For centuries there have been lurid tales of the infamous Black Dog and the Wisht Hounds that haunt the bleak moor on dark nights. Relentlessly they search for lost souls and strike fear into the hearts of any lone traveller. Right up to this very day no poor wretch has ever met either the Black Dog or the Wisht Hounds and lived to tell the tale. Well that is not exactly true as many years ago one young man called Joey Brown not only encountered the Black Dog but he managed to put his mark on the evil beast.
Joey was a spirited youth who lived with his family at Ponsworthy, he was never shy of hard work and spent his days carrying out numerous jobs around the local farms. There was nothing more that he enjoyed than his nightly visits to the Forest Inn at nearby Hexworthy. This in itself was no mean feat as by road it was a good three and a half miles from Ponsworthy to Hexworthy. Not only that, if one believed in ghosts and piskies it definitely was not a road to be trod at night. Luckily Joey was not bothered with such things as in his opinion they were all in the mind. Each night he would pass near the Coffin Stone where many a dead soul had been rested whilst on their way to their grave. If this was not enough a short distance down the hill was the Piskies Holt where the little folk would gather for their revels. This meant there was always the danger of being Piskie Led as happened to Tom White or summonsed to a watery grave by the spirit of the river Dart just like poor old Jan Coo. But hey, compared to some good company, strong cider and hot gossip there was nought to fret about, after all – night evils were all in the mind.
It was one dark winter’s night when the mist had engulfed the moor like a death shroud that Joey left the Forest Inn after a particularly convivial night. It was old Joe Leaman’s birthday which always meant a shed-load of cider and his oft related stories of the Piskies. So it was not surprising that his thoughts turned to the Little Folk and other such unearthly perils that lurk in the mist. It was just as Joey passed Lock’s Gate Cross and started to descend the steep lane that led to Ponsworthy that he saw something in the road.
As he got closer he could just make out the form of some animal crouching in the middle of the lane. At first he just took it to be an old badger out for his nightly feed. But as he got closer he could vaguely make out a pair of livid yellow eyes staring straight at him. He had often heard the old moormen talk of a Black Dog that stalked the moor at night and how they dreaded ever meeting it. Old Joe Leaman had even told of a friend who had met the beast and died the very next day in a state of delirium. Everyone had said that the hell hound was as black as coal with bright yellow piercing eyes, in fact it was described as being exactly what was sitting in front of Joey at that precise movement.
Oddly enough Joey didn’t feel at least afraid of the heinous Black Dog and the thought crossed his mind that if somehow he could leave a mark on the beast it would prove that he had met the thing and lived to tell the tale. Cor, that story would earn him quarts of free cider at the Forest Inn for months to come. Being a cold night Joey had worn the new red scarf his mother had knitted him and it was this that he decided would make a good marker to put on the dog. Slowly he inched forward, the beast just sat in the lane staring wildly at him, not a sound unuttered from its lips, it was a silent as the grave. Closer and closer he got, so close that he could smell its fetid breath on the cold night air. The beast was about three feet away when it began to growl, it was then or never, Joey pounced on the Black Dog and quickly tied his red scarf around its neck. He was not sure whether it was the shock of his assault or what but thankfully the beast sped off into the thick curtain of moorland mist.
The very next morning Joey wasted no time in telling his parents of his brave deed and said that the proof of his heroic action could be seen draped around the beast’s neck. It did not take long for his tale to spread around Ponsworthy and around the neighbouring farms. Joey was hailed as the hero who had tackled the dreaded Black Dog and lived to tell the tale, something no living person had ever managed – wow !
The hours seemed to slowly tick by that day as he could not wait to get over to the Forest Inn and tell all present of his brave deed. He would be the toast of the bar with free cider flowing like the river Dart in full flood. It would be even more exciting to relate his exploits to the local girls at Sunday church, especially Emily Ford who he had been trying to ask out for a date for ages. It was about four thirty in the afternoon when Joeys bubble burst with a loud bang. At the time he was washing off his muddy work boots in The Splash (the ford in Ponsworthy) when he began to hear ripples of laughter. Looking up he saw his neighbours pointing at a dark figure ambling down the lane. As it got closer the laugher changed to loud jeers and guffaws. It was then that Joey saw the subject of their mirth, It was old farmer Rowe’s dog Jess trotting merrily down the lane with a bright red scarf lovingly draped around its neck. Oh how Joey wished the ground would open up and swallow him whole. No free cider at the Forest Inn, no admiring looks from Emily Ford and no fame and fortune.
The moral of this story is: “Life is not a fairy tale, if you lose your shoe at midnight – you’re drunk!“.