|when the snow falls
Author: I love music PM
Follyfoot Farm was a "home for unwanted horses and people" first shown on British TV in 1971 and since shown all over the world. This story takes you back to how it all began...Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 37 - Words: 42,544 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 2 - Updated: 05-22-13 - Published: 04-19-10 - id: 5909042
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Through the changing seasons, as the years came and went, children played about the deserted farm. Faces ruddy with cold, they would bring wooden sledges to slide down Whistledown Hill, or bombard each other with snowballs, or create whole snow families out of the thick, crunchy snow, the motionless figures shining eerie and silent when all alone by moonlight. Tanned by the country sun, they would bring picnics of home-baked bread and cheese, supplemented by summer fruits or autumn berries; when it rained they took shelter in the soft yellow hay of the stables; when the wind whistled furiously down from the moors, forcing the trees to bow to its might, their voices only carried louder in their games.
Sometimes they would peer curiously through the broken, grimy windows of the manor house, farmhouse and outbuildings, wondering at the abandonment of the once grand residence, with its locks, bolts, and shutters, with its vast grounds tall with tangled grass and weeds, with its lake stagnant and grey.
Now Yorkshire is an old land, steeped in the history and traditions of time, such tales, whether wise, wild or wonderful, being passed down from generation to generation. And so it came to be with Follyfoot.
In the years following the war, horse-riders began to report on how, as they rode by the deserted Farm, at a certain spot their horse would often prick up ears and come to a dead halt for several minutes before moving on. Some said it was nothing more than the high pitched whistling of the wind that spooked them; others said it was if they waited for something unseen to pass by. They spoke of the curious phenomenon in the villages, and children listened to adult conversations, as children will, and created their own tale.
It was the word Booty, carved into the lightning tree, coupled with the stories they'd heard and a fierce thunderstorm, that fired their imagination.
One hot day towards the end of August, four ten-year-old boys, and one seven-year-old sister, tagged on to an extremely reluctant older brother by an extremely stressed mother, under threat of bed by seven for a week (of course, nowadays, we would call it being "grounded" but in the more innocent days of 1950 an early bedtime was just that, with jam, bread and cocoa for supper, and no televisions or computers to alleviate the boredom) alighted from the infamous 22B bus. It was a service that delighted holidaymakers, who had all the time in the world to spare. and infuriated any locals who were in a hurry, with its twice-daily journey that meandered leisurely along scenic country lanes, and up hills and down dales, stopping at several villages, country inns, stately homes, castles, markets, railway halts, and almost anywhere else it could think of along the way.
At any rate, under the stern gaze of one of 22B's two regular conductors, Norman Butterworth, who unfairly believed "every kid allus finks they can fool about on buses, they do" the group stepped down off the platform outside Tockwith Library, having decided to tramp through a field and take a short cut through Follyfoot Farm, which would chop some 45 minutes off their journey home.
They had been to the Saturday matinee at Ashtree Picture House, and their excited chatter was all about the film they'd just seen. It had been an abysmally bad time-travelling comedy about gangs of bungling crooks from past, present and future, who, to stay one step ahead of the law and each other, had to keep digging up and re-burying their ill-gotten gains, or booty, in more and more outlandish locations. But its young audience, not being too concerned about the improbable, had happily lapped it up.
Even seven-year-old Ellen had (eventually) been impressed. Knowing brother Michael was still on a good behaviour bond over skipping school and smoking, and claiming little sister rights, she yawned, grumbled and grizzled through all the action scenes until bribed into silence with sweets. However, she suddenly perked up when Melody, a dappled grey pony, began to appear in several shots, and fell in love with the idea of having a pony of her own. Now she was pretending to ride, skipping over twigs and brambles and "hushing" the imaginary Melody, who, she'd decided, was a very brave but nervy horse.
Crunching on some ripe apples they'd picked (except for Ellen, who was "feeding" the invisible Melody an apple) they were thrilled to suddenly espy the word "Booty" and an accompanying arrow etched into Follyfoot Farm's lightning tree.
"Bank robbers have been here! They've been HERE!"
Paul, who was first to see the writing and draw it to the attention of his companions, almost danced, clenching and unclenching his fists with excitement.
"Or the thieves from the future!"
"Or a Robber Gang from Whistledown!"
The fact it was highly unlikely any self-respecting bank robber, pirate, thief from the future, or even Robber Gang from Whistledown would take time out to leave clues for fellow members of their gang, as they had done in the movie, sailed blissfully over their heads. A game was a game and, like all pretend, there was always the heart-skipping half-belief it might be real. Assuming the "booty" was buried near the tree, the boys immediately busied themselves digging and poking the ground with hands, heels, sticks and stones, in short, anything at all they could find.
Ellen, who didn't have a clue what Booty meant as she'd paid scant attention to the plotline of the film, being far more interested in Melody, groaned loudly in protest but nobody took any notice. She'd pushed as far as she dared with annoying her brother, she was bored now, and wished they wouldn't waste time. And perhaps the gods heard and granted her wish because at that very moment the heavens chose to open, and a torrent of rain fell so fast it was as though buckets of water were being emptied out of a vast river in the sky. (You know, I hesitate to think of Davey throwing buckets of water over the lightning tree, but sometimes I do have to wonder at these strange coincidences…)
A sheet of lightning crackled and flashed. Almost immediately, a loud crash of thunder roared overhead like an angry lion woken from heavy slumbers.
From the shelter of the stables they'd run to, hair plastered against their faces, soaked to the skin in thin summer clothes, the five youngsters peeked out in breathless awe at the alien world Follyfoot had suddenly become, for never was the Farm more beautiful or more dramatic than when a thunderstorm painted land and sky. A curtain of rain rolled down from the distant misty moors, while all around alternately brightened then darkened, shaking trees, casting shadows, sending streams of water gushing along gutters and down rusty drainpipes.
"It's haunted," Michael whispered wickedly, noticing how warily Ellen was watching the wild flashes of lightning, and having had more than enough of her antics today. His little sister screamed and, satisfied, he continued. "By the ghosts of the robbers. Who kill people. That's what the horses see. That's why everyone who lived here ran away years and years ago. They had to or they'd be MURDERED!"
"That's why the storm came," Roy added, joining in. "The ghosts didn't want us taking their buried treasure."
He laughed when he said it. They all did, as they added to the story. Yet, oddly enough, they never did go back to search for riches. Nobody ever did.
The playgrounds at the village schools relayed to each other tales of the Haunted Farm, the stories embellished with each re-telling. And while nobody over the age of twelve or thirteen believed for a second that mayhem and murder had occurred at Follyfoot, the nickname somehow stuck with all. The stables and farm stayed empty. The Haunted Farm would remain undisturbed for twenty years…