Bolton Ferret Welfare

The Hunt for Ely Klonkers

or
Educating Edward
or
A Walk on the Wild Side

by Norma Williams - Illustrations by Sadie James

"If you go down to the Woods today, you're sure of a big surprise..." - Traditional

The Prologue

It was high summer and a huge orange moon lit up the lane which leads from the main road to the farm and Bog Wood. A small sandy figure was trotting down the track, it seemed blissfully happy, it carried a swag bag on a stick over its shoulder, skipped and hopped as it went and chortled merrily to itself. It danced into the yard, bashed hard on the kitchen door with the stick then sat down and beamed confidently up at the window.

Alice looked down.
"There's a big silly looking ferret at the door," she said disapprovingly.
The door was bashed again, and Mother opened it cautiously.
"Howdy doody," sang the stranger. "Name's Cousin Ted. I understand you've got a room to let."
"That's true," said Mother sadly.
"Consider it took," yodelled Cousin Ted. He pounced through the laundry in three huge leaps, tripped up the kitchen step and landed flat on his face on the tiles. He picked himself up, said, "I enjoyed that," and began scratching energetically. Lots of unidentifiable bits fell out of his coat - some ran away and some didn't. Alice glared at him, hard, and Alice does a very scary line in glares, but the stranger didn't even notice.
"I got a reference," he said and pushed an envelope at them. Inside was a note which said, in very shaky handwriting -

"To whom it May Concern:
re: Cousin Ted

Don't let him in. He's a barmpot.

Yours, etc..."

But to tell the truth Alice, who is a bossy little madam, was quite glad to see Cousin Ted. She had been missing her kits, who had, by this time, left home. (Shane is now Official Apprentice King of the Weasels, and Sammy is touring the country giving lectures on quantum physics and flower arranging) Alice was badly missing having Someone to Boss - Mother, a weak, poor spirited creature, being hardly worth the effort.
"Your ears are dirty," she said sternly.
"Ta," said Ted happily. He pounced round the kitchen once more, slid, skidded, flew across the room and concussed himself on the muck bucket. He lay there for a few seconds, opened his eyes, stared up at the ceiling, and said "Cool Bats." Then he picked himself up and beamed up at them again.
"Where do I sleep?" he asked.

****

Barry crash landed with a thump in the broad beans, rolled over three times and lay winded in the spring cabbage.
He sat up, said, "Erk," then collapsed...
Barry obviously had problems. He had two black eyes and quite a few ruffled feathers. He ignored Ted, but blushed deep crimson, shuffled over to Alice, and began to whisper. Alice looked a bit startled, and then she looked very, very interested.
Brenda, it seemed, had Women's Problems. Down Under.
"That's it... too much information. I'm off," said Ted queasily.
Barry began to panic. They must help. Poor Brenda was suffering. She was egg bound. The spring egg should have been laid weeks ago. And it was stuck. It would not come out. Brenda was in a furious temper. They must fetch the doctor.
Now it happened that Paul was in the yard that morning, ...trimming the cow's feet - 8Kb trimming the cow's feet. He was hot and sweaty and feeling ratty. Barry shuffled up to him and looked pathetic. Paul glared at him, but he's a very kind young man really, and he stamped off to his car, rummaged around in the back then handed Barry a dark brown bottle.
"Castor oil," he said. "That'll do it."
"Erk," said Barry, staring at the bottle sadly. He would never get Brenda to take it, she was very strict about medicine.
"It's applied topically," explained Paul crossly.
"He means you rub it on," explained Alice.
Barry slowly poured some oil onto a wing and began to rub the top of his head...
"Not you, you fool!" said Paul, "Brenda."
"Eeeee," squealed Barry in terror. He looked pathetically at Paul. Paul must do it, he pleaded, Paul was a doctor, he had taken an Oath.
Paul said he hadn't taken any Oath which meant he had to climb a 70 foot oak tree and rub a buzzard's bottom, and he went back to the cattle crush, leaving Barry staring wildly at the castor oil.
Alice came to the rescue. "Come on," she said to Barry. "We'll all come with you."
"A trip to the Woods!!! Oh yeah man!!" said Ted, "get it on!"
So they did.

