An inhabitant of the parish in which I reside--South Brent--has told me that he very well remembers how, in his youth, the people used to believe implicitly in the pixy riders, or, at all events, some of the people did. Farmers' horses which were kept on Aish Ridge, a common adjoining the moor, were frequently found in the morning in a very exhausted condition, having, apparently, been ridden hard during the night. This was set down as the work of the pixies, and it was, of course, very easy for those who desired that such a belief should be accepted to go so far as to actually aver that they had seen the little goblins riding them. And that there were those who had such a desire is true enough. Boom-boom *tish*.
It appears that some of the more adventurous spirits in the neighbourhood were, at this time, engaged in the not unprofitable practice of smuggling, and on the expected arrival of a cargo of contraband goods on the coast--generally somewhere about Tor Cross--would make their way across country through the night, in order to assist at the landing, and afterwards to bear away the kegs of cognac. Now, the horses employed upon these midnight journeys were borrowed (without going through the form of making an application for them to their owners) from those kept on Aish Ridge, and were duly returned before daybreak.
Such good people as were totally oblivious of the fact that there were men engaged in "deeds of daring" living in their midst, saw the condition of the animals, and not being able to account for their tired and jaded appearance in any other way, straightway supposed that they had been ridden by the pixies. Though their surmises were incorrect, it is still true enough that the steeds would never have been found in such a state, were it not for the spirits.
It's nice to know there have always been lovers of terrible jokes.
Tales of the Dartmoor Pixies
by William Crossing
online at the Sacred Texts Archive
Posted by Rhiannon
6th November 2006ce
Edited 6th November 2006ce