George dipped with practiced precision under the low lintel of the door frame. At six-foot four, he was quite accustomed to doing this, but of course, since he was wearing a tricorn hat, he had to simultaneously doff his chapeau, slip into the room and look regal and dignified. All of this was quite an annoyance that almost set him to grinding the few real teeth he had left. Nevertheless, when he spied a lady in blue hooped dress, sitting in rocking chair, hands fully engaged with a pair of knitting needles, he quickly affected a deep bow, hat in hand. “Madam Ross, I am at your service.”
Betsy Ross looked up from her work. Her face reddened as she hastily put down her knitting. “Oh, General Washington! I apologize, I forgot completely that you meant to call on me today.”
He looked at her with kindness, “Quite all right my dear; I did not mean to startle you.” Stepping forward, he took her extended hand and gave it a courteous peck. “Do you still have time to go over the designs for the new flag?”
“Oh yes!” she said. With his assistance, she stood up. After quickly straightening the ruffles in her dress, she walked over a large cabinet next to the wall. With a wide smile she turned to look at him. “I’ve got a few designs for you.”
“Excellent news!” He strode over to the cabinet, careful to avoid catching any of the piles of cloth laying on the floor in his boot spurs.
With a flourish, she pulled the cabinet open, and on the shelf lay three folded bundles. She grabbed the first one. “This design I came up with as I went to church.” With care, she gently unfolded it, until the entire flag hung from her extended fingertips.
His face froze. The main part of the flag was pink, with yellow and white daisies on it, a multicolored rainbow, and a sun in the corner. “Interesting,” he replied dryly.
“Yes, last Sunday, on my way to church, as the sun came up, and mist lay in the air, I passed a field of daisies surrounded by flowering pink flox. A beautiful rainbow graced the sky, and I thought to myself — isn’t that just like our country, a rainbow emerging after the storm of revolution.”
“And the daisies?” he asked with a crinkled brow.
She quickly pointed a daisy and drew her finger toward the corner of the flag. “Oh see? Daisies turn to face the sun, and there are thirteen of them, just like the states.”
Struggling to maintain his Roman-like bearing, he replied as calmly as he could. “Yes, well. Very pretty, but I was hoping for something with a more martial flair to it. “ He smiled gamely, and slapped a gloved fist into the palm of the other for emphasis. “I was hoping for something that might inspire the troops to be brave and steadfast.”
“Oh…” she replied, a bit hesitantly. But then, with a smile she set aside her first flag and quickly grabbed the second. “I understand. Let’s see what you think of this one.” She unfurled it.
Sweat broke out on his brow. On a field of yellow, thirteen kittens ran and tumbled about, and in the corner stood a giant rectangular piece of wood in a bucket. His eyebrows shot up, and he quickly glanced at her.
“Well, see. The kitties are the states, which are cute and cuddly. Especially that little one, Rhode Island. But, you see…” she pointed at one of the kitten’s paws …”they all have very sharp claws that can scratch.” At that she clawed the air with her fingers and mewed loudly.
Wide eyed, he stared for a moment before catching himself. “Okay.” His eyes darted to the flag. “What about the stick in the bucket?”
“Oh that,” she quickly replied. “That’s a ruler in an ash can.” He looked at her with confusion.
“Get it? We are getting rid of our old ruler!” She giggled loudly.
With a small nod, and sick smile, he pointed to the last bundle on the shelf. “What about that?”
She looked at the bundle. “Oh that, it’s not a flag; it’s a saddle blanket for your horse.” She put down the second flag and grabbed the last bundle. Unfurling it, there were thirteen red and white stripes on the right two-thirds of the blanket, and blue field with thirteen stars arranged in a circle on the left third of the blanket. In the middle of the circle of stars, though, was a large round hole.
He tapped his fingers against his chin. “Very nice. But what is the hole for?”
She stuck her fingers through the hole. “Oh, that’s for your horse’s tail of course, and so he can … “
“I understand,” he interjected. “Actually, I like this design for the flag, just move the blue field into the upper left corner.” Loudly, he cleared his throat. “Oh, and sew up the hole.”
She pursed her lips, “Well, if that is what you want. Are you sure you wouldn’t like something in the middle of the circle of stars?”
Looking warily at her, he replied, “Like what?”
“Maybe a fierce creature,” her face brightened, “Like a badger, or an angry beaver!”
“Uh, no.” He dug out his pocket watch and gave it a cursory glance. “Oh my, look at the time, my horse is double parked.”
Taking no notice, she continued, “Or better yet, a possum carrying its babies on its back. You know they get quite cross when you try to chase them out of your attic.”
Trying desperately to scrub out the image of his soldiers marching into battle with probably the ugliest animal in North America on his war banner, he backed out of the house, bumping his head on the door-frame. A cloud of powder from his wig surrounded his head as he spoke, “I’ll be back next week to pick up the new flag!”
Following him to the doorway, she replied, “All right, but if you think of something, let me know in a couple of days!”
She swung the door almost shut, before suddenly whipping it open again. “Woodchucks can be mean too you know.” After staring out the door for a few moments, she shook her head. “My lord, he moves quickly for such a big man.”