****

The little troop of animals wound their way through Bog Wood. (Any hope that Brenda's sufferings had been relieved by nature had been extinguished, as from deep in the woods there issued a sound like a posse of tom cats being strangled.) Alice, who is afraid of nothing and no one, puffed along plumply in front, chattering to herself as she went. Shane, who always appears from nowhere, slid out of the shadows along with a few other weasels, and they were soon joined by Arris the hedgehog, (never a favourite with Alice because of his fleas) and a few moles, including our old friend Snuffles who hadn't got much to do because the conker season hadn't started yet. Coming slowly in the rear, and dragging his feet rather, was Barry, clutching his castor oil. Last of all was Ted who was even slower and even further behind. Now Ted, in his previous existence, had been a town ferret, his whole life had been spent safely in a back yard, completely alone, and he was having a little trouble coming to grips with the wild woods and the wild people who lived in them. "How do you find your way round these places?" he asked nervously. "Where's the pavement gone?" A large rabbit hopped out of the bracken and goggled at them. Ted yelled with terror and dived under a log. When he plucked up enough courage to come out, the rabbit had gone, but so had Barry. Ted was lost and alone in Bog Wood.

He wandered sadly along. He wished he was back in his yard. The trees swayed in the breeze and the bracken moved slowly. Things cracked and popped and rustled. Ted gulped. Then, he saw another animal. It looked just like him, but it was smaller and scruffier. It was leaning against a bracken frond It was leaning against a bracken frond... - 10Kb and it was watching him keenly.
"'ello," it said, and it grinned.

***

Mother sat grimly in the surgery; Ted lay on her lap, as stiff as a board with his paws all pointing skywards. He was making squeaking noises and occasionally he twitched and flinched.
"What on earth have you done to him?" asked Paul.
"It was her," said Alice grimly, pointing.
"I never did nothin'," said Tracy indignantly. "We 'ad a date, that's all."
"Just what happened on this date?" demanded the vet. "I thought I'd had some wild nights out, but I've never come home in this state..."
"Only the usual," said Tracy crossly. "Mind, 'e didn't seem to like the tree bangin' much," she admitted.
A weak moan of remembrance came from Ted.
"I'm in season, you see," here Tracy simpered and looked as coy as it is possible for a weasel to look. It was a horrible sight and everyone shuddered.
"All we 'ad to do," continued Tracy, in a loud complaining tone, "was get a bit physical, like - 'e" she nodded towards her victim, "was supposed to bash me about a bit, sling me around like, and bobs yer uncle, no more season, no more kits. I 'ad some kits once, and they was 'orrible little buggers, don't want no more of them. Anyway, I picked 'im up and chucked 'im against a tree, to show 'im what to do like." She paused for a moment. "Must 'ave bin a bit rough," she admitted. Ted was X-rayed, then had his back rubbed and his tail put in traction for the morning. Paul sent him home with prescription which read:-

Further Treatment re Ted Ferret:

Keep away from Weasels
Keep away from Weasels
Keep away from Weasels

Now Ted is a plucky little chap, a ferret of little brain but great energy and enthusiasm. If he said, he was to be a country ferret, then he must learn to be a real country ferret. He spent the rest of the day quietly at home, but first thing the next morning, clutching his prescription, he set out for Bog Wood. The humans watched his chunky little figure trotting down the lane.
"Oh dear," said Mother, wringing her hands.
At least he knows what a weasel looks like now," said Jim, "and from every possible angle."

