Chapter 30: ‘Moles’
Larry begins for the equine party, “You’ll see two of our group have chosen to wear ‘The Cloak of Shame.’ Personally I think it is not necessary, but Ziggy and Scoobie will explain. It’s a pity the new cloaks aren’t available. This pair would look most handsome and colour co-ordinated, Ziggurat in ermine and Scoobie with a reddish-brown fur cloak.”
Bella continues, “Bess and I travelled easily at a steady gallop over firm sand for the first hour to Whatukari Point. It turned out we didn’t need to go inland at all, nor to cross farmland. Here’s our route on the screen,” Bella indicates. “Over to you Prince…”
“Our twenty kilometres took an hour and forty minutes of hard climbing over rocky headlands, and rough going on coastal lowland farms. Ziggy and Scoobie were invaluable, scouting quickly to check and lead us on the best tracks. Nearly halfway through our total journey, and just before Maid, Larry, Lucky and the rest continued on, we came to a bank. There was only one way to surmount it. With a very short run-up, we were just able to get up enough speed to put air underneath us over a wire fence. Close call. Now on grass in a clear patch, we compared notes and checked the map.
“Suddenly there was furious, angry barking and loud thundering hooves very close to us through the scrub. Bursting from cover came two stallions. There was one grey, and a black one whose name is Darkie, and who has a magnificent blaze on his nose. Angry! They were very upset indeed. Turning this mood to intimidation, in an instant they were rearing with thrashing hooves. Both of them were uttering an awful, whooping, screaming neigh and shouting. The big black one was the worst. His eyes gleamed like livid sapphire suns bursting. Prancing with his head high, he continually banged the ground with a wicked thump, bristling and ramping right up close to Larry. Once he turned, lashing out, but Larry moved quickly backwards and talked with a soft whicker, like he was calming a frightened foal that’s tumbled.
“Larry talked on for ages, with Lucky standing at his shoulder purring. He said ‘It’s all right. You’re quite safe. We are friends travelling on an important mission. This is Maid with Raow, and Prince carries Rusty, while Lucky rides with me. We mean no harm. We didn’t know you were there until the ruckus started and you charged into us. Please let’s talk this over. We’ll show you our map and explain the journey we’re on. Your help would be very, very welcome. Please!’
“’Yes Darkie,’ said the grey, who had stopped high-stepping. ‘Let’s cool off. We can look for those dogs later and chase them off. These travellers haven’t done wrong. This dog here with Prince wasn’t attacking us.’ The grey spoke calming-talk, and the black horse eased off his alarming threats. All the while Larry sang softly, while Lucky continued her throbbing purr. Coming to stand directly eyeballing Larry, the black horse flexed his wide deep chest. They were so close that Lucky walked up Larry’s neck, and jumped to the stallion’s head. Lucky, your turn.”
“With no claws out, I only just held onto his mane close to his left ear, and he let me stay there. I talked about he and I being the same rich lustrous black, and how immensely big and strong he was compared to my diminutive size. I like that word diminutive… I had to work it in somewhere. I’m tired of being called small, and being asked things like ‘How old are you Lucky?’ Or being told, ‘Oh,you are very small.’ Diminutive, that’s what I am.
“Anyway I was chatting and purring so quietly that he had to turn his ear closer to hear. This brought him down from his flaming anger, and I felt his strong cool authority as he told a tale of being attacked. He said two dogs had been trying to trip them up by dashing at them, barking furiously, loudly calling them names and poking their tongues out. He said the dogs ‘roared around’ in crazy patterns, and charged with snapping jaws dripping saliva.
“’They tried to heel us,’ said the grey, who introduced himself as Kinge – that is with an e but it’s silent. Kinge told us they were, ‘Dashing in circles chasing each other. Going hard-out they’d come at us from behind, darting in to nip at our heels. They’re mad dogs, trying to heel any horse,’ Kinge said.”
Lucky continues, “Soon Larry and Darkie stood eye to eye in silence for some minutes. I snuggled into Darkie’s mane, fell quiet and held on. Then Kinge sidled up to Maid and began rubbing his head on her flank. From Maid’s back, Raow bunted Kinge’s cheek, and he stretched lifting his neck for more. Delighted and excited, Raow fell right off and would you believe it, he didn’t land on his feet. So much for that belief! There’s a soft thud, and a gasp from Raow. Then, with a gentle mouth, Kinge put Raow back on Maid and complete calm was restored.”
Taking up the tale, Maid says, “We told Darkie and Kinge about Rusty and Raow, and they offered to escort us over the next section, where they said rustlers often came to steal horses, capturing them in specially made traps. We accepted their offer of help, and as we travelled they showed us a ‘lead and blind’ for drawing horses into a trap. It was a cleverly disguised pattern of brush, posts and wire… if a horse wasn’t careful, it would be caught without any means of escape. Their intimate knowledge of the terrain helped us make up lost time.
“Before we parted, Raow and Rusty got into character, dirtying themselves with some sticky dark mud.”
Tossing his head, Larry snorts, “Harrumph, hurruph-hurruph. Those stallions were helpful only because they fancied Maid. They never went far from her the whole time. Anyway, we were able to get within fifty metres of the woolshed, under cover of semi-darkness and a screen of trees. The lads rolled in leaves and twigs, and Raow had a decent dust rub. We emptied the sacks by the fence, and I turned for home as the rats were relayed into hiding.”