Popplewell Farm was one big adventure for John.
Furrows and farrows, pigsties and chicken runs, haystacks and hay barns, horses and blacksmiths, milk carts and milk churns, tractors and trucks.
It had been a busy few weeks at Popplewell with the hay harvest. The fields were now being grazed once again and the hay stacked high for the coming year.
Uncle Bill warned John not to play on or near the haystacks “cause if that thatch come loose, it’ll all come down on top of you and we’ll never find you again”.
Temptation is never far away from words of warning for a young boy with time on his hands and a vivid sense of adventure.
Bill was busy building up a new section of dry stone walling on Poplar Meadow down near the bottom field. The hay meadow was always a favourite place of Bill’s because it was far enough away from the main house that he could take food and a bottle or two of his favourite beer. He would not have to go back home until late in the day. Bill made good progress and within a couple of weeks he hoped to have it finished.
The sun was hot and Lady, his dog, sought shade in a nearby damp hollow and loyally watched out for Bill as he carefully pieced together slabs and boulders cleared from the surrounding fields.
Meanwhile back at Popplewell, John hunted down tigers, shot baddies, smoked peace pipes and chased rabbits. The tigers were wallowing away in the quagmire down near Straddler’s stream, covering themselves in thick layers of mud so as not to get spotted by Big John and his band of men. Many baddies had been shot or wounded and were just about on the verge of surrender. The Red Indians were smoking peace pipes for the third time and the rabbits had long since disappeared probably eaten up by the tigers.
Time passed and the adventures continued.
Aunt Maisie shouted from the back door “ John…John, can you take your uncle Bill a couple of buns? Then come inside and wash your hands and have something to eat and drink.”
When John didn’t come running Maisie became concerned. She knew John could not resist a bit of baking and a glass of fresh milk.
Quickly rinsing her hands and taking off her pinny, Maisie went out into the yard and shouted once more for John. Not a sign. She searched the nearby hay barn and checked both chicken coups; John was nowhere to be seen. She knew he had a fascination with the workshop and wondered if he’d got into trouble up there. Becoming concerned Maisie checked the workshop and then the farm cottages. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d sought refreshments at a neighbours. No one had seen him since lunchtime.
Maisie hurried down the lane towards the bottom field as she thought John might be helping Bill but he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of John all day. Both were now really worried. Sensing something was wrong, Lady emerged from the cool shade and yapped a few times. All three set off at a pace taking the path towards the farm, heading as quickly as possible for the haystack.
“Pound to a penny I bet the little rascal has been climbing them stacks again or building a hideout,” said Bill, “I’ll scalp the little bugger if he’s gone and got himself crushed”.
Lady set off running, gathering pace and barking loudly. Bill and Maisie followed also gathering pace calling out John’s name every few strides.
The tranquillity of Popplewell was quickly replaced with frantic shouts, dogs barking, horses galloping, cattle snorting, chickens flapping, cats scurrying out-of-the-way and geese cackling. The whole farm sensed something was amiss. Lady came to a halt and sat. Bill and Maisie slowed, sharply holding their breath with eyes darting side to side and all around, for a split second feeling that something dreadful had happened.
Lady stood and wagged her tail as John appeared from behind the wall like a little angel carrying a bouquet of wild leaves, flowers and weeds.
“These are for you Aunty Maisie, just to say thank you, this is the best place in the whole wide world” said John “and I haven’t touched the haystack uncle Bill honest.”
“I know lad, I know,” replied Bill.
With a tear in her eye Maisie hugged her two favourite men tightly and whispered, “this sure is the best place in the whole wide world…Popplewell, Pa, Lady and you young lad”. The farm settled back into it’s own peaceful rhythm.
Popplewell Farm really was the best place in the whole wide world.