Kulu - A Whale of a Story
Once upon a whale, there was a time, when a whole group of fishermen were laughing, sliding, slipping, moaning, groaning, and believe it or not, trying to paint a huge white circle on top of a whale's enormous slippery head! But let's start at the beginning.....
“Oh no. Oh no! Kuluuuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!!” cried the fisherman in despair as the front of his boat crunched into the greenish-grey, gigantic avocado which had just come up out of the sea.
Everyone loved Kulu. He was the most friendly, fun-filled whale that anyone had ever seen. He wasn’t just big. He was enormous! He was bigger than sixteen elephants and weighed more than one thousand people, and in his silly, clumsy way, he was adorable.
At that moment however, this particular fisherman didn’t feel any love for him at all, because once again, Kulu had damaged his boat. The problem, you see, was that Kulu was almost the same colour as the cold sea that he lived in, and at times was so well camouflaged that it was very difficult to notice him. When Kulu was floating on the surface of the water, resting with his tail hanging down, all you could see were just a few parts of his head and back, barely visible above the surface.
Kulu loved logging, floating in one place for quite a long time, and he also loved swimming deep beneath the surface of the ocean. He would dive down, swim for about half-an-hour, and then come up to breathe. But quite often, he would come up right in front of an approaching boat.
“That horrible, ugly, gigantic monster has wrecked another boat,” cried a furious fisherman. I am sick and tired of this!”
But Kulu didn’t seem to mind, in fact, he didn’t even seem to notice when he crunched into boats, or even when they crunched into him. He was protected by a cushion of thick blubber and hardly even felt what seemed to him, very small bumps.
“I think he’s doing it on purpose!” said one of the frustrated fishermen. “But I think I understand why he’s doing it. Whenever he crashes into our boats, we shout his name, and I think he loves it! You can see him lift his head out of the water and grin with those massive lips of his.”
“Hey!”, cried one of the fishermen, “It’s enough already, I don’t care why he’s doing it, I don’t even care about his lips, I just think it’s about time we ended it, once and for all.”
After much discussion, many of them agreed that there was no other way. So later that evening, a large boat of exasperated fishermen armed with long harpoons, (yes harpoons!), pulled up right alongside Kulu intent on killing him.
“Sorry Kulu,” said one of the men just before he was about to shoot one of the fat steel spears into the whale. As Kulu heard his name, he lifted his head, and showed them his lovable grin again.
The fishermen were so embarrassed! “We can’t do this. He is wrecking our boats, he is a pain, but he’s Kulu. We’ve loved him for years, and I don’t know what we can do about his clumsiness, but we can’t kill him. I’m sorry I just can’t do it.”
One-by-one, the fishermen agreed and Kulu, seemingly unaware of what had almost happened, continued his lazy logging.
The noises in the quaint fishing village were always a delightful mixture of many different sounds. The screeching and the crying of seagulls could be heard above the creaking and the moaning of the wooden boats alongside the jetty as they moved with the swell. One could hear the sounds of hammering, sawing, banging, and tapping, as men overhauled their boats to keep seaworthy.
“We must be able to do something,” said one of the men who was hammering a new piece of wood into the front of his boat to fix a recent hole that had been made by Kulu.
“Yes, but what?” asked another. “This has been happening for a long time now and none of our ideas have worked,” he reminded them. “It’s time we put an end to this and the only way is to get rid of him. I know it’s a horrible thing to do, but we’ve got no choice.”
“No!” shouted a young boy who was often seen in the waterfront area. “Don’t kill him,” he said horrified at the thought.
“But what else can we do?” asked the fisherman.
“Paint him white,” said the boy named Elmer.
The hammering of the boats and the screeching and crying of the seagulls made it difficult for him to be heard, so he shouted again, “Just paint him white!”
The hammering stopped and it seemed as if even the seagulls were silent as everyone looked at Elmer in disbelief. “What did you say?”
“Paint him white. If you paint him white, he will be easy to see and you will be able to avoid him,” said Elmer.
