The Eagle Float and Mr. Austin

"Eagle Float" by Alex SchattnerThe week before Thanksgiving…Mr. Austin, a high school art teacher, was told that his funding was being cut in half due to budget cuts. The athletics department wasn’t being cut, just the arts.

“Why?” Mr. Austin asked.

“Because sports build teamwork, and promote alumni donations, support, and involvement,” the principal said.

“What if I can prove that art has the same ability?” asked Mr. Austin, “Then will you give us back our funding?”

“If you can prove that, then we’ll see,” said the principal, amused. Mr. Austin was unfazed. Within the hour, he gathered a group of devoted art students, and their parents. He told them the situation, and a lot of brainstorming ensued. Of all the suggestions, one stood out…

“We will build the largest thanksgiving float this town has ever seen,” Mr. Austin said, “and we’ll unveil it before the school’s big football game Thanksgiving morning. Now, we must decide the subject of the float.” A turkey was the obvious choice, but some found it too predictable. Instead,  they decided to go with the school’s, and the country’s, mascot, the American Bald Eagle.

In the following days, the team was split into groups. While one group was working on sketching out a pattern for the bird, another group was sent out to raise money for materials, and helium…a lot of helium.

“You have the opportunity to support our town, by lending your help to the largest arts project in its history,” group members told local business owners. “We are building a  float the likes of which has never been seen before. It will be a great eagle that soars above every building. In return for a small donation, we’ll proudly feature your companies logo on the float.” To more than eighty percent of the town’s businesses, this sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The sporting goods store contributed twenty kiddie parachutes, to be cut up and re-sewn into the floats final form. This was where the Home Ec teacher came in. She double-checked the final pattern, as well as stitches, to prevent any helium from escaping.

“I always thought the Bald Eagle could use a bit more color,” Mr. Austin said as he admired the multicolor patchwork, but, in truth, he was a little nervous. In its deflated form, the float could have been anything. What if one of the wings looked out-of-place, or the head didn’t stay up?

On the bright side, when Thanksgiving Eve arrived, Mr. Austin and the team were emotionally prepared to face any scenario.

“No matter how it looks,” Mr. Austin announced to the group, “We created something special, and we did it together.” In total, it took over twenty large tanks of helium to fill the eagle to capacity, and a hundred cups of  hot mulled cider to keep everyone warm. Upon completion, the results were unanimously beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The eagle hovered high and proud, with an outward neck, and wide wingspan. The only problem was keeping it somewhat grounded. It took more sand bags than they had anticipated.

The following morning, the game was expected to start at 10am, and the float would be the means of getting everyone there on time. The eagle, tied securely to a yellow bus, departed the school’s parking lot at a half past eight. The school’s band gladly marched behind it, playing a striking rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever.” The volunteers trailed last, but not least. They waved flags, and knocked on doors. It wasn’t long before the parade doubled in size.

People peered out their bedroom windows, and saw the giant patchwork bird soaring high above their neighbors homes. They alerted the rest of the families, threw on clothes, and followed almost instinctively.

At ten o’clock on the dot, the football stadium overflowed with fans. Mr. Austin, spotted the principal on the bleachers, and marched right up to him.

“You see,” Mr. Austin told the principal, “It takes diversity to create a successful community.” After that, the principal had little choice but to rethink the budget cuts.


Written by Alex Schattner (11/20/12)

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