Chapter Five – The Great Race
Every Boxing Day, for as long as anyone could remember, there was a great sled race down a steep embankment at the back of the old pickle factory. The locals had nicknamed it the location Vinegar Hill and it became known as The Great Vinegar Hill Annual Sled Race.
A good portion of the small town’s population would assemble to watch the children race. There were few rules. No one over the age of fifteen was one of them.
There was a large trophy that the hardware store had donated some twenty years earlier and Jonathan’s name had yet to grace it. He was determined to make his parent’s proud and at the same time remove the smirk off Charles Barns face, for the bully had won two years running.
Now with his new sled, he might just dethrone the defending champ and see his own name proudly displayed in the window of his dad’s hardware store.
The surface of the hill had a light powder of snow coating a hard-packed base. It was perfect for a sled race. There would be a total of four races to crown the champion. The first three being elimination rounds, well sort of. The Judge, Mr. Ogilvy, who by the way was a real Judge, explained the rules and procedure.
It left most of the participants and audience scratching their heads. The Judge swore he had worked out the formula and it was the fairest way to give everyone an equal opportunity to be champion. Nobody argued, after all he was the Judge.
The final group usually numbered between eight to twelve kids. The local Fall Fair Queen would get to nervously shoot the starters pistol and the Judge would be at the bottom of the hill with his stopwatch and keen eye to spot any infringements on what had become a yearly ritual.
Names had been drawn and Jonathan was not in the first group to race. However, Charles Barns was, and to Jonathan’s dismay was carrying a brand new Flexible Flyer just like his own.
He exclaimed, “Oh no there goes my advantage!”
His Grandpa patted him on the shoulder. “Just fly down that hill in as straight a line as possible. Imagine you are in an aeroplane with The Red Baron on your tail. And don’t forget you have my lucky flying goggles and hat.
They worked for me, although Richthofen shot up my Sopwith Camel bad, had to make a forced landing. Then to my surprise that Red Triplane buzzed me and he gave me a salute as he flew past, before heading back into the fray.”
Jonathan stared at his Grandpa, mouth open you had a dogfight with The Red Baron. The old man put his finger to his lips, “our secret, after all I lost.”
Up on the hill the ten contestants lined up. At the crack of the pistol they launched and Jonathan could see Barns take the lead almost immediately. A young girl hard on his tail all the way to the bottom.
Jonathan was in the next round and had worked his way to the top of the hill, he positioned himself between Charles and the girl. He thought she couldn’t be more than seven years old and was impressed that she had done so well. The pistol cracked and they were off. Charles and Jonathan took the lead with the girl right behind them.
Halfway down, Charles nudged Jonathans sled with his right foot sending him off to the right and causing him to fall behind a few feet. It was a well planned, subtle move on Charles part. Totally illegal of course, but out of the Judges line of site. The nudge had cost Jonathan the race, placing a disappointing third behind Charles and the young girl.
The Judge thought he had seen something awry but couldn’t be sure. Nevertheless he warned Charles, “No shenanigans young man, or you will be sitting on the sidelines.”
Jonathan was seething inside as he prepared for the next run.
The young girl was to his right. “Did you see what he did?”
“Yes, I saw, I was right behind you and I think you would have won.”
Her remark caught him off guard. “Really? You think so?”
“I do and I think you still can, but don’t let him upset you because he’ll just use that to his advantage.”
“Gee thanks, and good luck.”
She smiled as she prepared to start. “Your welcome, besides it’s me you really have to watch out for.”
Jonathan laughed, pulling his goggles over his eyes, focusing on the steep slope in front of him.
The pistol fired and they were off. The young girl surprised everyone by taking the lead, Charles and Jonathan were gaining on her when Charles again, tried his dirty trick. It backfired as his boot got caught in the sleds support, spinning him around, causing him to come in a dismal eighth, it did however slow Jonathan down enough that he only placed second. The crowd loved the fact that the young one had come in first and they showed their approval with a lot of cheering and clapping.
Now the final race to decide this year’s champion took place.
“You were right, I do have to keep an eye on you. What’s your name?”
