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Some of you took me up on my offer to tag along on my next visit into the forest. The story below is about another secret the kids agreed to let us in on. 

Midnight Snail Races

I met with four brave and curious readers who actually took me up on my invite to come along on my next visit into the woods. After a very long lunch where I explained the importance of keeping the location a super secret they all said they understood and wouldn't betray the promises I had made to the village and more importantly the kids. I explained to them that in their village the adults always kept their promises to the children. They were loved,cared for and cherished. It is simply out of the question for a villager to ever think kids were a bother. So my promise to them not to 'tell' is sacred to me and I share with others only what they tell me I can. I always ask.

So after a short ride in my old wagon we arrived at the edge of the wood. I found the hidden entrance and went in first. Of course the kids had seen us coming for the last half hour and were there to greet me and ask about the others. I filled them in and seeing as how I had kept all my promises to them to date they threw open the door and almost dragged the others in. Everybody was talking at once so I just let that drizzle out until they all looked at me with that 'what now' look. So I suggested we visit the Good Witch and off we went. She was of course delighted to have company and all of her wards after a bit came out of hiding and it was everybody talking at once again. The Good Witch was smiling and sent a few of her creatures off to make tea. Once we were all settled I noticed the kids were whispering among themselves which usually meant they were voting on yet another big decision regarding one of their many secrets. Yeah they agreed among themselves the old guy (me) was OK but what about these new folks.

They must have passed muster so Maelynn took the lead as usual and got the attention of everyone there. Apparently this was a BIG One because all except we very tall people knew what was coming. 

In her soft but perfectly clear voice she asked us to follow her. After a whole bunch of lefts and rights, back and forth over the same stream a few times and around a final bend we arrived in a small clearing with sheds around the perimeter. And in the sheds were snails. Not just any snails of course, but kid sized snails. Snails of all different colors and shell shapes. In the accepted way of snails they didn't seem to be doing anything. But they did seem to be anticipating something as they slowly turned a stalked eye towards the children.

With no words spoken the kids went separately to the sheds and emerged wearing what appeared to be horse racing silks, riding boots and gloves and harnesses. Each went to what turned out to be their 'ride' (their pet snail it turns out) and after harnessing up mounted and lined up abreast. The Good Witch appeared with a staring flag counted to three and they were off. 

Now anyone would think not only was this the silliest thing they'd ever seen but would also assume this race would be very boring and very slow. Who wouldn't?

Well wonder of wonders while these racing snails wouldn't break any land speed records they did move along at a brisk pace. After we 'outsiders' pushed our jaws back up and looked at each other in amazement we began laughing with the pure joy of it all. In no time we picked our favorites and followed along the twisting race course with the crowd. Johny on Secretariat  had broken out in front and the rest of the pack was hot on his tail. I was hollering and rooting for Mary Sue riding her beautiful Whirlaway. She just had this determined look on her face that the smallest kid always has and was creeping up one snail at a time on Johny. Those snails were motoring along hugging the tight bends and pouring it on in the straightaways. Mary Sue had gotten past the pack in the middle and was closing in on Johnny's black racer. But her mauve and gold colored racing snail must have heard Mary Sue whisper in it's ear over all the crowd noise and reached down for a gear it didn't know it had. In what seemed like a blur her racer leaped forward and put its nose over the finish line an inch in front of the favored Secretariat 

I went nuts of course and acted like a child (which I'm accused of quite often) but it was sooooooo fun. We big people fell to the ground exhausted but smiling ear to ear. Regaining a bit of our composure we flooded the kids with questions like how did they get the snails to go so fast, how did the snails get their beautiful colors, did their their parents know about all this, were snails related to race horses and other really stupid people kind of questions.

And here's what they told us.....The tradition of kids caring for their pet snails went back in their lore since way before we humans came along. They refer to that time as the 'Way Back'. 

At that time their arose a great and wise leader whose name was 'The Great and Wise Leader'. She held sway over all the living things that inhabited what I call the Underworld. From gnomes, trolls, fairies, and elves to the animals (from ants and snails and rabbits and birds and turtles and mice and lady bugs, and well, all of them) to plants and moss and yep all of them too.

....More to come .....