Peter Pylon stood knee-deep in a small wood. Over the tops of the trees he could see his two friends, Patrick and Paul. Patrick, legs wide apart, stood in the middle of the cornfield at the top of the hill. Paul stood down in the valley by the river.
Peter and Patrick both envied Paul, because all the most interesting things seemed to happen down by the river. There was always a boat or two going up and down. Small rowing-boats rowed by not very expert schoolboys. Smart cabin-cruisers full of holiday-makers. Old-fashioned punts nestling under the weeping willows. Fast racing-boats stroked by serious young men.
Then there were the families of water-hens, with chicks being herded along by their fussing mothers. And just occasionally a pair of stately swans sailed down river with all the dignity of a royal procession.
Peter sighed, and his sigh rippled along the wires until it reached Patrick.
‘What’s the matter, Peter ?’ Patrick whistled back over the wires.
If Peter had had a head to shake he would have shaken it.
‘I don’t know. But it’s so boring just standing here holding these wires.’
Patrick rattled the wires impatiently.
‘Well, at least you’ve got the wood all round you, and all the animals and the birds to watch and listen to. I haven’t got anything to watch – just an empty field. I can’t even see the river properly from here.’
Peter stared at him over the swaying treetops.
‘I don’t know how you can say that. You can watch the cricket-match on the village green. I’ve often heard you and Terry Terminal discussing the game. All I can hear is the crack of the bat hitting the ball and the sound of people clapping.’
Paul cracked his wires across the river.
‘What people clapping ? What are you two talking about ? I can’t hear anything down here for the quacking of these stupid ducks !’
‘We were talking about the cricket-match in the village,’ said Peter. I was just telling Patrick how lucky he and Terry Terminal are to be able to see the match. I can only hear it. It’s maddening !’
Paul sneezed and the wires shook all the way past Patrick, all the way to Peter.
‘I dod’t even dow what a cricket-batch – atishoo ! – is. But I do dow I’b tired of havig soakig wet feet ad these bad codes !’
A family of magpies now arrived in Patrick’s cornfield and settled down to a feast , until their leader caught sight of a tall figure standing in the middle of the field, wearing a top hat and waving its arms at them. He cawed out a warning to the others and they rose at once with a flurry and settled on Patrick’s outstretched arms.
‘Good evening !’ said Patrick. ‘Welcome to Ten Acre Field !’
The largest magpie ruffled his elegant feathers.
‘Oh, that’s where we are, is it ? We’d lost our way, and decided to drop in for a snack.’
He nodded his head towards the figure down below in the field.
‘That chap in the field down there. Not very welcoming, is he ? Has he got a gun ?’
‘I expect so,’ Patrick said. ‘And if he hasn’t, the gamekeeper in my friend’s wood is sure to have one. I shouldn’t hang about here too long, if I were you.’
The magpie cawed in a cross sort of way.
‘We’ll be off as soon as we’ve got our breath back. We know when we’re not wanted.’
‘Now don’t be like that,’ said Patrick. ‘The farmer works very hard to grow corn, you know. He doesn’t want all sorts of strangers dropping in out of the blue and gobbling it all up.’
The magpie flapped his wings in temper, gathered his family together and flew away.
Peter and Patrick watched the magpie flock getting smaller and smaller as they climbed high into the sky. Then the two friends looked down at the scarecrow in the field below and their wires shook with laughter.
‘Stupid creatures !’ said Patrick. ‘They really believe it’s a man, you know. They never learn !’ And he and Peter laughed and laughed until their wires swung crazily from side to side.
Then, over the wires, came a loud whistling roar, so loud that it even reached across the river to Paul.
‘Good heabeds !’ croaked Paul. ‘Whateber’s that ?’
‘Don’t worry !’ Patrick called back to him. ‘It’s only Terry Terminal down in the village pulling rank again – just because he’s got a few more wires than us, and all those other bits and pieces. Ever since he was made our group leader he thinks he can boss us about. He says we’re swinging the wires too much and we’ve got to stop it.’
‘Oh, well,’ said Peter, ‘ the sun’s gone down anyway, so I guess it’s time we settled down.’
‘Yes, I suppose so. The lights are coming on in the village, and I’m tired anyway. Good night, you chaps. See you again in the morning !’ And he settled himself down for the night.
‘Good night, Patrick !’ said Peter. ‘Good night, Paul ! I hope your cold’s better in the morning.’
But down in the valley, beside the river, the night comes earlier, and Paul was already fast asleep. Peter stood in his wood, watching the night creatures as they crept from their hiding places and busied themselves hunting each other. And now the owl hooted and the wood-pigeons crooned and, after a while, Peter Pylon slept too, his strong arms still holding the wires carrying the power that lit up all the villages, and the towns and the cities all over the land.
So, you see, Peter and Patrick and Paul and Terry Terminal are really very important people to us all.
Don’t you agree ?