Recently polished this ready for posting. Wanted to have an illustration ready, but decided it was better not to wait. Illustration will come in the next couple of weeks.
It was a warm, bright day in late spring. Cheesecake, the mischievous brown and yellow Shetland pony, was at Hockpoll Country Fair with her friend Tansey, a black-and-white piebald pony. Hitched up to a metal carousel, they were giving children rides on their backs.
Midway through the afternoon, the mayor of Hockpoll appeared on a small stage at the top of the field and took hold of a microphone so he could make an announcement to the crowd.
“I’m sure you’re all having a good time today,” beamed the mayor (pausing while the audience cheered). “But now, it’s time for a surprise item. Just look behind me and you’ll see it in a moment.”
Behind the mayor was a small stand of trees. The audience gazed at it, as did Cheesecake and Tansey. Would the surprise come from in there?
It wouldn’t! A loud drone was heard, getting closer and closer. The audience gasped and Tansey nearly reared up in fright as a small brown biplane appeared above the treetops and roared low over the crowd.
“Flying above us is local aerial enthusiast Paul Kingsford,” the mayor explained, “Piloting a replica aircraft that he constructed himself. He will now put on a display for your entertainment.”
The biplane began performing a daring series of barrel rolls and loop the loops. The climax of the display came when a scarlet triplane flew towards Paul’s plane and a mock dogfight began. Thrilling music and gunfire played through the speakers as the planes pretended to dodge each other.
Unlike Tansey, Cheesecake was entranced. She did her best to try and watch the show and it took a lot of persuasion from her owner, Mrs Withers, to keep her moving properly.
Eventually, the triplane pretended to limp away defeated and the audience cheered Paul and his biplane. The cheering grew even louder as Paul landed in a nearby field and came forth to greet the audience.
“Makes you wish we had wings,” Cheesecake sighed, “Like in the old stories people tell.”
“Wish all you like,” Tansey replied. “I prefer keeping my hooves on the ground.”
Paul Kingsford started coming over to Cheesecake, wearing a fur-lined jacket and goggles. She soon found out why.
“Daddy!” cried the little girl on Cheesecake’s back.
“Hi Molly,” said Paul. “Did you see me fly?”
As Paul and his wife helped young Molly out of the saddle, Cheesecake licked her lips as she noticed a slightly squashed cereal bar sticking out of Paul’s back pocket. While Paul had his back to her, she took the bar in her teeth and slipped it out of his pocket without him noticing.
Cheesecake managed to shake the wrapper loose and bite into it.
“Mmmm!” she cried. “Chocolate coated! Want some, Tansey?”
“No thanks,” said Tansey. “I feel queasy after watching all that flying!”
About a week later, Mr and Mrs Withers and their daughter Sally were riding on the bridle paths near their home at Hockpoll Stables. Sally was riding Cheesecake, as usual, while her parents rode Maisie the Arab and Wurzel the cob.
Part way through the ride, they hitched up the horses to a wooden fence while sharing a drink and a snack. Just then, Paul Kingsford’s little brown biplane streaked low past where the Withers family was standing. It passed out of sight behind a nearby bridge.
“Is that the plane you saw at the fair, Cheesecake?” asked Maisie.
“It is!” smiled Cheesecake. “Although the engine doesn’t sound quite the same. Why would that…”
Cheesecake stiffened. She started to try and loosen her reins with her teeth.
“Cheesecake! What are you doing?” said Wurzel.
“No time to explain,” Cheesecake said. “I have to go after him!”
“Cheesecake, wait!” yelled Maisie.
But Cheesecake had managed to untie her reins and was already off. She galloped along the bridle path as fast as her stubby legs could carry her. She ran under the bridge and out of sight.
“Oh no, where’s she off to?” groaned Mr Withers.
“Maybe she’s after another cereal bar, Mum!” Sally beamed.
“She’d better not be!” Mrs Withers said crossly, as she untied Maisie. “Stay here while I go after her.”
Mrs Withers and Maisie pursued Cheesecake under the bridge and down the side of a hill. There was no sign of Paul’s biplane, but Mrs Withers could see Cheesecake at the bottom of the hill, waiting beside a low drystone wall.
“Cheesecake!” Mrs Withers snapped as she approached. “I swear when I get you home I’m going to…”
Then she noticed what was over the wall and she gasped in horror.
Paul’s biplane had crash-landed in a field near the bridle path and struck the wall Cheesecake now stood by. The nose of the plane was smashed, the tail twisted upwards. Paul still sat in the pilot’s seat, badly injured and groaning in pain.
Mrs Withers wasted no time at all. She tied Cheesecake up to a nearby signpost, (double-knotting the reins this time) and galloped back up the road to summon help for Paul.
Very soon, the fire brigade and the ambulance crews were on the scene. Paul was quickly cut free and taken to hospital.
“It’s a good thing you were riding past,” the fire chief told the Withers family. “Things might have turned out a lot worse for Mr Kingsford if it wasn’t for you.”
“Oh, it wasn’t my Mum,” said Sally proudly. “Cheesecake was the one who knew he was in trouble. She’s the one who really saved him.”
Sally hugged Cheesecake’s neck tightly and Cheesecake nuzzled her in return.
“And Mr Kingsford agrees, young lady,” smiled the fire chief. “That’s why he wants your pony to have this.”
He handed the object to Sally, who unwrapped it and offered it to Cheesecake.
“Go on, Cheesecake,” chuckled Mrs Withers. “You’ve earned it.”
Cheesecake ate the cereal bar slowly, savouring every mouthful.
Perks of being a hero, I suppose, she thought.