Blackberry Lane – Episode 14

AS the vet peered closely at the cow, Archie held his breath. It was heart-breaking to him when any of his beloved herd had to be slaughtered.

“No,” the vet said at last, retrieving his spectacles from where they perched above his forehead. “You’re all right, Mr Sims. There’s no sign of TB in her.”

Much as he would have liked to stop off at the farmhouse for a cup of tea, Archie knew that he really needed to get back to work. A small field of potatoes was crying out to be weeded, and a gate on the eastern boundary needed to be repaired.

Ted and the girls had taken both tractors, so Archie hurried over to the stables and hitched Major into the traces.

The next few hours were spent patiently guiding the horse up and down the field, dragging the hoe between the rows of potatoes. By late afternoon he was able to look back on a field where neat, clean ridges of earth stood proud.

Approaching the yard Archie strained his ears, listening out for sounds of Russ and Marty. They should be home from school by now, he thought. Not just them, either. Jeanie should be arriving today.

He heard feminine voices suddenly and spun round, but it was Maureen and Stella emerging from the barn, and momentarily he felt deflated.


“Aren’t they sweet?” Jeanie exclaimed, holding a piece of dandelion leaf out to a small white rabbit with black ears.

“Now, Mum,” Russ gave a fair imitation of Kate’s voice, “you mustn’t get too fond of them. They’re not pets.”

Jeanie marvelled at her son’s attitude. Even Marty was unfazed. She realised more and more with each visit that they were turning into real country children.

After spending a while with the rabbits they all headed back towards the yard, where they saw Archie loading sections of timber on to a tractor and cart. The boys set up a cry, hurling themselves at him and hugging him boisterously.

“Well, hello, you two,” he returned their greeting. His eyes strayed to Jeanie. She looked tired, he thought, but then she spent most of her time driving a bus around city streets. A few days out here in the fresh air and sunshine would do her good.

“Hello, Archie, how are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks. And yourself?”

“Yes; I’m well, too.”

He hesitated, and thought with loathing of the gate he had to mend. It had to be done, though.

“I’d better get on,” he said reluctantly. “Got to fix that gate along the low road.”

“Can we come?” Marty asked, already clambering eagerly on to the tractor.

“What about your mum?”

“She can come, too. She’s very good with a hammer.”

Archie laughed out loud.

“Come on, then,” he invited happily. His day had been full of good moments, and it seemed that it wasn’t over yet.


Kate was alone when the telegram arrived at the farmhouse. Ted was out on the fields, and Archie was with him. Stella and Maureen were lime-washing the cow-shed. The boys were at school. Even Annie was off work; she’d taken Frances to see the doctor.

Kate held the brown envelope with trembling hands. It couldn’t be. There must be a mistake, she tried to tell herself

Her legs turned to jelly suddenly, and she lowered herself on to a chair. She didn’t want to open it. Don’t read it, her mind kept screaming at her. If you don’t read it, it’s not real.

It was only by chance that Annie popped by with Frances to tell them what the doctor had said.

They found Kate still sitting there, as if frozen.

“Run, Frances!” Annie said quickly. “Go and find Uncle Ted.”

The girl scooted off. Annie put a kettle on to boil. Hot sweet tea – that was what was needed. She tried to prise the envelope from Kate’s hands, but her grip on it was too tight.

“Kate, love, are you listening to me? Come on. Let it go. Ted’ll be here in a minute. I’ll make us all a cuppa.”

Ted and Frances blundered in eventually, followed by Archie.

“Oh, Ted!” Annie cried. “I don’t know what to do. She’s not with us at all.”

“She’s in shock,” Archie said. “I’ll run and fetch Doctor Ainsworth.”

“Kate, love, it’s me, it’s Ted. Now, give me that piece of paper.”

Her hold on the envelope loosened and she allowed Ted to take it from her fingers.

“That’s it, my dear. You don’t need to hang on to it. Don’t worry, I’ll deal with it.”

He passed it to Annie, and it was she who opened it as Ted cradled Kate in his arms.

Over Kate’s head, Annie’s eyes met Ted’s.

She nodded silently.


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!