Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

by  Jerrard Tickell

All along the quiet waterways they knew her, the dapple-grey mare who towed the painted boats and her name was . . . Rose of Sharon

Barry Perkins had been born to the painted boats, the painted pails, the hearts, the roses, and the castles. He was the only son of Ted and Mabel Perkins, who, like their own parents before them, had spent their leisurely lives up and down the intricate labyrinth of England's canals. Barry first saw the light of day aboard a monkey boat, and before he was a year old he had travelled the length and breadth of the inland waterways in his floating home. There was little enough room for two in the cabin, much less for three, and Barry was. hardly a boy before he moved back into the butty.

Rosie, the dapple-grey Clydesdale mare, hauled the monkey boat, and the butty trailed behind at the end of its tow-rope, the boy's sure hand at the tiller. So, until the war came, the little family carried their slow cargoes along quiet waters from clanging town to clanging town.  

Barry Perkins didn't wait for his call-up. He joined the Army right away. Royal Army Service Corps, Water Transport Section. He was a sergeant within weeks. Then, to his parents' mingled pride and dismay, he was given a commission.Ted Perkins shook his head. Mabel's boy an officer! Next thing he'd be expecting his dad to put on a collar and tie for his dinner. 

Captain Barry Perkins landed in France on D Day, was wounded and taken prisoner. No word was heard of him for many anxious months. Then his first letter arrived from Germany. He had been operated upon in hospital; he was well, but would always walk with a slight limp. The glad news that he was safe was spread about.

Another letter came in. His limp was slowly getting better. Could they please send him a book on bird watching? He longed to come back, back to the painted monkey boats and the buttys. He sent his love to Rosie. "Fancy him remembering Rosie!" Ted Perkins stepped ashore and walked heavily. Barry's letter in his hand, to where Rosie cropped the sweet grass by the canal's edge. Rosie's real name, her grand name, was Rose of Sharon, but Rosie she had become the first day she had stepped on the tow-path, ten years ago. She was a stocky mare, just under seventeen hands, with a skin like shot silk. Her legs were short, with white plumed fetlocks, and her body was as big as her heart. There was a mutual affection and under- standing between Rosie and her owners that amounted to love.

As Ted Perkins stopped, Rosie raised her head. "Well, old girl" Ted said, "I've heard from the boy again. Says he's all right and sends you his love, all the way from Germany. Daresay he'll be coming home soon, so keep hoping, old girl. Neither Ted nor Mabel ever believed that Barry would come back to the boats for good, not after being an army officer and seeing France and Germany and foreign places. But they were wrong. He returned from the war, limping a little. It was as if he'd never been away. He handled the tiller with his old instinctive skill, and he had a warm word for all his old friends at the locks. 

The book can be downloaded as a PDF or Text format here. Click to Download

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