****

The main path through Bog Wood is very steep, and in high summer it is completely overgrown with bracken. It almost forms a tunnel if you're ferret sized, and Ted strode bravely through this green tunnel. He wasn't nearly as frightened as he had been his first time in the woods, and he began to sing a little song as he went, and hop and skip. Then he saw another animal. He stopped. And stared. This animal looked very like a ... but no, it couldn't be, it was pink. It was leaning against a tree, staring blankly into space and was holding a shopping basket.
"Hello," said Ted cautiously. He consulted his prescription carefully, and then stared hard at the animal.
"Are you a weasel?" he asked.
The pink animal considered this for some considerable time with its eyes rolling round. Then it focused on Ted and said vaguely, "Not sure."
"What are you?"
"Don't know," admitted the stranger.
Ted had been hoping for a more spirited companion than this pastel creature but he was lonely now and glad of any company.
"Shall we hang out together?"
"Can do," said the other indifferently.
They trailed off together through the wood. Occasionally the stranger picked up a leaf or twig or a nasty looking flower, and popped it in his basket.
"What are you shopping for?" asked Ted.
The pink one eyed him suspiciously. Then he seemed to make his mind up.
"I'll show you," he said. "You can have some if you like," and he slunk off into the bracken with Ted, innocently, following.

"He's coming back!" (Mother had been watching the track all afternoon.)
"He must have enjoyed himself, bless him, he's singing." A happy warbling sound could be heard.
"And dancing," said Alice.
"And falling over," said Jim.
"What's he doing now?" asked Mother anxiously.
"Being sick in the ditch," said Alice grimly.

They lay Ted on the sofa with a cold flannel on his head.
"All he had to bloody well do was keep away from weasels," yelled Jim. "Just one bloody thing and he couldn't even..."
"Pink..." moaned Ted faintly.
"What did he say?"
"Pink..." repeated Ted, and he waved an accusing paw towards Alice.
` "Oh Lord, he's been with that weird sprog of yours," accused Jim. "He's been poisoned with some sort of Weasel alcopop." He glared at Alice, who glared right back.
"I think we should take him to the vets," worried Mother.
"Yes of course we should," snarled Jim. "Why not? We've been there every other day this week. Why miss a day? Come to think of it why don't we just have our entire monthly income paid into their bank account? It'd save going down there once a month with a barrow load of cash."
"Now you are being silly..."

They drove home from the surgery without speaking. Ted had been dosed with Alka Seltzer from Paul's private stock, and he sat on the front seat, burping noisily. He was put to bed he slept deeply and dreamlessly for 12 hours.

****

It was next morning and Ted sat glumly on the front lawn. He had been forbidden to leave the farm, and he looked longingly towards Bog Wood. He wondered what else there was to discover.
"Hello," said a velvety voice from the flowerbed. Ted jumped. A tiny black animal with a long pink nose and huge pink hands A tiny black animal with a long pink nose and huge pink hands... - 6Kb had popped up from the petunias and was regarding him with tiny little eyes.
"Hello," said Ted, "are you a weasel?" he asked breathlessly.
"Not likely duckie, I'm a mole, one of the theatrical moles," said the animal. "My name's Maudlin, but you can call me Snuffles. Would you like to be my friend?"
"Do you want to get drunk or have sex?" asked Ted, who didn't intend to get caught out again.
"No thank you!" said Maudlin indignantly. "Not with you anyway," he added.
"What shall we do?" asked Ted.
"Let's go to the woods and look for early conkers," said Snuffles who was keen to take up his juggling career again.
"I might have to get permission first," said Ted cautiously. Then he added, "no, on second thoughts I'll leave a note,"
"I ave gon to the woods with a Moel mool mule mool.. It is not a weesul, it is a mool. . We ave gon to luk for ely klonkers.
Luv Ted."

There are an awful lot of trees in Bog Wood and to give Snuffles his due, it's very difficult to identify conker trees from ground level especially when you're mole sized and a bit challenged in the eyesight department and they wandered from trunk to trunk without much luck. Snuffles' attention soon began to wander and he began a long, rather strange monologue about his family. Now moles are not really bad animals, a bit temperamental perhaps, and with a tiny, tiny tendency to be spiteful, but as everyone knows, and as Ted was now finding out, their worst failing is their total obsession with show business.

