Blackberry Lane – Episode 16

IT seemed to Archie that whoever he spoke to on the subject, he was met with scepticism.

“Gas?” they all said. “Who on earth ever heard of running a thresher on gas? How would you go about it?”

He would then show them the instructions Mr Shilling had, as promised, sent to him.

“Looks like a load of rubbish to me,” Ted said.

Undeterred, he bought the parts necessary, and began work.

It should have been straightforward, but somehow the further into the job he got the more trouble it gave him.

What he needed, he realised, was another pair of hands to work alongside him. But if no-one was willing to volunteer, he certainly wasn’t going to ask them again.


Jeanie huddled into her seat in the corner of the carriage and surveyed her hands with disgust. This new work did play havoc with them. And it didn’t even make her happy as she’d hoped it would. She could see now that the boys not being at home left a huge hole in her life and she had been searching for something to fill it.

The train pulled up at the village station, and Jeanie tumbled off and breathed in the fresh country air. She’d grown to love this moment, when the village seemed to be reaching out to embrace her.

“Hello, Amos!” she shouted and waved enthusiastically, seeing the old man standing waiting for her.

“Hello, Jeanie, my love,” he responded, lifting her case into his rickety old wagon.

“We should just about be in time to stop off at the school and pick your boys up,” he said. “What have you been up to since you were last here?”

She told him of her work, and asked after Ted and Kate.

“Eh, love, but they’ve had a hard time of it. Ted got very down, and finished up with a dose o’ the flu.”

Amos shook his head dismally.

“And Kate?” she asked.

“Well, she’s very low, but Annie and Archie and them children all rally round and do what they can to help her bear it.”

Amos was drawing the cart up to the school gates, and she looked around eagerly. Her happiness was completed by the sight of two figures hurtling towards them.


The sound of the old cockerel crowing in the yard woke Jeanie. She rolled out of bed, and once washed and dressed she padded down the stairs and entered the kitchen.

As ever it was a hive of activity. Breakfast dishes clattered as Kate collected them up and placed them in the sink.

“Morning, Jeanie,” she said.

Marty flung his arms round his mum’s waist.

“I’m going to drive the tractor for Uncle Ted. We’ve got to rake the far field,” he announced importantly.

“I just sit and take it easy, while the gaffer here does all the work.” Ted winked at Jeanie. “Come on, then, lad, let’s be off.”

“We must get on, too,” Maureen declared as she and Stella prepared to head out of the door. “See you at dinnertime.”

The latch of the door clicked and Archie entered.

“At last,” Kate greeted him. “I’d begun to think you weren’t coming in this morning.”

“Been taking another look at that engine,” he said, flopping on to a kitchen chair.

“Is it still giving you trouble?”

“Is it ever! I wish I’d never started.”

“What is it that you’re trying to do?” Jeanie asked with interest.

“We’re short of petrol these days, so I’m trying to convert the thresher to gas power.”

“They’ve done that with all our city buses,” Jeanie said, pulling out a chair and sitting down opposite him. “What’s the problem?”

“I just think that I might have bitten off more than I can chew,” he answered, shrugging.

“I could help you,” she suggested casually, adding, “if you like, that is.”

He was so pleased he could have kissed her. Come to that, he’d like to have kissed her anyway.

He felt a bit warm under the collar suddenly from this surprising line of thinking.

The thresher stood abandoned, with cables dangling and tools scattered around haphazardly.

“I’m afraid I got a bit fed up with it,” Archie admitted

“I’m not surprised. It’s far too big a job to tackle on your own!” Jeanie exclaimed, making him feel better instantly.

They worked steadily all morning: joining sections, clipping cables and clamping hoses.

“There,” Archie said at last, a note of optimism in his voice. “It’s time to try her out.”

The machine coughed and spluttered dreadfully to begin with, but eventually it settled to a deep growl.

Archie’s face wore a huge grin of satisfaction, and his obvious delight made Jeanie want to laugh.

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!