I was so touched to receive this story, written by 12 year old Cameron. He and his family have been visiting Countrywide Cottages for many years – well before he was born. We have spent many an hour out in the paddock chatting and feeding the sheep, chickens, alpacas and, when we still had them, the bunnies and our lovely guinea pig, Jill! I first met the Woolleys when Camerons older brother Callum was around five years old – Callum is now a young man studying Vet science, and their dad assures me that it’s all been the influence of his contact with our many animals over the years that took him in that direction. What a treat it is to run this business and have the opportunity to meet and get to know so many lovely people!
In honour of our recently departed Normie Boy, the last remaining star of this story, I reproduce Camerons story here for all to see. Thank you Cameron. Surely a significant author in the making!
The Tales of Countrywide Cottages by Cameron Woolley
No black Wool
The straw was moistened by the coming rain. When it arrived and the sky grew even darker than the dusk setting in, the heavy clouds taunted the plants in the well cared garden, the vegetation’s thirst making the suspense of the moment longer. The water broke and pelted the turf with the menace of the gods.
The ute rambled down the wet, gravelly track. Getting a free wash as the mud ran off the pasty texture of the bodywork. The petrol powered vehicle drove up and parked in front of the house, the driver got out and ran inside to avoid getting soaked.
A cry rose up into the storm. It came from behind the house, up the short track, across the road and in the wood, called the Goblin Wood.
“Where’s Basil?” the bleat came out from the back of the herd. “I’m not sure”, replied Ratbag, “I haven’t seen him this morning…, perhaps we could ask Monty and Norman?”
“Good idea, lets ask them before they get into their morning, grumpy moods.” Mini trotted out from behing the large group of sheep, shaking the night’s rain out of her wool before setting off across the field towards the two alpacas with Ratbag at her hooves.
“Have you seen Basil?” bleated Ratbag, “Um…I don’t know,” yawned Monty.
“You’re supposed to watch over us sheep,” argued Mini, “what happened to alpacas protecting the sheep, let alone making sure they haven’t gone missing? Why do you think you were bought, to be fed like a fat house pet?”
“It was my turn to watch over the herd last night and even when Norman took over for a bit, I couldn’t sleep, for the rain was so loud. When I was on watch, it was so thick you couldn’t see anything!” complained Monty.
Norman snuffed. “You go get some sleep Monty, it was a wet night,” he ordered as he strode gracefully over to the conversation, his grey and white coarse fur glittering with dew. Monty turned and headed in the direciton of the shady willow tree. “Now, what was the problem?” continued Norman.
“Basil is missing and that long-necked rug over there wasn’t helping us at all.” Mini’s eyes were clouding with worry. “We wondered if you could help us find him,” added Ratbag.
“Sorry, I haven’t seen him all morning” stated Norman.
Ratbag and Mini let out a sigh and went to sit in the shade of the chicken coop and attempted to nibble on some inviting grass, though they weren’t hungry. “You think his black wool would stand out, but at night he would blend right in,” muttered Mini.
As Di opened the door a gust of fresh air met her face, making the coat worthwhile. It was nine o’clock in the morning and no one was coming to help feed the animals. She started out into the field, heading for the chicken shed to get the feed.
“Morning Monty, Norman, did you sleep well in that storm last night?” asked Di. “Snuff!” came the reply. “Take that as a no,” stated Di with a laugh, in the process of trying not to drop the feed bowl at the alpacas’ vigorous munching. “Fine Ratbag, finish it off…where’s that black sheep? Where’s he gone? He’s not behind the dam nor in the shed!”
Di went looking, terrified that she might have lost a sheep. She found some tracks. Like someone or something had had a struggle. There were hoof marks, but strangely little feet tracks as well, looking like seven large frog like things had made off with a sheep, dragging it in the mud! Another stange thing was the dragging marks led to the gate and its chain hadn’t been put back on! Once more there were small, slimy, green hand prints on the edge of the metal framwork each with four fingers! This worried Di, so she got into her ute and drove off to the police station in Winchlesa to get an investigation on the scene.
The sheep too, had found the tracks and they were just as mystified as Di. Mini could tell that whatever was involved in the kidnapping, it was not human, nor a common creature, apart from Basil.
“The odour is too mythical,” she would explain to any remarks or bleats. Ratbag picked up the scent and traced it up the gravel track. “The smell is of something from thick vegetation such as a forest, it is familiar…as if it was from the Goblin Wood!” exclaimed Ratbag. “That scent is usually blown down on the West blowing winds coming to the East.”
“I didn’t know you knew your compass!” exclaimed Mini. “Goblins don’t exist,” bleated a confident sheep. “Prove it,” challenged Mini.
