This is from The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin, 26 May 1974 (http://www.newspapers.com). I had first read about it, as a child, in the Reader’s Digest, one of those snippets they put at the end of each article; to fill in the space, I supposed, back then. From it I remember two very short and simple lines, which gave me the thought that to travel was perhaps the most interesting thing a person could do in his life.
“I am a bird. My name is Wren.”
Here is the short story that came out in the Reader’s Digest that same year. Someone on the internet had decided to type it out and publish it to his own website without any attribution. It is not even in the digital archives of the Reader’s Digest online, but I know for sure that it’s where I read about it.
Flight of the Wren
THE SECRET is finally out. The wren which flew around the world sending notes back to Wisconsin sixth-graders was Wren Chadderdon.
One day in November, Chadderdon, a retired superintendent of schools, found a balloon near his home in Central Lake, Mich. A card attached to the balloon said it had been released by a sixth-grader science class in Winnecone, Wis. The note asked the finder to send the pupils a letter telling where the balloon was found. Chadderdon, who was about to leave on a four-month trip around the world, sent the youngsters a letter which said only: “I am a bird. My name is Wren.”
For the next four months, the children received letters almost every day from Wren, the bird. They came from such places as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England. The astounded children followed Wren’s travels on the classroom globe. In the letters, Wren described the customs, food and history of each country. His letter from New Zealand even made a comparison of New Zealand’s dairy industry with that of Wisconsin.
Each letter also contained a small piece of the original card which the children had attached to their balloon. As the pieces arrived, the students put the card back together. When the last piece of puzzle came from Central Lake, the children realized where the bird, Wren, began and ended its flight. They wrote a letter to the Central Lake newspaper and the editors uncovered Wren’s identity.
Meanwhile, the sixth-graders enjoyed their most stimulating and exciting four months of school. Their knowledge of the world was broadened and the excitement made the learning process fun.
What did Chadderdon think about it all? “The winds of chance brought that balloon to me and I couldn’t resist giving those children more than they expected. Besides, it made my trip more rewarding because I could share it with the sixth-graders.”