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Animal Stories: Percy The Pit Pony

...One day, one of the bosses came to see Percy. He gave him a friendly slap on the back and said, “Hello Fella. I’ve some good news for you. You’re being made redundant. Next week, I want you to pack your bags and get ready for a well-earned retirement”...

After toiling down a coal mine for many years Percy the pony is “born again’’ as Graham Whitcroft reveals in this story.

To read more of Graham’s inspiring stories please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/animal_stories/

When he was about a year old, Percy the pony was taken from his mother and his home into a coal mine. It was a frightening place. In the pit yard, steam hissed at him from the most unexpected places. As he looked above him, he saw huge buckets flying through the air and tipping their contents on a mountain of shale beneath them. The biggest scare came from clattering and banging as he was pushed into a cage that descended quickly down a shaft into the ground. That was the last time he saw the sun.

When he got to the bottom of the pit, his terror continued. It was dark and hot with lights coming towards him then disappearing. These were the lights from the miner’s helmets but he didn’t realise that immediately. Someone gave him a pile of hay and a bucket of water, but he didn’t feel like eating. He was frightened by the new world he had entered and worried as to what was to become of him.

It wasn’t long before Percy was introduced to his life’s work. Big muscled men shovelled coal into heavy steel wagons that ran on rails. Percy was required to pull the wagons. When he didn’t go fast enough, some of the less caring miners would hit him hard on his rump.

Not all the miners were cruel. Arthur and Fred were kind and became friends. Arthur’s wife provided him with dripping sandwiches for his ‘snap’ and would always include another for Percy. “Ready for your sandwich?” Arthur would say. Percy loved his dripping sandwich. Fred, his other friend, rented an allotment and grew his own vegetables. Every day Fred brought Percy a carrot. They were delicious!

Percy worked twelve hours then thankfully rested for another twelve hours. Life was monotonous, though occasionally something different happened. Once, a wooden pit prop broke and the roof fell in. It killed two men and injured four others. One of the injured was Fred. Percy was glad to be able to pull the wagon on which Fred lay and which took him to the pit shaft. “Don’t worry old chap”, Fred said to Percy “I won’t be gone long and I’ll be back with your carrots”. It was another two months before he saw Fred again, two months without the carrots he loved!

As the years went by, and Percy got older, he found the work more difficult. He hated leaving his stable, he grew tired of his diet and sometimes just wanted to die, especially when Arthur announced that he’d got a job on the surface. Percy had to think hard what Arthur meant by ‘the surface’ because he’d been ‘below’ for eighteen years!

One day, one of the bosses came to see Percy. He gave him a friendly slap on the back and said, “Hello Fella. I’ve some good news for you. You’re being made redundant. Next week, I want you to pack your bags and get ready for a well-earned retirement”.

Percy thought that ‘redundant’ meant that you weren’t wanted any more, which wasn’t very nice, while ‘retirement’ – he thought it meant ‘rest’ – sounded much nicer and appealed to him. But he was a little scared. ‘Where would he live?’ was his biggest question and the second was, ‘What would he do for friends?’ – he’d got so used to the men in the pit, particularly Fred.

So it was, that on a Sunday morning, after breakfast, Fred came to collect him. “Hello Percy’ he said, ‘this is the first day of the rest of your life and you deserve all that’s coming to you. You know where you’re going don’t you? No? Oh Percy, it’s a lovely farm where you will enjoy every minute of your retirement. But that’s not the half of it. I’ve been made redundant too, and you know what? I’ve got a job looking after all the retired donkeys on the farm – we’re never going to say ‘Goodbye’ Percy”.

Percy was thrilled, though a little hesitant. Fred gave him an encouraging push into the cage, where again he heard those terrible noises of clattering of steel and then came that sudden ‘whoosh’ up to the surface.

“Hold on a minute’ said Fred as he tied a scarf around Percy’s eyes, ‘you must get used to the light gradually”. Although he couldn’t see, Percy knew that his surroundings were changing. The air became fresher and the noises from the pit-head disappeared and were replaced with the sound of the opening and closing of a gate.

“Ready?” asked Fred, “I shall remove the scarf a little at a time”. And that’s what he did, though Percy’s eye’s still hurt as they adjusted to the light. Then he ee-aaed in delight! Beautiful green trees, lovely sweet grass, a yellow sun and a sky that was incredibly blue with fluffy white clouds, and children – he’d never seen children before – who were running across the field to welcome him into his field and their farm.

“My’ thought Percy as he lowered his head to enjoy his first taste of fresh grass, ‘it’s like being born again”.


John 3: 1 to 15


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