The End of the Road
Old Tom had lived in the village all his life. Everyone knew him and every evening he could be found in the local public house. There was a chair at the bar which was known as 'Tom's chair' and always he would be telling a story as he had so many to tell. All his tales had humour and concerned the countryside as his entire life had been spent out of doors. Even at home he was mostly outside in his vegetable garden and every year he would win at least one of the prizes at the produce show. His name was engraved many times on all the cups and trophies. However Tom was particularly known for his passion for growing carrots and they were the biggest and best that anyone had ever seen!
Apart from tending to his vegetables Old Tom spent many hours every day walking the hedgerows and across the fields beyond his cottage. Under his arm he would carry a shotgun so he could bag pigeons and rabbits. He was a good shot and would often take rabbits to the pub for others to share his good fortune. Without doubt Tom was at one with nature. He could forecast the weather, catch moles, knew the whereabouts of all the foxes and badgers and could recognise birds and animals from their singing and footprints. He was indeed a very special person!
Now in the fields not far from Tom's cottage lived a wily rabbit. He was also of old age and was often seen by Tom but somehow it always avoided the cooking pot. Now all rabbits are attracted by carrots but this rabbit would go to extreme lengths to eat Tom's carrots as, of course, they were the best for miles around! Often under the cover of darkness the rabbit would be in Tom's garden digging away at the many rows of carrots. He was a real nuisance!
Tom being of good nature let few things bother him – apart from this wretched rabbit. Tom spent many weeks putting wire netting around his vegetable garden but somehow the rabbit still managed to get in – either by digging underneath or by some other means that no one could work out. Because Tom regarded his carrots as highly precious it became a real obsession to outwit this particular rabbit. Alas the rabbit was very cunning and would often ignore the carrots for days on end before eventually returning to destroy yet another row. Without doubt the rabbit played games with Tom and Tom was at his wits end. He tried waiting in his garden shed all night with his shotgun but the rabbit would somehow know and only come when he was not there.
Eventually poor Tom became unwell, maybe it was the worry of the rabbit, but still his urge to shoot it refused to go away. Regardless of his poor health he would sit at an open bedroom window night after night with his two bore ready and waiting. Often he would fall asleep only to wake up cold and to then discover the rabbit had been and gone. One particular night he did see the rabbit in his carrots and fired but missed. He was furious with himself as he seldom missed! Alas he didn't wake up the next morning and a few days later the whole village attended his funeral.
Now, this story refers to many years ago and times were hard. Sadly only a few flowers were laid on the newly dug grave so someone thought it appropriate to put a large bunch of Tom's own carrots on the grave. In fact they looked rather good especially as people realised the connection. Old Tom would surely have appreciated the gesture and perhaps even have preferred them instead of flowers!
Later that same night the churchyard had a visitor. Tom's old friend the rabbit appeared and went straight to Tom's grave and ate every single carrot! Although Tom is now in heaven he will surely still be telling stories and this one must now be in his repertoire!!
By I M A Gardener