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Vickey Toad

Vickey Toad

It was harvest time on Dartmoor and an the old farmer woke early, today was going to be a long happy day for the reapers were due to finish the last field of corn. That meant that tonight was the ‘crying of the neck‘ celebration. This is where moorfolk would with great ceremony cut and save the last scythe of corn (the neck) and once cut it would be carried back to the farm where the farmer and his family would have laid out a sumptuous spread with copious amounts of cider. So knowing what was ahead of him the farmer got up and went down to the field that was cut yesterday to start bringing in the shocks (stooks or bundles of cut corn). Having fed the old shire he harnessed it up to the wain and set of down the lane. When he got to the field he could not believe what was before him for the field that yesterday was left with neat tidy shocks of corn standing in rows now contained a pile of them slung in one corner and the rest just strewn around the field. He just sat on the waggon dumb founded, why should any Christian soul want to do this? Then it dawned on him that maybe it was not a Christian soul but a hoard of very small unchristian souls. This was the work of the piskies out for some mischief. What he couldn’t understand was why, he had never crossed them or so much as ridiculed them so why? No matter how he turned the disaster over in his mind he could find no earthly reason for it so eventually he just resigned himself to the fact that he would just have to start all over and re-stack the shocks. This took him all day and he and a few labourers had just finished when the other harvesters could be heard bringing in the neck. With cheery shouts of “the neck, the neck, we got ‘n” the harvest procession was wending its way down the lane. So not wishing to spoil the celebration he and his men joined the procession and made their way back to the farmstead.

When they got back to the yard they were greeted with two huge tables groaning under the weight of hams, cheeses, bread, pickles and flagons of cider. As with any day the first things to be fed were the horses and once they had been ‘curried, corned and watered’ their stable doors were shut and everyone sat down for the harvest home.

This usually was one of the farmers favourite ‘blow outs’ of the season but this year he could not settle, he knew too well that the ‘pesky piskies’ would be back that night to scat the shocks cut today all abroad the field. So he decided once the last reveller had gone home he would go down to the field and see what was what.

It was about midnight when ‘old Fernley’ wobbled his way back to his cott, he was always first to fill his jug and last to empty it but amazingly was always first in the field the next day. By this time the moon hung in the sky like a ‘truckle slice’ of cheese, its beams bathed the moor in a yellow light. As he approached the field wall he made his way to a sheep creep, from here he knew he could see into the field without being seen. Sure enough the low opening in the wall afforded him a good view of the contents of his field. It was exactly as he had thought for there infront of his very eyes were a hoard of piskies, that was no surprise, but was were their numbers, he counted at leat 63 before he gave up. They were teamed up in gangs busily dragging his shocks over to the far corner of the field. Because the stooks were so big and the piskies so small many of them were just falling apart. As soon as this happened the pesky piskies would just go on to the next one. What made it worse was that the piskies were actually enjoying what they were doing, laughing, singing and chattering as they went about their mischief. Those that were not in the field dragging his corn this way and that were sat on the wall clapping and gesticulating. The farmer had seen enough and just as he was about to dart through the sheep creep and put a stop to this nonsense a large, ugly piskie strolled over to a shock just infront of where the farmer was hiding. He was ugly, he had a large pointed nose and big bulging eyes with a squint in the left one. As he dragged at the shock he hollered out “I twit, I twit!” and giggled as the stalks of corn got strewn over the ground. That so to speak was the final straw, the old farmer actually leapt the wall and waving an angry fist at the piskie yelled “Leave my corn bide, thee little toad”. With this the piskies stopped, fell silent and ran to the far wall where in droves they scampered over it. The farmer gave chase and when he reached the wall he could hear a creepy mocking laugh coming from the direction of the gateway. In the moonlight he could clearly see the ugly piskie who along with two more were perched on the large granite gatepost. He had a smirk on his warty face that ran from pointed ear to pointed ear. His squinty eyes were firmly fixed on the farmer. Slowly he turned to his two comrades and with a chuckle said “Little doth that old man know my name is really ‘Vickeytoad’ (fach is the Dartmoor vernacular for little and is pronounced ‘vach‘), then with a giggle and a gurgle they simply vanished.

Note

This is one of the popular Dartmoor Piskie stories and can be found in most folklore books, hence its inclusion. But either I have missed something, like the following pages of the folklore books or this story ends leaving one asking “yes, so what, is there more?” But no, that is how every version ends.

 

About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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