“Everyone calm down!” snuffed Norman, “we don’t know what these creatures are, but I would recommend for the whole herd to bunch up tonight in a tight flock, while Monty and I shift patrol.” Bleats of approval rose into the air as the sheep prepared to take on the coming dark.
“One of my sheep has gone missing” explained Di, “and I would like a detective to find out where he has gone. It looks as if some kind of creatures have taken him!” She stared around the small police station, the bright lights dazzling her unaccustomed eyes.
“Sorry, but right now there are more serious offences to the law than a single missing sheep, sit down and wait in the waiting room for the moment, we’ll call you up when it is your turn, then you will be top priority. It will be a long wait. You can come back later,” stated the large police receptionist with a kind face.
“I’ll wait here,” replied Di, with defiance and determination, not knowing how long she would be tapping her foot.
Fifteen minutes passed…
Half an hour passed…
A whole hour passed…she went up to the reception, but it was no use. Di’s track of time had been lost. Still nothing, though she waited all night and through to the start of the next day.
The sheep were snugly fitted together while the alpacas kept watch.
“BUCK-EGG!” The sheep awoke by the shriek which had come from the chicken coop. As one group, they quietly scampered over to investigate. Suddenly a chicken exploded out of the door squawking at the top of their lungs: “Henrietta has been KIDNAPPED! HELP! POLICE! AMBULANCE! FIRST AID! FIRE!”
“Why do we have to deal with these hysterical feather bag, bird brains?” sighed Mini to herself. “Zip your beak otherwise you’ll give away our cover,” whispered Ratbag, clamping the chicken’s beak shut. “If you don’t, you can always choose between the pillow factory or the asylum, Cluck!” bleated Mini, her tail whipping fiercely in the night’s breeze, “now what happened?”
The chicken, Cluck, after unclamping her beak from Ratbag, began to tell everyone what happened. “I was sleeping in my n-n-nest when I was awoken by the shrieking from Henrietta and the rest of us chickens went out check on her, for she was in the h-h-hatching shed, when we saw three fat, small, slimy, green things drag her out and across the field. You might be able to catch them, I-I-I’ll go and calm down everyone in the coop.”Ratbag, Mini, Monty and Norman set out in the direction of the thieves. The rest of the pack were hidden and kept watch in case backup was needed.
Iin the dim light the party of four could just make out the retreating figures of the creatures with Henrietta. The group all galloped and sprinted so the creatures weren’t to get away. The creatures quickened their pace. Ther stumpy legs trying to hop and skitter lightly across the ground. Though the prize weighed them down, they pushed, dragged, pulled, heaved and tugged at the feathers. At some points the chicken let out a screech in pain from their pokes and pulling, kicking at them with sharp talons. They got to the gate. Mini arrived first, then followed by the rest. The two creatures nearest the gate, intimidated by the invaders, nimbly skipped over the gate, leaving their tortured, beaten up, bruised bundle behind.
The remaining one jumped up and down, letting out a roar, not acknowldeging he was out numbered. His ears were like rough cutouts and his eyes were milky lenses. His mouth curved down, with bits of metal and crystal for makeshift teeth with traces of blood splashed over his lips. The scales of his skin had a coat of slime. He stood on his hind legs, his arms were muscly and were the length of his body.
“Beat up a chicken another day!” exclaimed Mini, spinning around and giving the dim creatures a hind kick over the fence. “Nicely done!” congratulated Monty.
“They were goblins, just as I had feared, but they’ll be back,” Ratbag worried, “we need to end this before someone is hurt or worse, but first we need to get Basil back.”
“How do you know they were goblins?” questioned Mini.
“For a sheep just older than a lamb, you should know never to query the wisdom of an elderly sheep. In other words, I’m going off my instincts,” Ratbag bleated, tapping the side of her muzzle.
“You’re not elderly, you’re just two and a bit years older than me! Right…, OK…, now what?” asked Mini, feeling slightly puzzled.
“We get Basil back,” replied Ratbag.
It was coming dawn. After Henrietta’s attempted kidnapping, the whole field was full of bleats. The flock had decided to send out a party to get Basil back. Ratbag was head of the decision like always.
“We will need two sheep as assistants,” ordered Ratbag, as two white wooled sheep with black hides plodded around and sat down waiting for any other orders.
“Monty, you can come with us. Norman will hold the fort,” commanded Ratbag. The alpacas stood up to their full height with pride and gestured their honour and thanks.
Ratbag informed the flock, I will be with the party and…”
“Can I come?” interrupted Mini.
“You need to stay with the herd. You’ll be safe,” bleated Ratbag.
“Pleeeeeeease!” persuaded Mini, doing her biggest puppy dog eyes.
“Fine,” sighed Ratbag, “but if you get even the tiniest scratch on a bramble, I won’t give you the slightest bit of sympathy.”
“OK. Let’s get going,” Mini answered, and they set off.
