into the hills to practice. Soon he learned three notes and then four, and then five and soon he could play a tune. He did it very slowly and now and then a wee screech sounded, but he was playing the tune. "I can play a song," he laughed. He was so excited. He ran down the hill and found his mum again. "Mum, mum," he called. "Listen. I can play a song," he giggled.

He played for her. "Thatís lovely, Alastair. Thatís a song your Gran used to sing to you when you were a wee baby."

Alastair was so proud of himself and he could feel his lungs growing stronger every day.
Whenever he went into the hills to practice, the sheep, instead of running away, stayed to listen to him play. The birds and their newly hatched chicks stayed in their nests and listened. The butterflies fluttered around the bluebells and thistle, not wanting to leave.

One night, the villagers held a ceilidh, which is a big party. Alastairís mum helped him dress in his wee kilt and velvety jacket. He put on his woolen socks and put a little black beret on top of his reddish-brown hair. Alastair looked in the mirror. "I look like a bagpiper. I look like my father." He felt so proud. He put his flute into the pocket of his jacket and left for the party.

He had a marvelous time. The bagpipes played songs while people danced the Highland fling. They ate food, like shortbread, clootie dumpling, haggis, meat pies, sausage rolls and flaky pastries filled with cherries and covered with vanilla icing. Everyone was having a grand time.

Alastair remembered the flute that was inside his jacket pocket. He walked slowly up onto the stage. Nobody noticed him. They were all too busy talking and singing. He took out his flute and began to play. Suddenly the room was filled with silence. Alastair stopped playing. Everyone was looking up at him. Then his father stood up and shouted, "Play us a song, Alastair."

The other people began to shout, "Play us a song, laddie."

Alastair put the flute to his mouth and played. When he finished, everyone began to clap. His father ran and picked up his son. "Youíll make a fine bagpipe player when you grow up. Just keep practicing."

Alastair did just that. He practiced and practiced and when he grew up, was the best bagpipe player in the glen, even better than his father.

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