“Even if it was possible, we would never be able to find enough paint,” said one of the men who was getting more interested.
“Don’t be silly, you can’t paint the whole whale! All we need is to paint a big white circle on the top of his head because that is the part that shows first when he comes up to breathe.”
The young Elmer, who knew a great deal about all kinds of creatures, sat down on a plank and explained further while the men gathered around in a half-circle to listen to what seemed like an absolutely crazy idea.
Elmer explained, “And we have to be especially careful not to paint his nostrils,” he cautioned.
“His nostrils?” asked one of the men in disbelief.
“Yes, his nostrils, his blow-holes,” explained Elmer. “That is how he breathes. He takes air into his lungs through those blow-holes and blows it out when he comes back up to the surface again. If we block them, he won’t be able to breathe.”
The men stared in amazement. This sounded like an excellent idea even if it was a bit crazy.
And so the next day, it really happened. Elmer and about thirteen fishermen, armed with sixteen large buckets of white paint and many brushes and rollers, headed out in their biggest boat to look for Kulu.
They searched for about four hours but still could not find him. The sun began to set and so they wearily agreed to try again early the next morning.
The following day, as the new sun sparkled across the sea, they set off again.
After three hours of searching, Elmer suddenly had a bright idea.
“Let’s call him,” he said.
“Yes, you’ve seen how he lifts his head when he hears his name. Come on, let’s try.”
Elmer and the men began calling out across the sea. “Kulu, Kuluuu, Kuuuuluuuuuuuuu………….”
Suddenly a large wave appeared as if from nowhere and tilted the fishing boat almost on to its side as the enormous figure of Kulu came to see who was calling him.
“Well, I don’t believe it!” said one of the men.
“Hi Kulu, we’ve come to help you,” said Elmer.
The men stood in astonishment and wonder as they watched Elmer explain the problem to Kulu. Yes, he was actually communicating with a whale! They listened while Elmer explained about the white circle they would paint to make him more visible, and then watched as Elmer climbed off the boat and on to Kulu!
Kulu kept very still, as if helping Elmer to keep his balance.
“Come on, don’t be scared,” Elmer urged the fishermen, “It’s quite safe, he really does understand.”
The men left the boat, and one by one, joined Elmer on the magnificent Kulu.
And so, this was the time when a whole group of fishermen were laughing, sliding, slipping, moaning, groaning and having the time of their lives, in fact a whale of a time, actually painting a white circle on top of a whale’s head.
After four hours they had succeeded. Everyone seemed overjoyed as they climbed back aboard the boat and even Kulu showed his delight by leaping high into the air and then diving down deep below the sea.
As he rose slowly and carefully to the surface, the big white circle was clearly visible to them all. The plan had succeeded.
A few days went by and Kulu was the talk of the village. People would look out for him and if lucky enough to see him, would call his name. Kulu always lifted his head and some people said that they had actually seen him smile.
The fishermen were especially happy as they were now able to avoid crashing into him, thanks to the bright white circle being so visible. Everything seemed to be back to normal.
Unfortunately, the normality was short-lived.
About a week later, the fishermen were out at sea again when all of a sudden, one of them was hurled across the skipper’s cabin as something rammed into the back of the boat.
“Oh no! Kulu you fool!” he screamed, infuriated with the whale he had grown to love. The plan hadn’t worked after all. They had forgotten that Kulu loved floating and sometimes drifted into the back of boats. The white circle couldn’t help with this problem.
“Let’s shoot him,” said one of the many people who had gathered around the boat once they had managed to get it back to shore.
One of the fisherman interrupted. “No, I first want to speak to Elmer. He has a special way with creatures, he will know what to do.” And without waiting to hear the response from the others, he headed off in search of the wise, young boy.
He headed up towards the mountain, along the stony path leading through fresh, green forest to where Elmer lived on a farm. As he got closer, he noticed that there were animals, almost everywhere. There were a couple of cows, a few horses, a pony, a few monkeys, at least six dogs, three cats, many different types of birds, a large flock of turkeys, and even a cute penguin.