It was two hours till sunset and Di drove back to the cottages. The police said it would have been impossible to have seen to her issue. They also stated that it would be at least three days, maybe more, till she could be helped, so she cancelled the appointment.
Just as she was about to turn into the driveway, she looked across to her right. The trees of the wood loomed. As she put both hands on the steering wheel to turn, she could have sworn she saw an alpaca and four sheep vanish into the spreading darkness along the mysterious track.
Gravity pulled the vehicle down the path. The ute came to a stop in front of the house. Di got out and headed inside still thinking about the vision. Little did she know, until later on, that half of her sheep had already departed on a dangerous and threatening mission, until…
Shadows lurked everywhere and the moon shone full. The trees of the Goblin Wood stood tall, their branches clawing in the strange air. Mini stood firm, letting the eerie sounds comming from the heart of the forest wash over her.
The gravel road came to a fork. “Which way do we go now?” asked Ratbag.
“There are struggle marks leading down the small path. That would be a good place to start,” Monty suggested.
The group headed deeper into the woods. The dense canopy blocked out all light of the moon and the setting sun. It was as though some unearthly presence was watching them. Monty’s legs shook as he tried to stalk forwards into the terrifying void that sucked right to the heart of any living thing.
After walking in trepidation for what seemed like an hour, the five death defying daredevils wondered off course into the thick vegetation. Sounds of coarse laughter and noise echoed around the trees as if a party was getting ready.
There came a point when a light was visible through the trees. They stepped cautiously and came across a clearing. In the center was a black bundle tied to the ground next to a flaming torch.
“Basil!” cried Mini, as she gnawed the ropes. The black sheep stood up, his legs trembled in terror and weariness. “How did you find me?” bleated the old sheep, surprised. “I was so worried. Quick, we must hurry.”
“Why?” asked Ratbag.
“The goblins could have seen you. The last I heard was that they were having a ritual and a big feast for the Moon Lord. Goblins are superstitious you know. If they find out their main course is gone, I don’t know what they’ll do” explained Basil, the background noise of chatter and the clatter of dishes being carelessly placed, filled the air.
“I presume you’re the main course?” asked Ratbag. Basil nodded his head. “We’ve not go a moment to loose,” whispered Mini.
Just as they had set off, a cry rose up not far behind…
The sound radiated throught the forbidden forest. The groups’ ears pricked up. “Uh oh,” whispered Mini, “they’ve discovered their main course has gone.”
Basil looked uncomfortable. An angry mob of nasty goblins had been brewing, ready to fight the intruders. The pack of six bolted the last kilometre stretch to the road. The raging and writhing mass behind them grew. It formed a wave of goblins, collecting more as it swept the path. Torches burned and rocks were thrown at the retreating figures.
“We have to show these creatures never to bother us again,” thought Mini, conjuring up an idea. “When we reach the road, go ahead. I’ll stay behind,” Mini panted. The others nodded, but here was no time to ask questions.
The road came into view. The sound of hooves clip clopped across the hard and stiff tarmac. Behind, the army of the night loomed in height and quantity. The attackers eyes blazed in the pitch black, even though sunrise was on the way. Mini crossed the road and turned around, facing the goblins: the first half skidded to a halt, stopping in the middle of the deserted tarmac.
“Oh Sun Lord I call thee!” called Mini as the sun rose. At the sight of the sun, the goblins eyes expanded in horror. They cowered in the bold shadow of Mini’s intimidating and straight posture. She looked to the right and to the left.
“Perfect timing!” thought Mini. “Free these creatures from me!” shouted Mini.
At this very moment, a car drove right through the unaware figures. The rest of the stunned goblins turned and fled, yappy like scared puppy dogs. all that was left was a green goo on the road. Yet, when Mini looked back, it had all evaporated.
With their mission complete, Monty, Mini, Ratbag, Basil and the two other sheep headed wearily down to the paddocks. They were very tired. As soon as they got back, the approaching figure of Di became vivid. She had dark eyes and was holding a flashlight as if she had been looking for them all night. At the sight of them, she brightened. She ran, tears in her eyes, and picked up every sheep and the alpacas with both arms, giving them big hugs, even the chickens. Ratbag, Mini, Basil and Monty got an extra tight squeeze.
“You were all very brave. It wasn’t your fault was it?” guessed Di, “now we are once again altogether.” She then turned around and walked off, heading to the chicken coop to get some more feed with a skip in her stride.
“We were successful!” exclaimed Mini to Ratbag. “We couldn’t have done it without you,” bleated Ratbag. “Just a hint of advice from the experienced, don’t judge a sheep by it’s age or wool!” laughed Mini.
“It’s great having you back Basil,” whispered Mini. Then she lay down under the willow tree, shut her eyes and feel fast asleep!