Molly McMule's Horse Tales – 1001 Stall Stories

"What was that? It just swooped down and swished past my ear!" asked Desi, the youngest of the pasture mates, as they grazed in the dusk.

"Nothing much, just one of the bats flying around. It's getting darker just a little earlier each day because fall is coming. See how the leaves are changing colors and all the pumpkins in the field are growing so big," explained her mother. "Soon lots of children will be coming to pick out their pumpkin to carve for Halloween."

"What's Halloween anyway?" Desi wondered. She hadn't been here long enough to see this before and it was a strange sounding word.

"Halloween is a day kids love because they get all dressed up in scary costumes, go to people's houses and yell, "Trick or Treat!" said Fern.

"Why would they do that?" asked the foal.

 "To get candy or some other treat. It's also a good night for parties and telling ghost stories," chimed in some of the other horses who knew all about these things.

"What's a ghost story? Could you tell me one?" asked the young 'un.

"Well, I'll tell you the one about 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' and the headless horseman," said Fern.

"The story takes place a long, long time ago, in the little village of Sleepy Hollow, where most of the people were Dutch settlers. It was a quiet little town and there wasn't much to do and not much excitement. Families visited each other, had dinner and eventually would sit by the fire telling of their experiences with strange happenings, visions and eerie encounters, especially with the 'headless horseman'. He was the ghost of a Hessian trooper who lost his head in a Revolutionary War battle. At night, he was said to roam the valley searching for his head.

By now, all the other horses were gathering in the moonlit pasture to hear Fern tell the story to Desi.

"There was a tall, lanky, rather homely school teacher in the village named Ichabod Crane. He would add to his small earnings by teaching singing to some children after school in addition to the regular school sessions. But since the village women, especially, generally considered schoolteachers an important person, he relied on their hospitality to really supplement his income. He was invited to dinners frequently and joined in the gossiping and tale telling with enthusiasm.

"Ichabod was particularly fond of one of the young ladies, Katrina Van Tassel, who was the daughter of a very prosperous farmer. He dreamed about courting her and someday marrying her, hoping he would also reap the benefits of her father's wealth.

"But Katrina, being such a good marriage prospect, had other suitors too! And one in particular was Brom Van Brunt. He was totally opposite from Ichabod - broad shouldered, handsome, full of fun. In fact, he was quite mischievous. His nickname was Brom Bones.

"One fall day after a party at the Van Tassels, and after a particularly good session of ghost stories, some men again told of seeing the Hessian bolting and vanishing in a flash of fire by the church bridge. It was a story that really made an impression on Ichabod and as he left the house and made his way toward the church, he began to feel that someone… or something… was riding along beside him. The faster he went, the faster his pursuer went, and more and more he began thinking of all the stories he had heard that evening. He raced along as fast his old horse could gallop but he could not seem to outrun whatever it was that was following him. All of a sudden, in the dark shadows, and near the brook, like the one flowing through our pasture, he saw what appeared to be some gigantic monster ready to pounce on him.

"His hair stood on end, and he tried calling to the 'thing' but got no answer. He could only see that it was a large black horse with what looked like a rider. Soon, to his horror, he realized that he had no head, but instead was carrying his head on the pommel of the saddle.

"Terrified, Ichabod tried kicking and spurring his horse, Gunpowder, but the girths of the saddle gave way, and he felt it slipping from under him. He tried to save himself by hanging on to old Gunpowder's neck, and finally his saddle fell off and he heard it being trampled by his ghostly pursuer. After what seemed like an endless chase he finally saw the bridge where the Hessian supposedly disappeared and he felt encouraged that maybe that would mean safety.

Just then, he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him. He even imagined that he could feel its hot breath. He gave Gunpowder another swift kick and as he took a quick look behind him, he saw the ghost tossing his head at him.

"The next morning, the old horse that Ichabod had been riding, was found without his saddle and standing by his master's gate nibbling on grass. The townspeople found Ichabod's hat by the stream, but there was no sign of the teacher… only a smashed pumpkin nearby."

"What do you suppose happened to him?," asked Desi, with a quivery little catch in her throat.

'Well, a long time later, someone who traveled to another small town, thought they saw a school teacher that looked like Ichabod, but every time the story was told, Brom Bones, would quietly laugh and look very smug as though he knew the whole story. Eventually the old school house was deserted and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the scrawny, odd teacher. Some say that at times his voice can still be heard chanting a tune in the quiet little village."

"Oh my, what was that?!" squealed Desi as she jumped and scooted in fright.

Soon all the horses were laughing and whinnying, and one finally said, "That was just your tail, silly!"

Molly says you can find the entire "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving on the Internet in Whispers From the Cabinet and also at your library.