CHapter Nine: The Double Dee Race

Every now and then the Grand Dingily Dell Sugar Mill would announce “THE GREAT DOUBLE DEE RACE”. Posters would appear all over town.
The race would, of course, take place on the coming Wednesday. The race starts at one o’clock.
The course for the race was clearly displayed. It would start in the Dingley Dell market square. It ran along the path up the hill and down the other side to the port. There it performed a u-turn outside the Port Emporium and back up the hill. As it approached the town it turned off to the left down the farm track and around the fields of the potato and carrot farms. From there it carried on along the track out to the sorting office. Outside the sorting office, it returned back onto the main path towards the town and then turned off to the left and onto the riverside path. This follows the river down to the Sugar Mill where it turned right alongside the mill and back to the finishing line in the market square.

These were the rules.

  1. No help or hindrance is allowed.
  2. No using any other means of transport.
  3. Everyone must start and finish the race in the same trolley.
  4. Everyone must use only the trolley allocated.

As you can tell from the rules of the race, it was a trolley race. But not all trollies were equal. The older trollies were not as fast as the younger ones. To even up the race each trolley would have a rider and if necessary an amount of sugar for extra weight.

There was no particular skill required to be a trolley rider. The rider was not driving. The primary responsibility of the rider was to remain in the trolley.

The list of runners was published as follows:
Trolley 1 – Oliver Ostrich (the second youngest)
Trolley 2 – Morris Unicorn
Trolley 5 – Harry Halibut (plus a tank of water and carried to the race by Patrick Bear)
Trolley 15 – Brian Rabbit
Trolley 18 – Thomas Rabbit
Trolley 25 – Fluffy Little Ostrich (her favourite Trolley but supposedly allocated by weight calculation only. What a coincidence!)
Trolley 26 – Billy Badger
Trolley 27 – Malcolm Badger
Trolley 30 – Oliver Ostrich (the third youngest)
Trolley 31 – Mister Badger (who had seen the race poster and had carelessly said “I wish I could still do that”)
Trolley 121 – Sothwik Sloth and six bags of sugar.

On the morning of the race, the good folk of Dingily Dell were going about their business as usual. On a Wednesday that business was mainly swapping their excess goods and services with each over at the SwapExchange. But on this occasion, there was also a degree of excitement in the air (narrators note: and remember there was also a lot of sugariness in the air too. That air was having a busy day today).
A little before one o’clock the Trollies trolled out from the Sugar Mill. They were dressed up with ribbons, big clear panels with their numbers on and were all looking as excited and raring to go (as far as trollies are able to look excited). They gathered in the middle of the market square.

From the crowd, there also appeared a number of race marshals. Everyone knew they were race marshals as they wore sashes saying “Race Marshal”. The race marshals were volunteers from around the town. One such volunteer was Oliver Ostrich from the Farm Cooperative. The first job for the marshals was to ensure the right rider was loaded into the right trolley. Most of the riders were quite capable of finding and climbing aboard their designated trolley. A few needed pointing to the right trolley and a couple needed a helping hand to climb up (the very young and Mister Badger). Patrick Bear placed the fish tank containing the very excited Harry Halibut into Trolley number 5.

The Town Hall clock then struck one. “DONG”.

There was an immediate screeching of tyres (and screeching of riders) as the trollies sped off up the main path from Dingily Dell towards the hill.

Sothwik and Trolley number 121 were easily the first away despite the extra bags of sugar to slow him down.

Morris Unicorn was immediately aware, as he was tossed in all directions, that Trolley number 2 had a wonky wheel. (Narrators note: isn’t that always the way. You grab a trolley, and soon as you have gone too far to change to another, you find you have one with a wonky wheel). Fortunately for Morris, his father, Derrick, had given him a “Practical Wish Card” just in case. “Oh I wish I didn’t have a trolley with a wonky wheel,” he said holding up the card. The card disappeared and the wonky wheel was fixed. (Narrators note: technically this was a breach of the race rules. But it was not really a breach that would help him win. Just a breach that would help stop him from losing. However, there was a natural justice in that had it been wrong then the magic would not have worked so that settled it). Morris was delighted. Trolley number 2 was very happy too. He had been worrying about that wheel all morning.

As they started to climb the hill, Oliver in Trolley number 30 overtook Sothwik. But as soon as they reached the top Trolley number 121 retook the lead. Mister Badger in Trolly number 31 was in last place. Trolley number 31 was trying to be as gentle as possible with his older passenger.

