In the United Kingdom the last of the ponies were taken out of the pits in 1994 and attracted great media attention. In KEZZIE the story of the runaway hutches is based on fact - many miners will tell you of animals giving them warning of some danger about to happen. At this part of the story (Chapter 9) Kezzie and Lucy and Grandad have found shelter together in an old farm bothy. It is a winter evening and Grandad begins to tell a story of the time he was a pit lad and had started working in the coal mines when he was just twelve years old.
‘I was up at five in the morning and down the pit by half-past six, and it was a long long walk there and back, and hard hard work when you got there. But I looked forward to it every day of my youth, and do you know why? Because the best friend I had in all the world lived down that pit.’
Kezzie stopped her darning to listen.
‘This friend’s name was Meg and she was a beauty. She had brown hair and soft brown eyes, and as soon as she heard my voice in the morning calling her she would come to meet me. Now you might ask yourself what was a nice young lady doing living down a mine. Or perhaps you’ve guessed the secret already?’ He bent his head and looked at Lucy.
‘Meg was a pony!’ Lucy cried.
‘Yes, Meg was a pony,’ agreed Grandad. ‘And she wasn’t just pretty, she had brains as well. And I’m going to tell you how I found that out.’ He settled himself more comfortably in his chair.
‘The ponies pulled the train of coal hutches backwards and forwards, the full ones from the face, the empty ones back, on separate lines. One day Meg and I were bringing the empties back along their rails when she stopped dead, and then crossed over on to the full track. Her ears were back and she was trembling. I was very surprised. Meg had never done anything like that before. And then I heard the sound of a runaway train!
I thought quickly. I couldn’t tell which track they were on, but if it was the full one we would both be killed with the weight of the coal in the hutches. On the empty track we might get off lighter. I grabbed her harness and pulled her back over. The crashing noise of the wagons were almost on top of us when she tossed her head and, with me still hanging on her halter, landed us both on the full side. I screamed. I thought my end had come. Then the runaway wagons, five unloaded hutches, roared past us on the empty line.’
‘And that,’ said Lucy, finishing the story for him, ‘is how a pit pony saved the life of a pit lad.’