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Ungrateful Farmer

Ungrateful Farmer

A small farmer once lived in a secluded farmstead on the moors. He barely managed scrape a meagre living for himself and his family. He cultivated a few acres of corn but the yields were low and the fields full of weeds. He ran a few head of cattle on the high moor which just managed to turn a profit. His days were long, his workload heavy and the backlog of chores grew steadily bigger. One morning he was in the yard wondering what of the many jobs he should do first. His cattle needed bringing off the moor to be housed for winter and the other day he noticed the tell tell bumps of warble fly infestations so they would need ‘hooking out’, the house thatch badly needed repairing before the winter storms came, he needed to cut some bracken for winter bedding and of course the corn needed threshing before the mice ate into it. Of all these tasks probably the corn was the most urgent so with a sigh he walked over to the barn where the stooks were stored. There was a stiff south westerly breeze so this meant it was ideal for winnowing once the two huge barn doors were opened, the through draught blowing away the husks. As the farmer approached the barn he heard a chorus of happy, chirping voices and the unmistakable sound of ‘dreshels’ (flails) rhythmically beating on the floor. He stood for a while and when he was sure somebody was threshing his corn he delicately tip toed away as quietly as he could for he knew the only people that could possibly want to thresh his corn were the piskies and he also knew full well that if they realised somebody was watching them they would vanish, never to return. So he called his dogs and set off up to the moor to collect his cattle. When he returned a few hours later he once again crept over to the corn barn and listened, this time there was silence so he slowly opened the big door and looked inside. There in the centre of the floor was a pile of threshed grain and in the corner was a neat stack of straw. He was delighted, with the work that the piskies had done and having fetched his cattle he achieved two days worth of chores in one.

The next day he decided to repair the thatch and gambled on the fact that the piskies would return and thresh some more corn. Having completed the thatching he stole across to the barn, once again it was silent and opening the door he saw another pile of grain and straw. This routine pleased him no end especially as his list of jobs was shrinking by the day. If this carried on he might be able to take a day off and spend it at the local market. 

That night as he lay in bed he could not help thinking how he would really like to actually see the piskies at work, afterall nobody he knew had ever seen one never mind a whole gang of them, that story would surely be worth a pint or two at the pub. He also knew if spotted he would risk losing his new found workforce but curiosity got the better of him and he resolved that the next day he would get up early and hide himself in the barn, that way if he was quiet he could watch the piskies arrive and do their days work.

As soon as the first light of dawn crept over the moor the farmer got up and went to the barn, in the far corner was a large pile of ‘worzels’ and behind these he decided he would hide. With the help of some sacks he soon managed to secrete himself out of view. It did not take long before he heard the merry little throng of piskies come into the barn, he could see them all chatting away with dreshels slung over their shoulders. At a signal from the largest one they all set to work, swinging the flails in time to a chirpy song. The heap of threshed corn began to grow and the pile of neatly stacked straw swelled. Having been crouched in the same position for so long the farmer began to get cramp in one of his legs so he carefully began to move into a more comfortable position. As he did so he accidentally dislodged one of the worzels which immediately tumbled down the heap. On hearing the noise the piskies, as one, stopped work, the largest one of them looked up and shrieked “I, twit, you twit”, he was looking directly at the worzel heap, the piskie then took several steps forward and once again screamed “I twit, you twit” then angrily took three more steps forward and said “I’ll twit ee”. With this the host of piskies slung their dreshels over their shoulders and vanished leaving their half completed work in the middle of the floor. The farmer was furious because he knew that if he had ‘left well alone’ the piskies would have finished all the threshing for him. Now because of his stupid curiosity they would never ever return.


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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