W3C Pete Gets the Horn DO U KNOW?
 

Every couple of years it would be time to make a new walking stick; not that we needed to, if you look after the one you have it will last donkey's years but it was a ritual, usually carried out in the dying light of a Sunday afternoon after the pub had shut. As you climb out of Ambleside toward Sweden Bridge you will come across a wooded area with some old quarry workings on the right. The quarry was worked in the late 1800s by a builder called Newton, hence Newton's Wood. This was the frequent venue for walks at the weekend all the year round. Each of us would mentally mark the location of a possible stick candidate and keep a quiet eye on its progress. Opinion differed as to the best time to cut the proposed stick. One old lad reckoned the light of a full moon was best until he spent a couple of hours slipping and sliding around, occasionally falling on his arse. It was a full moon alright that night with a total cloud cover and as black as hell.

Once you had found a suitable stick, cut it and spent an inordinate amount of time preparing it, the final decision had to be made and that was the type of handle. Personally I go for bending the top of the shaft, a laborious but satisfying job. Pete however was advocate of a sheep's horn and all the local flocks were at one time or another assessed with his beady eye.

Now there was a farmer living high on the fell named Johnny ......... who had a ram. Not only was this ram shall we say prolific but it was also Johnny's pet, following him dog like around his fields. The icing on the cake was the ram that was named Duke (the owner was a John Wayne fan), had a magnificent set of horns much coveted by the local stick-making community. On more than one occasion Johnny had turned down offers for Duke's horns.

Things ticked along for quite a while and then one morning whilst in the course of servicing another ewe Duke had a massive heart attack and literally turned up his toes. The local hunt were soon in touch for his carcass to feed to the hounds, but Johnny had other ideas and soon a hole was dug on a wooded knoll overlooking the site of his last stand. Johnny, with a tear in his eye, laid Duke to rest and that should have been the end of the matter. But, as you will already have guessed, it wasn't! Word of Duke's demise rapidly spread and inspired much interest among his many admirers. The location of his grave was well cased, but its proximity to Johnny's farm house and his well-known love of his late pet proved something of a deterrent.

All this was pointed out to Pete, who undeterred made plans for the exhumation of Duke. Despite strong advice against, he formulated a plan; as events were subsequently to show perhaps not the best one, but plans made of closing time usually never are. In a dead of night we processed up the hill and arrived at the grave site. Overhead in the old oak tree an owl hooted ominously. Jack walked up to me. "This is a bloody stupid idea," he said.

I looked at him. "Can't say I disagree with that," I said, "but we're here now and Johnny is out for the evening." Looking down the hill, the farmhouse in darkness supported this observation.

"Never mind yapping, bloody dig," whispered Pete, putting his boot to the spade and lifting a clod of earth. It didn't take much digging to uncover Duke, or more accurately where Duke should have been, because he was not there. Instead in the hole was a bottle of whisky and attached to it was a note which read, "Have this on me, lads!" Pete, his face like thunder, glared down the hill at the darkened farmhouse. "The bugger!" he exclaimed.

"Never mind," I said, "he's left something in, even though it's a bottle of bloody Bell's."

Pete picked it up and taking off the cap took a long pull, which he immediately spat out. "That's piss," he coughed.

"No," I replied, "all Bell's tastes like that."

Just at that moment down below headlights turned off the road and took the track leading to the farm. "Time to go," said Jack

.

A few nights later we made a visit to the White Lion, and who was standing at the bar but Johnny, "Lad's lads," he said with an evil grin, "come and have a pint - no have a scotch! Will Bells do?"

Pete stood there, his face as black as thunder. "You damn near poisoned me," he spluttered. "Was it really....?"

Johnny smiled. "Aye," he said "took me best part of a week to fill it, and I'll tell thee what, not only did Duke have the biggest pair of bollocks for miles around, he also gave me the biggest laugh for years. Now, what will you have?"

Pete smiled. "Was going off horn handled sticks," he said. "Don't really fancy a scotch, I'll have a pint."

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