BETSY AT THE COUNTY SHOW

Once upon a time there was a farmer called Mr Hebblethwaite, who lived at Hill Top Farm.

Now Mr Hebblethwaite had a cow called Betsy. And Betsy gave the best milk, with the richest cream, of any cow on the farm. Indeed, there was only one thing wrong with Betsy.

She was so small.

Now that wouldn't have mattered one little bit, if it hadn't been for one thing, the one thing that Betsy would never be able to do because she was so small.

One morning, as she was standing in her stall at the farm, she heard Mr Hebblethwaite coming down the yard outside. Then she heard him call out to the cow-hand,

'Joe ! Are you there, lad?'

'Aye, I am that,' said Joe. 'What is it, Mester 'Ebblethwaite?'

'Joe, I want you to get a couple of cows ready for the County Show next week!'

Betsy pricked up her ears. She'd always longed to go to the County Show and perhaps (who knows?) win the First Prize for the Best Cow.

Then she heard Joe call out,

'Which two cows did you mean, Mester 'Ebblethwaite?'

Betsy held her breath.

'Why, Daisy and Lulu Belle. of course!' said Mr Hebblethwaite.

Betsy was so disappointed. She did so want to go to the County Show, but she knew why Mr Hebblethwaite couldn't take her.

Every morning for the next week Joe came into the byre and led out Daisy and Lulu Belle. Betsy knew what was going to happen next. He would be starting to scrub their coats, comb out their tails, and polish their hooves and their horns until both cows shone like a new pin.

Saturday morning came at last, and Betsy woke to the sound of an engine in the distance. The sound came nearer and then she knew what it was. It was the lorry climbing the hill to the farm. She heard the engine going 'Brrm! Brrm!' as it climbed the hill, getting louder as it drew nearer. Then came the 'clackety-clack' of the farm-gate being opened, and then the lorry backing up into the yard.

The roar of the engine stopped, she heard the driver's door clang, and then came the thump as the tail-board of the lorry was lowered. And now Joe's footsteps could be heard coming down the yard, and a few moments later the clip-clop of hooves as he led out Daisy and Lulu Belle.

'Clip-clop! Clip-clop!' went their hooves up the yard, and then 'Thump! Thump! Thump!' up the tail-board of the lorry. Then came a bang as the tail-board was fastened, then the clang of the driver's door, then the 'Whirr! Whirr!' of the engine starting, and then the sound of the engine dying away in the distance.

And now Betsy was so dreadfully unhappy that she began to cry, and a great big tear ran down her nose and fell into the straw. And from the spot where it had fallen there came a faint 'Ting!' like the sound of a tiny bell. Betsy looked down and saw that where the tear had fallen there was a beautiful fairy, no bigger than your thumb.

And now the fairy flew up and landed on Betsy's horn, close to her ear. Then Betsy heard a beautiful small voice saying,

'Whatever's the matter, Betsy?'

Betsy was so surprised that her tears stopped at once.

'I only wanted to go to the County Show!' she said.

'And why can't you go?' the fairy asked.

'It's because I'm so small, you see!' said Betsy.

'Oh, is that all?' the fairy said. 'We'll soon put that right! Come with me!'

And she waved her tiny wand, touched the rope that was fastened to the ring in the wall, and the rope fell out of the ring at once. Then the fairy led Betsy out into the yard, and said to her,

'Now I want you to stand quite still, close your eyes and say after me,

Hi diddle dee!
Riddle me ree!
I wish I were as big
As I'd like to be!'

So Betsy stood quite still. closed her eyes tight, and said,

Hi diddle dee!
Riddle me ree!
I wish I were as big
As I'd like to be!'

And before she could open her eyes, she had such a strange feeling. like pins and needles all over her body, and now when she opened her eyes she could see the ground getting farther away.

She was growing bigger!

And then she remembered that cows don't only have to be big to go to the County Show, and she began to cry again, even harder than before.

'Whatever's wrong now?' the fairy asked.

'Well, fairy, it's ever so good of you to make me bigger. But I just remembered. All the cows at the County Show have to be as clean as a new pin. And I'm all dirty from the fields.'

'Oh, is that all?' said the fairy. Never mind! Just close your eyes and say after me,

Hi diddle dee!
Riddle me ree!
I wish I were as clean
As I'd like to be!'

So Betsy closed her eyes, hoping that this would happen. After all, she said to herself, if this lovely fairy can make me bigger, perhaps she can make me clean as well. So she kept her eyes tightly closed, and said,

Hi diddle dee!
Riddle me ree!
I wish I were as clean
As I'd like to be!'

And, before she could open her eyes again, she felt a strange sort of tickling all over her body. And when she opened her eyes this time, she saw thousands and thousands of gnomes, elves and goblins running all over her, and scrubbing and cleaning and combing and polishing until in no time at all she was as clean as a new pin.

And then. once more, she remembered something else about the County Show, and this time she really sobbed because she was so sad. The fairy waved her wand and dried Betsy's tears in an instant, and said, 'Whatever's wrong now, Betsy?'

'Well, fairy,' said Betsy. It's ever so good of you to make me bigger. And it's ever so good of you to make me so clean. But I just remembered. Cows have to be taken to the County Show in a lorry, because it's twenty miles away.'

