Harold Lane lived in a large cave on the side of Birchwell Hill about a miles walk from the city of Sillock.. He had long scruffy grey hair and beard & had lived there for as long as anybody could remember.
He survived on rabbits & other small wildlife that he killed using a crossbow that he had fashioned from a cross using a large knife that he had bought many years ago using money he had raised from begging in Sillock. From the animal skins Harold made a large rug. Large enough to wrap around himself in the Winter months.
On Fridays Harold would pack his rucksack with dirty clothes and head into Sillock to wash them. Whilst there he would also wash himself using the free public showers. On other fine days of the week, Harold would spend his time at the library.
Harold had no need for money.. He could feed himself, get water from a nearby stream & heat from a fire that he would keep going throughout Winter. In Summer, at weekends, local children would walk to Harolds cave. Their parents knew all about him so they were free to come & go as they pleased. Harold would tell them fantasy stories, show them his crossbow and show them how to make arrows from straight pieces of thin birch branches.
A new Principal arrived in Sillock, Paul Harrington. Paul was young & progressive. One day a teacher brought an arrow made by Harold & he had confiscated it. “Who made this?” asked Paul. “That old hermit in the cave,” said the teacher. Paul was intrigued. “This is brilliant,” he said. “Who made it?” One teacher piped up, “Old Harold. He lives in a cave outside of town & kills his own food with his crossbow.”
Harrington wanted to contact Harold. “”You’ll find him at the library on fine days. Scruffy looking chap but very knowledgeable,” said the Vice Principal. The following Monday, Harrington made his way to the library and spotted who had to be Harold. He pulled a chair up next to Harold, introduced himself then said, “You must be Harold.” Harold jokingly replied, “Well done.” Paul complimented Harold on his woodcraft and asked if he would be interested in teaching Woodcraft on Thursday & Friday. “I suppose I could,” said Harold,”…..but the kids will need a large, sharp heavy knife.” Harrington said, “That’s all? You’ve made a crossbow & all of those arrows with just a knife?” Harold adamantly replied, “A sharp & heavy knife.”
Phil pulled a chair over next to Harold & said, “I’d like to teach the students more outdoors things and I think that you would be perfect to help me out.” Harold replied, “How so?” Phil said, “I’d like you to teach my students, just 2 days a week, how to make arrows.” Harold fired back, “Just arrows? What about the crossbow too shoot them with?” Phils eyes widened. “You make crossbows too? Would you be interested in my offer? You’ll be paid award wages.” Harold looked straight at Phil. “I don’t need no money,” he said. How about you give my money to the homeless & I’ll take you up on your offer?” The deal was done. Harold would start the following week.
During that week Harold was at the library drawing crossbow parts,, all from different angles for the students to follow.
The following week, Harold went to the laundry & shower on Wednesday, the day before he started. Harold arrived at school and was taken to the woodwork shop where he was introduced to the students, most of whom knew him. He said to Phil, “We’re going to need wood to make the stock. I know where we can get some but it’s an mile away. Phil organised a bus.
Phil, (who was curious), Harold & a driver drove out to Harolds cave. “Look around the forest kids & find the biggest piece of wood you can find. The students set about their task and returned after an hour. Before they left Harold took the students to see his cave. They were in awe, as was Phil. “You live here?” asked Phil. “I do so,” said Harold before adding cool in Summer, sheltered & warm in Winter. The walls hold the heat, you see & there”’s plenty of wood around,” he said laughing & pointing at the students with their lumps of wood. “Amazing. I envy you,” said Phil.
Once back at the school Harold asked Phil about getting his drawing photocopied. Phil gave Harold a white dustcoat. Harold put it on & wore it with pride. He pointed Harold towards the library where Harold made copies of each drawing.
On returning to the woodwork room the student were running a muck. “Oi!” exclaimed Harold. “We’re here to make a crossbow! Do you want to make one or fool around?” The students made their way silently to their seats with their pieces of wood.
Harold handed out the drawings & stood at the front of the class. He began, “I want you to look at my drawings, hold your piece of wood and move it to what looks like the best way to tackle it. Feel free to mark the wood. Remember, we start big so be bold.” The students began to do as Harold until the end of the class.
As Harold excused the class he said, “Oh! By the way. I’m Harold.” Harold took off his dustcoat & put his tattered trenchcoat back on. He went to Phils office & said to Phil, “Class is over, Phil. Can I be excused?” Phil said, “You don’t have to be excused Harold.”
Harold returned to his class the next day. Every student was present and looked eager to start work. Harold asked them. They all answered “Yes!” Harold replied, “Well get started then. Don’t be light-handed but remember those knives are razor sharp.” The students set about their work. Harold said, “Use your eye and remember, it’s your crossbow so it can be any shape you want.”
After 3 weeks the entire class had completed their stock.