The Iron Horse

"He got it in an two Dutch shoe boxes tied with string. Now I've got it in two Spanish shoe boxes tied with string."

"The old horse and cart, right?"

"Right. It needs work. It got bent between Holland and Berlin. And he thought me being a blacksmith's lad was the best bloke to unbend it."

"I know the story. I can see the link with the spreading chestnut tree, right! What's it made of, sweet prince?"

"Pig iron, I think. Let's have a look at it. You know, when Peter first showed it to me it was still wrapped in a Dutch newspaper. The old bloke said the Boche were killing hostages, just shoved the boxes into Peter's hand and scooted off over the bridge, just made it before the armour came through."

Civilians were not allowed to cross the canal. Lieutenant Uffington was there with eight wagons of bridging equipment. Heelsum was the only straightforward route for the division and they wouldn't stop for some old Dutch bloke with horse and cart. But Peter let him cross and the old bloke gave him the toy. The Royal Engineers moved on with the division to the next job, and Peter kept the shoe boxes after he was demobbed and now they've ended up in Tenerife. The old bloke was a blacksmith according to Peter. You could tell by the tools he had on his cart.

"Needs cleaning."

"You'd need cleaning if you'd come all the way from Holland forty-five years ago, Missus!"

"It's black. How do you know what it's made of?"

"With a magnet. Nothing special about the horse, he's been cast from a china toy by the look of him. You make a mould of fine clay in two sections, separate them carefully, lift out the china toy, put the two sections back together and carefully fasten them, then pour in the hot wax and allow it to cool, then you ladle the molten iron into the mould, the wax runs out leaving the iron behind. Great thing is, iron has a lower melting point than steel, easy to make on a forge. As for the cart. I've a good mind to leave it bent. Might make it worse if I tamper with it. Actually I don't think the cart goes with the horse, it was made separately of sheet steel. Notice that the cart is too close to the back legs. The horse would kick the cart to pieces in anything more than a canter. I'm trying to visualise the family scene, where the blacksmith makes a cart so that his granddaughter can put a doll in it. Nineteen-forty-four. My God! What an awful year for the Dutch. Our bombers were flying over with Hitler's consent ignoring the Boche and dropping food parcels. I wonder what happened to his family."

"OK, so Fred can sit in it."

"Great idea!"

So I clean it, decide to leave the left wheel in its bent state which probably occurred when a Boche shell landed near the kit wagon severely wounding driver McShane. Further up the coast, Peter found a German medical officer still working in a first-aid tent, totally ignoring British soldiery passing through. He looked at driver McShane, dressed the wound and said briefly "Leave him with me, this man is going home."

War prize, Holland 1945 - and Fred

And now Fred sits, carefully placed by Lizzie. Miss Pussyfinger doesn't like it one little bit and makes a hell of a scene. Maybe she thinks the horse is going to gallop off with him. We never thought she could be protective about a very small teddy bear. Thinking about it, Fred is about the size of a month-old kitten.

"So, how's the birding situation my handsome?"

"'My handsome!' That reminds me of Praa Sands in nineteen seventy-six. I met this funny woman sitting on the beach! Renton enjoys a bit of birding. Won't be the same without Peter though. Fancy, Peter started off as a bridge builder and that's how he wants to end up."

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