THE BUGGY SHOP
CREAK! The gate hinges squealed as it twirled open and they exited the dairy. Driving hard over the hay they zoomed through Mercury’s stall. The pony galloped up the long winding wooden ramp and the buggy’s wheels vibrated across the boards causing a rhythmic rumbling.
Last year, Charlie rode on a wooden roller coaster with his cousin, Roan. After reaching the top, the car dropped toward the earth and careened down the track. They struggled to hang on, not from falling down, but from falling up and out of their car.
The smell of smoke filled the air as they reached the pristine entry doors. The buggy whizzed by and into a cavernous space. It was full of sheds with tables and armies of armadillos! Chipmunks scurried around with nuts and bolts in their baskets.
As they drove through the shop Walter took a deep breath and said, “smells like Pedro has locked the flue again.”
Then Mercury whinnied, “Yes! He can’t reach the lever to open the chimney flue. The furnace’s smoke is filling up the shop!”
They pulled up to a shed with a slate roof. It was supported by rough hewn timbers and smoke bellowed out from under it.
“Wait here, Charlie.” Walter said, “I’ll open the flue and then we can see the blacksmith’s shed.”
Charlie could hear metal screeching against stone, then a loud BANG rattled through the space. As the fumes vaporized, the open shed began to take form. Charlie could see a heavy table with patterns of burn marks gouged into its surface. A massive anvil was mounted atop a boulder next to a tub of black water. Tools hung on the back wall like soldiers ready for battle.
The centerpiece was a stone chimney structure with a fire blazing inside its hearth. Laughter erupted from behind the chimney as a huge bull walked out wiping his hooves with a large charcoal stained rag. Then Walter emerged covered in black soot. The bull handed him a towel and Walter wiped the grunge from his face.
Charlie smiled at the funny sight, “Walter, you have a black cap, now!” he exclaimed, then climbed down from his seat.
Mercury trotted away giggling and he gave a sigh of relief as he headed back to his stall.
The big bull towered over them. His muscles rippled as he picked up a hammer the size of a small tree and he offered his other hoof to Charlie in greeting. His gentle smile and light touch reassured Charlie that he was as nice as he was strong.
“Hi, I’m Pedro. I’m the Blacksmith. I make all the metal parts for the Buggy Shop. It’s a tough job, but I like it,” he said with a gruff MOOooo.
Charlie was enthralled by the various tools and the thought of making things. He wanted to know more and asked, “What are you working on, now?”
“Ah, these are the metal treads for the wheels,” he said, lifting a thin strip of metal from the table. “I heat it up in the forge.” Then he took the strip and placed it into the forge. Sparks flew as it touched the hot coals. When the metal glowed, he took it out with heavy tongs and said, “I hammer it out on the anvil to get the right shape and thickness.”
Charlie flinched as Pedro gave the metal several hard strikes sending bits of metal shards flying. Then he laid it on a round wooden mold and he continued his narration.
“I keep working on it until it fits the wheel mold and then cool it off in the water.” When he was happy with the results, he slid the ring off of the mold and into the tub of water. The steam filled the shop with a moist metallic smell. He pulled it out after a few seconds and put it on a cart.
“Then Arthur takes the treads to the wheelwright and she puts them on the buggy wheels.”
Charlie watched in amazement. “Who’s Arthur?” Charlie asked.
Pedro began to answer when a leathery ball rolled down a ramp and popped open.
“I’m Arthur!” the armadillo exclaimed. He entered right on cue as if he were waiting to enter a stage.
Walter whispered in Charlie’s ear, “Arthur is in charge of the Buggy Shop.”
“Ohhh...” Charlie said and nodded.
Arthur snagged Charlie’s arm and smiled. “Charlie, now that you’ve seen the blacksmith’s shed, let me show you the rest!”
Charlie waved to Pedro as they walked down the path. Arthur launched into an in-depth description of the buggy-making process. There were various buggy sizes on the assembly line from tiny mouse sized buggies to huge horse wagons. They came in multiple colors like black with blue trim or purple with yellow polka dots. Charlie admired the red buggy with white racing stripes.
Walter followed the tour and greeted each armadillo by name. They traded the day’s news and then he bounced to catch up with the group. When they got to the end, each buggy was given to a puller for delivery. The big buggies were pulled by towering draft horses with hooves the size of dinner plates. A set of prancing horses pulled a two-horse carriage and a spotted pony trotted away with a smaller buggy. A string of three tiny buggies were pulled by a wee little mouse. Charlie chuckled at the sight.
“Hermes is our strongest delivery mouse. He can deliver up to six mouse-size buggies at one time.” Arthur said and turned to Walter with a smile. “Ginny has a surprise for you. Hey, Ginny, bring it out!”
A black and white goat rounded the corner pulling a bright orange buggy. Hand painted vines with pumpkin blossoms garnished its sides.
Walter leapt into the air. He hugged her with his vines. “It’s beautiful!” he exclaimed and Ginny beamed with pride. The buggy had a wooden seat covered with a cushion for two passengers.
“Do you want to go for a ride to the orchard?” Ginny asked. “It’s apple picking season and the goats are stacking them high this year. We have a huge crop!”
“Hop on, Charlie! Let’s go see the orchard. There are apple, peach, pear, and cherry trees. Now is the season for APPLES. Your Aunt Wilmuth makes scrumptious cherry-apple pies.” He paused while his tummy rumbled with appreciation. “Ah, pie....”
Then the buggy lurched forward as they headed for their new destination.