All of the riders were loving the experience. Apart from the slow and steady ride on the Cable Bus they all only ever walked, galloped or hopped.

As they passed “the house where we live” the young Ostriches waved frantically to Mother and Father Ostrich who were standing at the garden gate. Father Ostrich had little Oliver sitting on his shoulders. (Narrator’s note: as you might imagine a young Ostrich sitting on a grown-up Ostriches shoulders is a thing to be seen and marvelled at but it was a reliable method of containing Oliver and preventing an accident).

Then they got to the Cable Bus, the hill became quite steep. Harry Halibut found himself right up against the front of the tank and had a bit of a tidal wave thing going on but Patrick had allowed for this in his selection of the tank. Harry was loving it anyway. It was a totally unique experience for a fish.

Sothwik and Trolley 121 were at the bottom of the hill way ahead of all the others. That extra weight, added to slow them down, had speeded them up going downhill.

Now they arrived at the Port. Outside the Port Emporium stood Norbuttley Rabbit wearing his Race Marshal sash. He ensured they didn’t cut any corners, even accidentally, doing the U-turn. There was much shrieking as the trollies u-turned and headed back up the hill. Harry Halibut finding himself stuck up against the side of the tank this time but still loving it.

As Trolley number 25 u-turned, Fluffy blew a kiss to Norbuttley which made him blush (but being a rabbit it didn’t show). All of the trollies were now going back up the hill. Norbuttley set off Dingily Dell to catch the end of the race.

The Trollies and riders, still with Mister Badger in last place, got to the top of the hill and again waved to the Ostriches in their front garden. Once all the trollies had passed and Norbuttley had walked up the hill, the Ostriches joined him to walk down to the town.

At the bottom of the hill, before they got to the edge of the town, they saw Mr Owl wearing a race marshal sash pointing to the farm track off to the left. Again with much shrieking (more than was necessary, and some coming from Mister Badger) they turned down the farm track. (Narrators note: The Trollies all knew the course perfectly. The need for race marshals was more for helping everyone feel part of the event than to actually direct anyone).

The course now got a lot more bumpy as they left the farm track and started along the path around the potato field. Right on the corner of the field stood ‘Marmaduke the Shire’ wearing his sash. He wasn’t really there to direct the racers but more to ensure no one rode over his potato seedlings.

At the far corner of the carrot field stood Derrick the Post, also wearing a sash, and making sure everyone was doing well. He too had a ‘Practical Wish Card’ just in case, but it wasn’t needed. Everyone was obviously enjoying themselves. Morris called and waved to his father as he passed. Even Harry Halibut, although splashing about in his tank, was having a good go at shrieking with joy (which is quite a feat for a fish).

They left the fields and headed down the track towards the sorting office. Outside the sorting office stood ‘Marshal Unicorn’ who was also wearing a sash. While he was a race marshal, it was also his name so he felt obliged to volunteer and wear the sash. He also worked in the sorting office and had been rather roped into it by Derrick. He didn’t have much to do. The course clearly returned to the main path back towards the town.

At this point, the race order was still with Sothwik clearly in front. Brian Rabbit was second and Morris third. The rest were all about even with the order changing frequently. Secondly from last was Harry Halibut in Trolley number 5 and trailing in last place was Mister Badger.

A little before the town the main path ran alongside the river. As the river split off to the left the course left the main path and followed the riverside path. All of the Trollies took extra care. Everyone knew how easy it was for trollies to end up in rivers.

They carried on along the riverside path until they reached the rear of the Sugar Mill with its beautiful, huge water wheel that was still turning, of course, as the Sugar Mill production, like the river, does not stop because it is a Wednesday.

Here the riverside path has to turn down the side of the Sugar Mill. If you walked the full length of the riverside path you would have to walk around to the front of the Mill and back down the other side to return to the river. Old Fletcher had considered building a bridge over the river on either side of the water wheel but then thought it would prevent walkers from having the opportunity of calling into the Sugar Mill Shop.

The trollies, now at full throt-troll (a word they invented for a trolley going fast, but fortunately for trollies, they never had to try to say it) they arrived back at the Market square. Obviously, Sothwik and Trolley number 121 had won, but no one really cared. The race had been such great fun. Mister Badger was last, but really he was glad as the younger ones would not have wanted to be last. Trolley number 31 was not bothered either as he has volunteered to be last during the Trolley only race planning meeting.

All the parents met the young riders. Patrick collected Harry and Oliver and Olivia Ostrich helped Mister Badger back down to solid ground.

Everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the whole event and were looking forward to the next one whenever that would be.

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