Blackberry Lane – Episode 10

COME along, children − keep up!”

Millicent Gosling’s voice echoed down the station platform.

Russ grabbed Marty’s hand as they took their place in the crocodile of weary, anxious figures. They all trudged off behind Millicent, accepting unquestioningly the authority which her uniformed figure provided.

The school appeared at last and they all herded in and Millicent checked them off against her clipboard. She scrutinised each child as she did so, sending them to stand in different areas of the room.


Kate made her way to the school promptly. She didn’t want to arrive late. Ted had asked her to try to get a couple of boys – lads who might enjoy doing a bit around the farm.

Amongst the collection of people coming down the road from the other direction, she could see Annie. Kate took a deep breath before entering the school building. She stood for a moment, taking stock, and her eyes skirted past the well-built boy in the mac, and were drawn immediately to Russ, standing now at the back of the room. She made her way straight over to him.

“Hello, what’s your name?”

“It’s Russ, miss. Russell Pryce.”

She noticed he had lovely eyes, and that his expression, though a bit anxious at the moment, was open and friendly.

“We have a farm,” she supplied, “my husband and me. What would you think to living on a farm?”

Russ looked wary.

“My brother would have to come, too.”

He grabbed hold of Marty, who was fidgeting by his side.

Kate turned to Marty.

“And what’s your name?”

“I’m Marty,” he said softly, suddenly shy. His stomach chose that moment to rumble, and Kate grinned.

“Sounds to me like I’d better get you two home and put some tea in that tummy.”

Russ relaxed. He liked the sound of this woman, and she looked kind, too.

“Thank you,” he said, giving her an engaging little grin.

They took themselves over to where Millicent Gosling was checking people out in her register. Annie was already there, and to her left was a girl of about eight. She wore thick spectacles and her dark hair was braided into two tight plaits. To Annie’s right was the other ten-year-old boy.

“You got yourself suited then,” Kate said.

“Yes, this here’s Frances and Paul,” she replied, placing an arm around each child’s shoulders. “How about your two?”

“These are brothers,” Kate replied. “Russ and Marty.” She smiled down at them.


Two little figures huddled in the corner of the milking parlour, watching the proceedings in awe. The warm, pungent smell from the cattle tickled their noses, and they were both trying hard not to sneeze.

The man fascinated them – not just the fact that he had only one arm, but the speed with which he worked, and the way he managed those huge animals.

Oblivious to his audience, Archie raced backwards and forwards, herding cattle into position, washing udders, hooking them up to the Lister milking machine (newly installed, and his pride and joy). When each cow was finished, he would usher them out of the parlour and move others in, like a conveyor belt. It was some time before he noticed the two boys in the corner, watching him.

“Hello,” he said. “Who are you?”

“I’m Russ. This is Marty, my little brother.”

Archie grinned. He was usually unsure when meeting youngsters. They often stared like frightened rabbits till he spoke to them, then they’d shriek and run off like he was some fearsome monster. But these two didn’t seem to be worried in the slightest.

Not letting up on his work, he chatted away.

“Are you the lads who’ve been evacuated out here?” he queried.

Russ nodded.

“Whatcher doin’ to them?” he asked.

“These cows? Why, I’m milking them.”

“Is that what they are − cows?”

Archie chuckled. Obviously these two had never been out of town.

“Yes, these are cows all right. Now I’ve just got to take ’em back to their field,” he informed his little audience finally.

They stayed with him, walking a few yards behind all the way across the yard, up the short lane, and through the gate.

“What happened to your arm?” Marty asked suddenly.

Archie tensed, expecting the usual onslaught of cheek and sarcasm.

“Nothing happened to it,” he replied, tight jawed. “I was born like this.”

To Archie’s surprise they made no further comment, and seemed perfectly happy with this explanation.

“What do we call you?” Russ asked.

Archie grinned.

“Sorry, I should have said. I’m Archie.”

“See you later then, Archie.” Laughing happily, they ran off.


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!