'Oh, is that all?' said the fairy. 'Never mind! Just close your eyes once more and say after me,

Hi diddle dee!
Riddle me ree!
I wish I were
Where I'd like to be!'

So Betsy closed her eyes hoping that the good fairy could make this happen. too. Then she drew in her breath and said,

Hi diddle dee!
Riddle me ree!
I wish I were
Where I'd like to be!'

And, before she could open her eyes again, she heard the sound of a brass band coming from somewhere in the distance and she smelled the smell of trodden grass. And this time, when she opened her eyes, Hill Top Farm had gone, and she saw at once that she was standing outside a large show-ground. And then she noticed that in front of her Mr Hebblethwaite was leading Daisy and Lulu Belle through the open gates of the show-ground.

Then she felt someone slap her on her side and a voice said 'Hup there!' so she ran forward and joined Daisy and Lulu Belle. But Mr Hebblethwaite never noticed her because he was marching forward like a soldier, proud and erect, leading his cows into the County Show.

Then they all paraded right round the prize ring and then stopped and everyone stood quite still, with Mr Hebblethwaite still with eyes forward and head erect.

And now all the judges, in their long white coats, came and checked all the cows, inspecting their hooves and their horns, examining their tails to make sure they had been properly combed, and looking at their teeth and their legs.

Then when all the cows, including Betsy, had been examined, the men in the white coats went back to the table with all the prizes on it in the middle of the field. And then the loudspeakers crackled and a loud voice said,


'Ladies and gentlemen ! The unanimous verdict of the judges is that the First Prize for the best Dairy Cow at this year's Show goes to Mr Hebblethwaite of Hill Top Farm !'

The crowd roared and applauded for quite a long time and Betsy noticed that Mr Hebblethwaite's neck was all red. Then the loudspeakers crackled again, and the voice said,

'And the name of the winning cow belonging to Mr Hebblethwaite of Hill Top Farm is - !

Then the voice stopped and the loudspeakers crackled again, And now a gentleman in a long white coat came running over to Mr Hebblethwaite.

'I'm sorry, Mr Hebblethwaite! We didn't make a note of the name of the winning cow !'

And now Mr Hebblethwaite took off his cap and he began to scratch his head.

'Ah, well,' he said. 'But, you see, I don't rightly know which cow you picked !'

'Oh, Mr Hebblethwaite, there was only one cow in it! The finest dairy cow I've ever seen! The one at the back! The third one!'

Mr Hebblethwaite wheeled round with his mouth open, and now he was really scratching his head as he looked at his cows. Only now there was one cow more than he had brought that morning.

'Third one?' he said. 'Third one?'

'That's the one!' said the judge, pointing to Betsy.

At first, Mr Hebblethwaite could hardly speak, but then he managed to say,

'A bit bigger, and I'd have said it was Betsy!'

'Betsy?' said the judge. 'Thank you very much, Mr Hebblethwaite!'

And he turned quickly and ran back to the table to speak to the announcer. The loudspeakers now crackled again, and the voice said,

'Ladies and gentlemen! The name of the winning cow, belonging to Mr Hebblethwaite of Hill Top Farm, is Betsy!'

Now the crowd really did roar, and two gentlemen in white coats came over to Mr Hebblethwaite who was now standing by Betsy and still scratching his head. The two gentlemen shook hands with him and then one of them hung a garland of flowers about Betsy's neck, and the other fixed on Betsy's forehead between her horns the large blue and white rosette which proclaimed that she was the First Prize Cow at the County Show. And now Mr Hebblethwaite was asked to lead Betsy once more round the prize ring while everyone cheered and congratulated him, and then it was time to go, and to join Daisy and Lulu Belle.

Then just as they were leaving the showground, Mr Hebblethwaite was stopped by a friend who wanted to congratulate him, And just for a few moments Betsy was left alone, and she heard a tiny voice in her ear,

'Betsy!'

'Oh, it's you, fairy!' said Betsy. 'Look! I did it! I won the First Prize!'

'So I see,' the fairy said, with a smile. But now it's time to go ! You must be back at the farm before Mr Hebblethwaite gets there!'

'Oh, I don't mind that now! said Betsy. 'It's been a wonderful day, and I'm so happy!'

'I'm glad,' said the fairy. 'But now you must close your eyes and say after me

'Hi diddle dee!
Riddle me ree!
I wish I were back
Where I ought to be!'

Betsy closed her eyes and said,

'Hi diddle dee!
Riddle me ree!
I wish I were back
Where I ought to be!'

And before she could open her eyes again, she knew by that warm smell of hay which she knew so well that she was back in the byre at Hill Top Farm.

Mr Hebblethwaite and his many friends searched for Betsy for hours without success, and in the end they had to report one missing dairy cow to the police before they left for home.

So it was much later that day that Mr Hebblethwaite walked sadly down the yard and into the byre. And what he saw there made him scratch his head more furiously than he had scratched it all that day.

For there, in her own stall, was his Betsy, the same small sweet Betsy he had left that morning. But now there was a beautiful garland round her neck, and on her forehead between her horns was the blue and white rosette which said to everyone that this was Betsy, the First Prize Cow at the County Show!



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