Middle Earth ~ A Bilbo Story

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© 2010, Stephen Gilbert

It all started when little Tommy Longfurrow went missing! Up until then only a few livestock had been nabbed; a baby lamb, a couple of free grazing goats, a few chickens and a prize goose… the last snatched right out of the mill pond below Crazy Acre Farm, if you please. But this was serious. There was no doubt in anybody's mind who… or rather, what… has taken the small Hobbit child. The villagers of Old Windy Mile knew it was the Boogie Man. Tommy Longfurrow had been grabbed from his bed and dragged kicking and screaming out of his open window and into the cold and blustery night. It was Lobelia Sackville Baggins of Bag End visiting her sister in Upper Windy Mile who proposed mounting the search party. Bilbo Baggins no doubt, on one of his regular excursions roaming some of the more wild and uncharted parts of the Shire, his friend, Fatty Bolger… and three local Sheriffs, all agreed to join Lobelia in the hunt for the missing child – in the morning, after the pale winter's sun came peeping over the crest of Rangers Hill away off in the East. It was a well known fact that the Boogie Man didn't come out once the sun has risen. But Bilbo Baggins hadn't been idle during the night; and the second the commotion had started, while the village folk were consoling the Longfurrows over little Tommy, Bilbo had searched the fields immediately surrounding Crazy Acre Farm. The farm was built to one side of the village, set back from the Mill House and village pond. Quite visible to most the burrow dwellings of Old Windy Mile, but secluded enough for anyone to whisk the child away before people could do anything about it. Bilbo didn't believe in the Boogie Man. He was wise enough to know there were enough strange and terrifying things in the world without having to invent more from the imagination. Then he discovered the footprints in the snow! Big , like a large dog's paw prints. A wolf, driven down from the hills by hunger, no doubt? Strange, Bilbo hadn't heard of wolves straying this far south in almost a life time of winters. But Bilbo reflected, this cold February… although not particularly snowy… had been bitterly cold and cruel none the less. Yes, as he scouted around, he found a few more paw prints in the last remaining tufts of snow. “That's lucky,” Bilbo thought, “in a few more days that snow would have been gone altogether, and I`d never have noticed those prints leading up to… and away from Tommy`s window.” He was right, of course, the new born sun was already gathering strength and preparing to enthuse his waxing power upon the tired and hungry land. In another day, or two, at the most, the snow prints would not have been visible at all - even to a keen and searching eye. “There`s more to this than meets the eye” Bilbo said to himself, “or I`m no Baggins.”