by Mary Grace Mauney
Fall was in the air. Pumpkins were growing ripe on their vines, a breeze was starting to blow with just the faintest hint of chill, and the leaves were getting more and more tinged with red, gold, and brown every day. In other words, it was perfect weather for a hay ride to celebrate the coming harvest season! Miss Blatz had taken her young ward Sam down to a barn in the country where just such a treat was being offered. Sam had demanded the midnight Halloween ride, but her adopted mother had said no. They had compromised by coming at dusk so at least it could be a little bit spooky for Sam, which was exactly what she wanted. Even more exciting, Sam was getting to go on the ride alone; Miss Blatz didn’t want to sit in the dirty scratchy straw, so she was going to wait in the barn.
“Now, have fun,” Miss Blatz told Sam as the wagon driver picked up the little rat and plopped her down gently in the back of the wagon with the other children, both human and animal, who were riding that night as well.
“Oh, I will!” Sam chirped back, “Maybe I’ll even get scared!”
Miss Blatz shook her whiskers at that; she’d never under understand this child. The wagon driver, having finished loading everyone up, walked back around to the front of the cart and shook the reins. The horses promptly trotted out, and the evening hay ride through the countryside began. “Whee!” Sam jumped up on one of the hay bales and poke her nose over the side of the wagon so she could see better. The sun was already on its way down, and the sky was gray. Besides the barn that the wagon had just left, there were no buildings as far as her little black eyes could see, just pastures and pens and farmland and, up ahead, some wonderfully spooky-looking woods that she hoped the ride would pass through.
“Excuse me,” said a small voice behind her, “Is that a Migrubbie vest that you have on?”
Sam turned and saw a small dog, about MiMee’s size, speaking to her. She was white with black and brown fur on her back and head, and was wearing a Mister Migs bandana.
“Yeah!” said Sam, “Miss Blatz wanted me to wear it in case it got chilly out. She’s my foster mom; I’m Sam, by the way.”
“I’m Hazel,” said the little dog, “My mom brought me here too, but she isn’t riding, is yours?”
“Nope, Miss Blatz is waiting in the barn,” said Sam, and then added with pride, “I’m all on my own too!”
The two hit it off immediately, and began chatting together as they watched the sights go by. A little while after the barn had vanished from sight, something spooked the horses. They took off running fast enough that, when the wagon hit a bump in the road, it sent Hazel and Sam flying out of the cart!