The Poggitty Farm Choir
Come with me to Poggitty Farm. It's a farm where the animals runs the place themselves. That's right - they do all their own farming, drive the tractor, look after the garden, and so on.
One day, the animals were out planting wheat in the Number 2 front field when they heard something in the distance. Porridge, the plough horse, who was in charge of the job, lifted his head. "I wonder who's coming," he neighed.
"I don't mind who it is, if he helps me plant this wheat," clucked Peck the Hen, who was pecking holes in the ground and popping grains of wheat into the holes.
The sound got louder, and then in a few moments, with a cloud of dust and a screech of brakes, an old car pulled up.
"Hello friends, who's the boss around here friends, I've got some wonderful news for you all," said the stranger.
Porridge the plough horse was about to say, "We don't have a boss," but the stranger kept on going.
"Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Step-right-up-only-50-cents-money back-guaranteed-Ivor-McRascal at your service, and I'm looking for a bunch of this here countryside's best singers, and the folks back in town said try Poggitty Farm and you'll look no further, and so here I am. Hey, Mr Plough Horse, can I hear you sing?"
"Now look here, Mr Mc-Whatever-your-name-is," said Porridge. "No, you can't hear me sing, because horses don't. We have a lot of work to do, and I'd be grateful if you'd take your ideas somewhere else, unless you plan to hop down from the jaloppy of yours and start helping."
"Hold on, Porridge," said Tip the Dog, who'd been standing nearby. "You might not sing, but I've been told my voice is one of the finest around. You listen, Mr McRascal." And he squatted on his haunches, lifted his head, and howled a chorus of Baa Baa Black Sheep.
"Say friend dog, that's mighty fine singing," said Mr McRascal, "and if the other animals on this farm are half as good, you'll famous."
Not to be outshone, Peck the hen began to cluck her way through a song, shouldering Tip aside with her wing as she did.
"Why Mrs Hen, that's just amazing," admired McRascal. "No doubt about it, there's talent here all right. I want you folks to get all practised up in time for the County Show next week. A telly-vision crew from the big city are going to be there, and you'll be on TV. Poggitty Farm will never be the same again. See you next week, and don't be late."
With that, Mr McRascal jumped back into his car and drove back down the road. If the animals had not been so excited about their new opportunity, they might have wondered at Mr McRascal's very loud laugh as he vanished.
But McRascal was right. From the moment he left, life was pandemonium at Poggitty Farm. Everyone wanted to be a television star. The air was filled with cackles, squawks, miaows, hoots and honks as they practised. And they became so busy practising that they forgot all about their work around the farm. Planting stopped, the cows had to milk themselves (and that wasn't easy), and the meals were cold because no-one wanted to do the cooking.
Porridge got more and more upset, and refused to have anything to do with it, but no-one would listen.
Finally the great day came, and all the animals headed off to the County Fair, highly excited. All except Porridge, that is, who said he was going to stay at home.
What a sight they were. Everything that could walk carried the ones who could not. So the mice and hens and hedgehogs rode on the backs of the pigs and sheep and cows, the ducks and the geese flew overhead, while the turkeys trotted alongside.
And the excitement when they arrived!
"I want to go on the merry-go-round," said Grunt the pig.
"I wonder if they would let me on the ferris wheel," said Mrs Moon, the cow.
"You're too big for that," said Piano the cat, "but I'd be purr-fect."
"Come on, come on, we haven't got time for that," said Tip the dog. "When we're famous we can have all the rides we want."
By this time, a big crowd of people was gathering round the animals, wondering what they were here for. Just then, Mr McRascal pushed his way through and bustled up.
"Hello friends, it's good to see you friends, you're just in time folks, and step this way," he cried out. And before they could answer, he hurried them through all the gates, past the hot dog stand, round the back of some tents, and in through a hole in a canvas wall. Inside, they found a small stage, with a lot of seats facing it. He shooed the animals up on to the stage, and arranged them all facing the front.
"Where's the TV cameras?" asked Peck the hen.
"They're on their way, but they're a little bit late," said Mr McRascal. "But while you are waiting for them, why don't you have a bit of practice."
The animals thought that was a good idea, so they cleared their throats and began. Such a strange chorus had never before filled a fair ground as came from the animals of Poggitty Farm that day. You could have described it as a cross between a circus parade, meal time at the zoo, and a queue of vintage cars caught in a traffic jam. But, of course, to the animals it was fine music.
While they were practising, some people came in and sat down. Then more, till there was quite a crowd, and they were pointing and laughing and nudging each other. Mrs Moon got a bit upset, but when the animals stopped, all the people clapped, so she felt better.
Mr McRascal popped his head around the entrance to say the cameras were still coming, and to keep on practising. So they tried another song, and again a crowd of people came in, laughed and talked, and then clapped and left.
This kept on happening for song after song, McRascal promising the TV cameras would soon be there, the animals practising, and people coming to watch. The sun began to go down, and the noises outside showed that all the fair people were beginning to pack up and go home.
Piano the cat went to the entrance to ask Mr McRascal where the TV cameras were. Suddenly, she gave an awful wail. The animals rushed over to find her pointing up above their heads. And there at the entrance was a big sign, which said: "Amazing Singing Animals of Poggitty Farm. Today Only. Only 50 cents To Come And See This Strange Sight."
Suddenly the animals realised they had been tricked. There never had been any TV cameras. McRascal had used that as an excuse to get them to the show, and then had been making money as people paid to watch them sing.
The animals were angry, and looked around for McRascal, but he was nowhere to be found. He had gone, and so had all the money.
It was a sad, bedraggled group that slowly trudged the long road back towards the farm. Without saying it, they knew they had been foolish.
Then, as they came around a sharp bend in the road, they saw a motor car in the ditch, and standing in the middle of the road was Porridge.
"Porridge, oh Porridge," they cried, crowding around him. "We have been cheated by that nasty McRascal. He lied about the TV cameras and made lots of money from our singing, and now he's gone with the money."
"He may have gone, but he won't get far. And he does not have the money," said Porridge, laughing.
"What do you mean?" asked Tip.
"I've been worried all week about this singing," replied Porridge. "After you left home today, I decided to follow along. I was just approaching this corner when a car came tearing round it. When the driver saw me in the middle of the road, he swerved and ran into the ditch. It was McRascal.
"When he realised who I was, he gave a yelp and started running. And I guess he has not stopped. If you look in the back of his car, I think you will find a big sack of money. It belongs to you now."
"No Porridge," said Mrs Moon. "It belongs to Poggitty Farm. It will buy more seed for planting, and the only singing we will do from now on will be while we work in the fields. Come on, let's go home. I'm hungry.
(c) Copyright John McNeil, all rights reserved. Apart from the purposes of fair review, this work may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form, physical or electronic, without the express permission in writing of the author. He may be contacted at jandhmcneil<a>paradise.net.nz