Queen Caroline and the Cherry Tree Stick                                                                Once there was a girl named Caroline who lived with her Grandma Mary and her Labrador Retriever named Lady. Their home was a log cabin which sat at the edge of a pond in the land beneath Sugarloaf Mountain in the State of Maryland.
The cabin sat at the edge of a pond where great birds landed in the springtime.  Wildflowers grew around the pond and fish snapped at bugs in the sultry summer air.  Frogs croaked loudly in the long cool evenings.  In autumn, the beech, maple and walnut trees turned scarlet, golden and bronze.  In the winter, the mountain itself was hushed and quiet.    
Caroline had thick brown braids that fell to her waist.  Every morning her grandmother brushed her hair until it was straight and shining.  Then Grandma Mary braided Caroline’s hair and tied a ribbon at the end of each braid.  While she fixed her hair, Grandma Mary sang to Caroline or told her stories or taught her magic words. 
For her birthday, Grandma Mary bestowed upon Caroline a cherry tree stick and said, “Now, Caroline, here is a magic stick.  You can throw it anywhere you want, and it will come back to you.  But whatever you do, don’t throw this stick West, towards the mountains.” Caroline loved her Grandma Mary and would never have willingly disobeyed her grandmother.  
But one day, a strong wind came up.  When Caroline threw her magic cherry tree stick up in the air, the stick sailed up, up, and over the Sugarloaf Mountain.  Lady chased the stick and Caroline followed. The stick skimmed across the Potomac River. Lady splashed into the water, happy to swim.  Carolyn took off her shoes and she crossed the Potomac River, too.
The stick flew through the Great State of  Virginia and into West Virginia.  Caroline and Lady followed until the magic stick landed beside the castle which guarded Lost City along Lost River.  Lady skidded to a stop when she saw that dark and fearful castle.  Carolyn stood by Lady’s side.  Her magic stick had disappeared.
“Oh, my,” said Caroline. Those were the magic words her Grandma Mary taught her.  With that, a door opened in the castle.
“Oh my, oh, my,” said Caroline now.  A powerful wind sprung up and pushed Caroline and Lady inside the castle.
Caroline and Lady wandered through the castle.  They came to a room which had a ledge running along the walls of the room. On that ledge stood men, dressed in grey military uniforms.  The men were frozen in the places where they stood. 
When Caroline looked closely at the men, she saw that all had spit-shined shoes.  They wore braid around their shoulder and epaulets. Their breast insignia shone with colorful bars, gold medals, pins.  The buckles on their belts were polished.      

“Oh,” said Caroline to her dog, Lady.  “These soldiers were heroes.  We will have to rescue these men.  They are frozen with magic.”
Just then, Caroline and Lady heard footsteps.  The witch, dressed in a black leather gown, with pointy high heels and a velvet black hat, stalked into the room.
“Well, well, well,” said the witch.  “Fancy this.  A little girl dressed in white with a pink sash across her chest.  And her little dog, too.”
“You leave my dog alone,” cried Caroline. 
“Have you lost something, my dear?” the witch asked as she held up the magic cherry tree stick. 
Caroline said quietly, “That’s mine.” 
She knew exactly what to do because her Grandma Mary had told her.  Caroline spit in the air.  Her spit landed at the foot of the witch.  Then Caroline breathed in a pattern.
“Heh, heh, heh,” Caroline breathed shortly.
“Haaaaa, Haaaaa, Haaaa,” she breathed the long pattern.
Then Caroline gave three snorts of her nose with her lips closed.  “Mmmf, mmmmf, mmmmf.”
With each of Caroline’s magic breaths, the witch became smaller and smaller.
Caroline walked over to a tiny little black creature on the floor and she stepped on it, as if the witch were only a crunchy black water beetle.  She picked up her magic stick and tucked it under her arm.  
The men along the wall began to stir.  Moving just a little.  Wiggling a finger or a toe.  Stretching an arm or a leg.  Marching in place.  Yawning and stretching.  Slowly the men in uniform along the wall unfroze.  
One man smiled.  Another man laughed.  A third man roared.  In one voice, they cried,  “Caroline saved us.  Caroline is our Queen.  Hail, Caroline, our Queen.”
Caroline was very happy that the men had come back to life and that she was their Queen.  But she did not lose her head.  She held on tight to her cherry tree stick and one hand rested on Lady’s broad head.
“A  coronation,” said an officer who wore lots of medals.  “Let’s crown Queen Caroline.”  He placed a simple crown, like a large gold wedding ring, on Caroline’s head.  The stick became a scepter which Caroline held with dignity.
“The Dog, The Dog,” cried all the soldiers.
The officer spoke.  “I name her Lady Dog, Lady-in-Waiting, to our good Queen Caroline.”
Queen Caroline smiled  said, “Now, we will have a Coronation Ball.”
“Hooray,” cheered the men. "Huzzah!" 
The military brass band played waltzes. Caroline’s dress became a beautiful ball gown.  Over her shoulder was a pink sash which tied at her hip.  Each man danced with Queen Caroline around the great hall.  The chandeliers sparkled.  The punch bubbled.  Every heart was light and gay.
Then each man took a glass of punch and held it high.  The Commanding Officer said, “A toast to Queen Caroline, our beautiful Queen.  May she be our Queen forever.”
All the men roared, “Yes, yes, Queen Caroline, our queen forever.”
“And to Lady Dog, her Lady-in-Waiting.”
“To Lady Dog,” cried the Men.  Lady Dog’s tail waved serenely.
Caroline just smiled.  The ball continued into the night.
When all the men had fallen fast asleep, Caroline simply walked out of the castle by Lost River.  Caroline looked around Lost River.  The sun was just rising.  She saw mountains and trees, birds and shy deer, a mill with a water wheel by the side of the river.  The leaf fall hushed her steps as she strode east, along a stream.  Sunrise came with shafts of light and dappled shade.     
Caroline came to a mountain top, and she flung the magic cherry stick high into the air, eastward.  The stick flew beyond West Virginia and past Virginia, across the River, circled the Sugarloaf Mountain and back  to her own yard.   Caroline and Lady ran with the magic cherry tree stick.  As soon as ever they were sitting under the lilac bush in their own yard in Maryland. 
“What is on your head, Caroline?” asked Grandma Mary.
Caroline put her hand to her head and felt the gold circle of a crown still there.
“Oh,” said Caroline with a mysterious smile, “that is my crown, Grandma Mary.”
Grandma Mary said, “Wisha, now, will you look at that?  You had yourself a magic adventure, my little love, didn’t you, now?”  There was magic in those words, too.

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Mary Jo Kelly Wilhelm 2017