Wilder is a cowboy with a wooden horse named Gumdrop. He’s three years old. He sometimes asks his mom, “How can a horse be made of wood!” But Gumdrop is a good pony, she’s never thrown him once.
Wilder makes friends easily. He wears his chaps, and his cap, and his leather vest, and he just ropes ’em all in with his clever lasso (the one that his granny bought him). He’s friends with birds, and cats, and other kids. He’s a friendly guy.
One day, as he and his mom were out walking, it started to rain. This was not unusual, it often rained in Halifax, but Wilder heard his mother say, as she looked out at the grey sky across the harbour. “It looks like a storm is coming over from Dartmouth.”
Wilder looked to see. He had a friend who lived in Dartmouth and who would often come over the bridge to have a play date. He wondered if the storm was coming over like that.
“But why would a storm come over a bridge!” He asked his mother, in his typical cowboy style. His mother smiled down at him, and gave him a kiss.
A few days later he overheard his father telling his older brother to take an umbrella with him to school.
“You never know when a storm might come, it’s that time of year. Best be prepared!” His father said.
Wilder wondered why you needed an umbrella to meet a storm. He’d never needed an umbrella to meet anyone else!
It was lucky his big brother had taken the umbrella though, because later that day it rained. It often rained in Halifax. Wilder was used to the rain. He didn’t mind it one bit. Although, it did mean that he couldn’t take Gumdrop out into the yard for a ride. She liked being out in the sun and the wind, but he found she rode better in on the living room floor.
A few days later Wilder was sitting at the kitchen table in his little brother’s high chair, when two guests arrived for dinner. After a moment of shyness and observation, Wilder asked the two arrivals, “How can a big kid fit into a baby’s chair!” They laughed with him, admitting the absurdity.
The guests were an odd pair, a man and a woman. The woman was strange, but the old man seemed harmless, huge, but harmless. He sat beside Wilder, and all through dinner Wilder kept wondering, if he tied his lasso end to end, whether it would fit around the big man. Near the end of the meal the man stretched out and rubbed at his knees, saying to no one in particular,
“Storm’s a comin’.”
The strange woman looked out the window and added, “Yep, and it’ll be dark soon.”
Wilder looked around exited and wondered why everyone was so calm about it. “But why would a storm come at night!” He asked. He never got to have play dates in the evening.
“Storm’s a comin’,” said the big man again. “My knees never lie.”
Wilder was fascinated. What connection did this man’s knees have with the storm? As Wilder thought about it, he decided that the storm was pretty silly to come at night. His mom would never let him go out and play in the dark. He’d already tried to once and she’d said no, even though he’d offered to take Gumdrop with him.
After dinner, as the guests were leaving, and Wilder and his brothers were getting ready for bed, Wilder asked his dad, “So is the storm still coming?”
“It looks like it,” said his father.
“Should I get an umbrella?” asked Wilder. He’d been waiting for a while now to make friends with the storm, and he didn’t want to miss his chance, or be rude in any way.
But his father just laughed, all the grown ups laughed. “No, you won’t need an umbrella.”
Wilder shrugged. Grown ups could be so weird.
Wilder and his brother got into their jams, they read stories with their mom, and sang night-time songs with their dad. Finally they fell asleep. But sure enough, in the dark hours of the night the storm arrived. It had come to visit and play, but nobody was awake or even around. The storm banged on the windows, it banged on the doors. It finally managed to wake Wilder up.
“Come and play!” The wind whistled and howled.
Wilder went to the window. The trees were all dancing, and the rain was playing, and it was dark, and the middle of the night!
“What do you think Gumdrop?” Wilder asked his pony. The wooden horse just looked at him, a knowing look. “Yeah, you’re right, mom wouldn’t let us.” Wilder was disappointed, it was just his luck that the storm had finally gotten there, and it was too late for him to go out and play.
Wilder went to the window and called out at the storm, “Come back tomorrow storm, my mom won’t let me play in the dark.” But the storm was impatient. It kept knocking at the windows, and banging away at its fun. It was hard for Wilder to get back to sleep.
In the morning, Wilder woke up to a calm grey sky. He was sleepy and sad. He was quiet all through breakfast. He was sure that he’d missed his chance to make a new friend. But his mother assured him that, being as they lived in Halifax, he was guaranteed to meet a storm again. One that would brush his cheeks with its rainy kisses, and toss him about with its windy hands, and she promised that when it behaved itself and came during the proper play-time, she’d even let him take Gumdrop out to meet it and play. Soon, she said, he and the storm would be fast friends.
As always, his mom was right.