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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
Cutting the Peat

"Can I come with you, Grandpa?" wee Thom asked. "Iím big enough to cut the peat too. I can jump really hard on the shovel and you can turn it over," he smiled.

Grandpa picked the curved shovel up and looked at his grandson. "Sure, laddie. You can come wií me, but run and ask your mum first," he ordered.

Thom ran into the house. Grandpa looked up at the smoke billowing out of the chimney. It was an old crofterís cottage, white washed, with a thatched heather roof, and glass windows that sparkled in the sunshine. He could smell the sweet scent of peat burning in the fireplace. "Your granny must be cooking barley soup," he called to Thom as he came running out of the house.

"I can go. Mum said it was all right. Grannyís fixing a big kettle of soup. She said it would be ready when we get back. She gave me a handful of buns to take with us, Grandpa," Thom said.

Grandpa put the buns in his deep pockets. "Letís be off then, Thom," he said.

The two walked towards the moor. Thom ran ahead a few steps most of the time. His legs moved much quicker than his grandpas. A skylark flew out of its nest in the grasses. It landed in a short-limbed tree. It began to warble. "Listen to the birdie, Grandpa," Thom said. "It sounds pretty, doesnít it?"

"Lovely, Thom. There are all kinds of birds that live on the moor. Maybe weíll see some stonechats, or curlews. I hear there are some big cats out here. I saw one once. It was black and about your size. I stayed away from it," Grandpa told Thom.

"Grandpa? Big cats? Will they eat us?" Thom asked, quite afraid.

"No, laddie. Nothing will come near us. Most animals are frightened of people. Now, here we are. Letís get those peat cut."

Grandpa put his shovel into the dirt. He stepped on it and pried it up. A large section of dirt, filled with roots and vegetation was tossed on top of the moor grass. "Here you go, laddie. Hereís peat."

Thom squatted down and examined it. "There are a lot of pieces of roots and grass in it, isnít there?" He touched it. "Itís spongy."

They spent the next few hours cutting the peat. Thom helped by jumping on the shovel. "Now, weíll have to leave them out to dry for a few days and hope it doesnít rain. Should we have those buns now?"

Thom nodded. He was getting tired. "I want a bun, Grandpa, then can we go home?"

"Sure, laddie," he said, handing Thom two buns.

As they were nibbling on them, Thom saw something move in the distance. It was black and scary looking. "Whatís that?" he asked, pointing. "It looks like some sort of beast?"

Grandpa raised his hand over his eye. He saw the cat. "It looks like a leopard or black panther. I donít think it will harm us but weíd better be getting home." He took Thomís hand and picked up the shovel. They headed quickly across the moor towards the croft. Grandpa turned around and noticed the big cat was following them. "Pick up speed, will ye, lad," he ordered and started moving quicker.

Suddenly the cat roared. Thom turned around and saw it. "Grandpa, itís going to eat us. Look how big it is? Iím scared."

"Itís all right lad, weíll be fine. We just need to hurry back to the croft. Donít be scared."

They ran back to the croft and shut the door tightly behind them. Grandpa looked out the window. The cat was there, in their garden. "Stay inside, all of you. Donít open the door." Thom ran into his mumís arms. They watched as the cat moved around. "I think its hungry. It must have smelled our buns. Gran, do you have any of that lambís leg leftover from last night?"

"Yes, Iíll get it," she answered. Thomís mum and gran went into the kitchen. They came back carrying a platter full of bone and gristle, and little bits of leftover lamb. "Be careful," she urged.

Grandpa opened the door and set the platter outside. The large cat pounced onto the plate just as he slammed the door shut again. They watched him gulped it down. "Itís huge. Look at those eyes. Theyíre yellow," Thom noticed.

Grandpa saw that it was a nursing cat, probably needing nourishment for some cubs back on the moor. After it finished eating, the animal carried the bone in its mouth and ran back to the moor.

"Itís gone, Grandpa. It must have been really hungry," Thom said, smiling. He wasnít scared now that it had left. "When we go back to get the peat, will it come back?"

"Iíll take the truck to get the peat," Grandpa said, sitting down on the couch.

Gran sat next to him. "Now, Thom, tell your gran all about the peat."

His mum stood smiling as Thom cuddled next to his gran and spent the next hour telling her everything theyíd done that day. After that they had a bowl of barley soup. His mum took him up to his bed and soon his eyes were shut and he was asleep. It had been an exciting day for Thom.

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