“Annie Moonbeam Russel, but you can call me… she paused in thought… Flies Like the Wind.”
“You sure do, you’re a regular snowsquall!”
Soon they were all lined up at the top once more. This time Charles was on the other side of Annie, and should have posed no threat, with his dirty tricks, to Jonathan.
“Watch him Flies Like the Wind.” He motioned towards Charles.
“Oh, I will.”
The pistol cracked and they were off. Jonathan, Annie and Charles were all even. About halfway down despite the warning Judge Ogilvy had given him, Charles tried to nudge Annie into Jonathan thereby taking out his two rivals. Annie was onto him and she steered into him at the same time. It caught Charles totally off-guard, causing him to flip into a great flurry of snow, legs and sled.
Jonathan shot ahead and Annie still managed a second but Charles. Well he didn’t even finish. He started protesting to Judge Ogilvy who just scowled at him and simply said “My boy, justice has been served.”
Jonathan had barely crossed the finish line when Typsy came running over to him. Jumping on him, and knocking him off his sled licking his face. Then as if they were old friends, the dog ran to Annie and started licking her face as well. She laughed, “I have a dog just like him.”
About then the family reached them and Grandma looked at the young girl.
“My goodness is that you Moonbeam.”
She recognized Jonathan’s Grandmother. “Yes, it’s me.” She looked closely at the dog, and put two and two together. “Is this Typsy?”
“It sure is child, a bit healthier now, isn’t he? Jonathan this is the young lady I met when we picked up your dog.”
The memory of that day two years earlier, came flooding back to Jonathan.
Grandma and Grandad had showed up with a puppy, and Grandpa told them how they had come across the little mutt.
“While driving here I realized I was getting short on gas. We stopped at a farmhouse to see if they had any to spare. I spotted a sign that read, ‘Puppies For Sale’ and decided to investigate. A young girl greeted us, and took us out to the barn. Sure enough, there was a litter of five healthy looking English sheep dogs.
I was checking them over, when your Grandma spotted a sixth, half the size of his brothers and sisters. He was sitting, forlorn in a corner of the pen. Grandma picked him up. He was a sorry sight.
About then, the young girl’s daddy had joined us and spoke up.
“You don’t want that one mam, he’s the runt, not likely to survive another night.”
“How much for him?” Grandma asked.
“The man looked at me scratching his forehead. I shrugged my shoulders, knowing that your Grandma, who always has a soft spot for the underdog, was now negotiating for the one animal I would never have picked.”
“Well mam I reckon he’d be worth a wooden nickel but if you don’t have one on you, well than you can take him off my hands for free.”
“Sold!” Grandma said stomping off to the car, mutt cradled under her arm. “She looked at the girl. Follow me sweetie, I do have a wooden nickel.”
The young girl followed her and your grandma searched in her purse pulling out the wooden nickel, handing it to the girl.
“Thank you mam, and thanks for taking him. Pa wouldn’t let me bring him into the house, says nature must have its way. I named him Typsy because he can’t walk too far without falling over.”
The old lady smiled and held the young girls hand.
“Honey, we’ll have Typsy walking right as rain in no time. He’s going to my grandson Jonathan, as a Christmas gift. What’s your name sweetheart?
“It’s Annie Moonbeam Russel”
“What a pretty name. I’ll tell Jonathan you gave strict instructions to take loving care of your dog.
Jonathan turned back to the young girl. “So you know Typsy?”
“I sure do, no wonder he looks like my dog Ranger, they’re brothers.”
About then her parents had come over and Annie introduced everybody including her baby brother David. They had her dog ‘Ranger’ with them and Typsy and Ranger immediately began to play together overjoyed at their reunion.
And that’s how a young girl, named Annie Moonbeam Russel came into Jonathan’s life.
Later that night Jonathan reflected on that special Christmas, his time with Agnes and his new friend Moonbeam. It was a pivotal point in the young man’s life. It foreshadowed the adventures he would experience growing up in that wonderful place. Over the coming years he would learn much more about Agnes, the meadow and of course…
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