Elmer was busy mending the wing of a sad looking pelican when he noticed the fisherman walking towards him.
“Hello Mr. Keith, isn’t it wonderful news about Kulu?” he said as he released the pelican with the bandaged wing.
“Hello Elmer,” replied Mr Keith, “I’m afraid you haven’t heard the news yet. But first, please tell me what is happening here?” he asked, looking around at the animals and birds.
“It’s a sanctuary,” Elmer replied. “People bring sick animals and birds to us and once they’re healed, they don’t seem to want to leave. But Mr Keith, please tell me the news about Kulu.”
Mr Keith updated Elmer and when he had finished, Elmer sat quietly, thinking for a few minutes.
After a while, and as if he was talking to himself, he said, “He needs his own lighthouses and foghorns all around the Cape for this to be able to work.”
He was quiet again for a few more minutes and Mr Keith waited patiently.
Suddenly Elmer’s blue eyes sparkled, his mouth opened a little wider, and his whole face stretched as the solution came to him.
“I’ll need one month Mr Keith, I’m sure it will work,” he said, excusing himself and moving off quickly towards a large barn.
As he walked, he turned to Mr Keith and said, “Please come back in a month’s time and I promise we will have fixed the problem once and for all, and definitely without hurting Kulu.”
A month went by with surprisingly few collisions involving Kulu.
Mr Keith, as promised, made his way to where Elmer lived and once again noticed all the animals and birds enjoying the peaceful, harmonious atmosphere that prevailed over the farm.
He also noticed that the flock of turkeys had grown extremely large. There were about eighty of them now. Their metallic green and bronze plumage sparkled in the sunlight and all Mr Keith could hear was their constant, “Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble.”
Elmer saw Mr Keith approaching and smiling, rushed over to greet him. “Hello Mr Keith, it’s worked, it’s all done. I’ve just finished training all the turkeys.”
“All of these turkeys?” asked Mr Keith, extremely puzzled.
“No, not just these turkeys, all the turkeys, hundreds of turkeys,” he said. “Almost every turkey that roams the hills and mountains overlooking the sea for miles and miles. And that’s a whole lot of turkeys, and that’s why it took me a whole month Mr Keith.”
Mr Keith was astonished. He didn’t have a clue as to what was going on.
“Why did you train the turkeys Elmer?” he asked.
“Come and see,” said Elmer as he ran to the side of the barn and lifted a very large piece of cardboard. On the one side he had painted a big white circle just like the one they had painted on Kulu.
He carried the cardboard with him and led Mr Keith to the back of the barn to where a turkey, standing on his own, was pecking at the ground making gobbling noises.
“Now watch this Mr Keith,” said Elmer as he turned the cardboard so that the big white circle was facing the turkey.
As soon as the turkey saw the white circle, he miraculously stopped his gobbling and quite loudly began to call, “Kulu, Kulu, Kulu.”
Mr Keith was dumbfounded. He didn’t move. His mouth opened in disbelief. He could not believe his eyes or his ears!
“You see Mr Keith,” explained Elmer, “All the turkeys have been trained to call Kulu’s name as soon as they see the white circle. In this way, Kulu has his own foghorns all the way along the coastline. It will alert the fishermen that he is in the area and also keep his head up to stop him from bumping into boats.”
And then, as what happens in most fairy tales, they all lived happily ever after.
There were no more collisions and everyone was happy. The men got on with the business of fishing without having to worry about being rammed by a whale.
The turkeys, went about their lives as before, the only difference was that as soon as they saw the white circle emerge from the sea, they would call out the name of the gorgeous whale that had once again become everyone’s friend.
And even to this day, turkeys almost everywhere, can be heard to be helping a friendly, dopey whale.
If you listen carefully, you will hear for yourself that a turkey doesn’t gobble any more, it calls…………