My friend Delilah – Joyce Janes

I found her wandering all alone on Lose Hill.  She was only young but it soon became clear she was already quite a character.

I had been to deliver some of mother’s herbal potion to old farmer John in Edale.  On my way back I sat for a rest on the brow of the ridge enjoying the late afternoon sun.

When I heard Delilah, of course she wasn’t called that under later, it gave me quite a shock.  Sheep did not make this low snuffling sound and I almost fell from my rock when she burst from the undergrowth running as if the devil himself was after her.

We saw each other at the same time and both froze, I hardly dare breathe as the piglet stared at me.  Her expression gave me the distinct feeling she was curious and not afraid.  We eyed each other for a while then she took a step toward me, the bread I offered was too tempting and she boldly walked the last few paces to my side.

From that moment Delilah and I were friends.  She followed me home snorting and grunting, running alongside jumping and prancing.  Mother was surprised when the two of us walked in.  I told her the little pig wanted to stay with me.  Of course even before she spoke I knew what she would say.

‘The Pinfold, she has to go there, someone must own her and they will be looking.’

Stock found wandering around our village are kept in the pinfold until their owner claims them.  Cattle, pigs and sheep can devastate crops if allowed to roam.

The pinfold in the village is not far from our cottage.  It is sometimes called the pound, has a sturdy wooden gate and is surrounded by a high stone wall much taller than me.  Anyone losing stock looks to the pinfold first.

Albert is our Pinder, he is the man with the key the keeper of our pinfold.  He looks after the animals until they are claimed.  Most are marked making it easy for him to contact the owners.  While in his care a pinder tends the animals and makes sure they are kept in good condition until they are claimed.  When the owner comes to collect the animals they pay a fine or levy.  As well as the cost of food and water they must pay for any damage wreaked by the animal.

Although I desperately wanted to keep her I knew the rules and led Delilah to the pinfold.

I took my tally stick when I delivered her to Albert and felt great sadness when the gate closed and Delilah was locked in.  The look in her eye was one of disbelief that I would leave her.

Albert took my twig, marked it with a notch and split it down the middle handing half back to me.  When I return to collect payment for finding her I need to match my twig to the half he kept as proof that I was the one who brought her in.

Whenever I had taken animals to him before I would look forward to the day I could collect my reward but it would be a bad day for me when this pig was claimed.  Albert told me he would take special care of Delilah but I told him I would return to see her every day.

The next morning when I woke I heard a noise beneath my window.  I shot out of bed and ran downstairs.  As I lifted the latch a little snout forced open the door and a very determined Delilah barged in.  Her squeals of delight made me laugh as she nuzzled my legs.  The noise woke mother and though she joined me laughing at the antics of the little pig the look on her face told me in no uncertain terms what I had to do.

With a heavy heart I walked Delilah, a rope round her neck, back to the pinfold.  Albert was waiting key in hand and with a twinkle in his eye he told me how she had dashed through the gate and before he knew what was happening she had disappeared down the lane toward our cottage.

As I walked away she looked at me and her sad brown eyes imprinted on my heart.

Although I continued about my errands delivering remedies for mother I went to see Delilah every day taking treats I thought she would like.

One day I walked through Castleton on my way to Dunscar Farm and saw the pinder there, no one had called looking for a piglet.  Another day I went toward Bamford and had the same answer, no one was searching for her.

My spirits rose because if she wasn’t claimed I could buy her.  How or where I would find the means to do so I had no idea, I would worry about that later.

A few days passed and she was at our door again.

Albert wasn’t laughing when I took her back a second time.  When he unlocked the Pinfold that morning he had been ready for Delilah or so he thought but she had come up behind him at such speed this little pig had knocked the heavy man off his feet.  He had bruised his arm and banged his head in the fall.

‘That pig is an escape artist but make no mistake I am not going to let her get out again.’

Albert erected a small pen inside the pinfold and as I led her to it I felt as though my heart would break.  She was a free spirit and she needed to roam.

Albert’s pen worked and Delilah remained imprisoned.  I continued to call each day and she grew accustom to me feeding and fussing her.  When I arrived she would charge the sides of her pen.  I know she waited for me and looked forward to my visits.

Over 3 weeks passed.  The rules of the pinfold are, that if an animal is not claimed within 30 days, the pinder can drive them to market to sell.  I begged mother to buy Delilah but I knew what her answer would be, we struggled to survive and had nothing to spare, we had no money for a pig.

I went on the last morning prepared to say goodbye to Delilah but just as I arrived there was an accident.  A cow reared up and Albert fell to the floor in agony.  It was lucky I was there because when the cow reared a second time I was able to grab him and manoeuvre the beast to one side while Albert dragged himself to safety.  Luckily the pinder was only bruised but it was obvious he wouldn’t be able to tend the animals for a while.

Joyce Janes writer for children


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