"Not everyone can master jugglin'," boasted Snuffles in a droning voice, "now me Uncle Mendacity, he was an impressionist. Bloody brilliant he was, could impersonate anything. Birds, trees, rocks, seaweed, bread pudding..." he chuckled at the recollection of Uncle Mendacity's bread pudding impersonation. "A genius. It's in the blood yer see. My Uncle Malacite now, he could tapdance, only he did silent tapdancin', takes real genius that does. You've either got it or you haven't, and me Auntie Misericorde, she balances plates on sticks, not plates exactly, and not sticks really, but the talents there..." his flat mole voice droned on and on. Ted felt his eyes going glassy, and thus it was that when Barry happened upon them, he found himself, for once, almost welcome. Barry was not alone, he was accompanied by the latest egg, which had finally been laid after the administration of the castor oil. However, Brenda, perhaps understandably, had not really taken to this latest addition to her family, and she had flown off with some of her girlfriends to Blackpool, leaving Barry in charge. The egg, which had been tentatively named Basil, was tied up in dock leaves and was bouncing along behind its dad.

Snuffles was also glad to see Barry. Anyone with aerial capacity would be extremely helpful in the conker hunt and he puffed over to Barry, waving his big pink hands. "You'm a bird," he said bossily, "get up that big tree for us."
Barry's eyes started sliding about nervously. (Brenda casts a very long shadow.) He had responsibilities, he said, he could not leave the Potential Basil. Ted began to feel rather desperate. Any more of the Snuffles family saga was going to drive him round the bend. He promised he would take care of Basil. Basil would be quite safe with him.
Barry is easily bossed - he has, after all, had plenty of practice - and after a couple of leaps, he was airborne and vanished into the tree with a crash. It wasn't a conker tree, or even an oak tree, it was a very old scots pine with lots of dead branches. As Barry's considerable weight landed on a branch, it snapped and hurtled downwards - heading straight for Potential Basil. Ted didn't hesitate - he never does - he leapt sideways and with a heroic effort, pushed the egg out of danger. Then he vanished in a cloud of dust Then he vanished in a cloud of dust... - 12Kb and dead pine needles.

****

Ted was the hero of the hour. Paul bound up his wounds free of charge and treated Barry's strained talon with teramycin and a plaster. Basil was carefully checked over with a stethaescope and found to be undamaged, and so they drove home in triumph, Ted a little squiffy with free surgery champagne.
"I thought you'd be kidnapped," sniffed Mother. "By someone called Eli Klonkers. It sounded continental. I was terribly worried." She burst into drunken sobs and clutched Ted to her chest.
"Yuk," said Snuffles nastily. "That's disgustin' that is. I wouldn't put my 'ead in there." He was sitting on the dashboard with his back to them. Barry's conker hunting had, he thought, lacked any sort of tenacity or commitment.

****

"Well he's certainly packed a lot into his first week."
The airing cupboard had been turned into a convalescent ward, and a little row of patients Ted (who was now bandaged or plastered on nearly every part of his body), Barry, Potential Basil, Alice and Snuffles were tucked in for the night. Snuffles had cheered up a bit. Mother had found him an avocado stone, which she promised was a sort of foreign conker. He had this held tightly to his velvety chest and was saying "Whoops" happily in his sleep. Alice was still awake and was busy drilling in Ted's ears with her sharp little nose. It felt nice thought Ted sleepily, comforting...

It's good to have a family, and a home.

Next time:-

I Should be so Lucky

In which there is a little bit of trouble Down Under as Wayne goes the distance for luv,
we meet giant bunnies, imaginary wombats, dunny jumpers, confused customs officers, a constipated crocodile called Cecil,
and finally,
Wendy, Wayne's true luv, who really does prove the old saying that it's better to stick with the devil you know.

Stories by Norma Williams
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