Something Truly Magnificent


In a small country town lived a boy named Willard. Willard collected everything imaginable. In fact, his room looked like a junkyard. But Willard knew that one day he would build something truly magnificent with all the junk he’d collected.

Willard started keeping all his junk in his room after his parents told him that he couldn’t leave it scattered throughout the house.

In one corner of his room Willard had an assortment of cardboard boxes. The smaller ones were stuffed inside the bigger ones to save space. Dangling from his doorknob were old shoelaces and pieces of string and yarn. Willard had shoe boxes full of different-size wheels from broken toys. Old wagon wheels were propped against the wall. Piled here and there were old inner tubes, Popsicle sticks, bottle caps, milk cartons, stacks of pictures from magazines, crayons, pencils, and all kinds of tape. And on his dresser he had soda cracker boxes piled to the ceiling.

One evening when Willard’s mother tried to get into his room to say good night, she could barely squeeze through the doorway. “Willard,” she said, “this mess is getting to me.”

When his father pushed into the room, he ordered, “Willard! This stuff has to go. You have until the weekend to get your room cleaned out. That’s it!”

Willard didn’t sleep much that night. He couldn’t possibly throw out all his magnificent junk. He knew that the time had come for him to build something truly magnificent.

It took Willard two days to carry all the junk from his room to the backyard. On the third day he started building. First Willard threaded some heavy wire through an old bicycle inner tube and nailed it to a tree. “A truly magnificent basketball hoop,” he said, pleased with himself.

Then he cut shorter pieces of heavy wire and shaped them into small hoops. “A truly magnificent ringtoss,” he murmured.

Next he built a pushcart, using some discarded wagon wheels. He made a seat for it and oiled the wheels. “Truly magnificent,” he said, beaming.

Willard took the tops and bottoms off all his cardboard boxes. He laid them end to end, forming a maze. He crawled through the boxes and pasted his collection of pictures on the inside walls. A truly magnificent fun house, thought Willard.

Willard stacked some milk cartons on a crate, then called it a day.

On the fourth day Willard still had lots to do. He made airplanes and little houses out of his piles of Popsicle sticks. He made kites out of newspapers and used his yarn collection for tails. Finally he built lots of his favorite toy—cracker-box trucks. He cut down one end of each box a little, folded down the flaps to make the cab, and taped the folds in place. He punched holes in the sides of the box, pushed dowels through for axles, snapped on wheels.

On the fifth day Willard put up a sign in his front yard:

  • WILLARD’S MAGNIFICENT CARNIVAL

  • ANY GAME OR RIDE—ONLY 5 PRETTY ROCKS

  • MAGNIFICENT PRIZES

Curious, all the children in the little town came to his carnival. They played ringtoss and basketball and knocked down milk cartons with balls. There was always a line of kids waiting to ride the pushcart.

One girl came out of the fun house and said, “Willard, this is the best fun house I’ve ever been in—it’s not even scary.” One boy said, “Willard, this is great. I have enough rocks to spend the whole day here.”

Willard gave prizes to the game winners. They could choose an airplane, a house, a kite, or a cracker-box truck. Like Willard, their favorite was the cracker-box trucks. “These are really nifty,” they said. Everyone wanted one, even the girls.

After two days of fun and games, Willard was out of prizes. So he asked for everyone’s attention. “Thank you all for coming to my carnival. You may take home anything that you see here.”

Some children took bottle caps, some took boxes, others took wheels and odds and ends until everything was gone. Soon Willard’s backyard was clean and quiet and back to normal.

All during the carnival, Willard’s parents had looked on in amazement. Now his father said, “I’m really proud of Willard for having this carnival. He got rid of all his junk and provided a great time for all the kids in town.”

“He certainly did!” said his mother.

But when they walked into Willard’s room to tell him how proud they were of him, they were stunned. All over the floor, and in every nook and cranny, were boxes and sacks filled to the top with pretty rocks!

[illustrations] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney