Friday, December 30, 2011

Fairy Tales - Well Told Moral Story of Old for the New Year of 2012

May your een look straight ahead in the cockcrow of the New Year and not be turned withershins by trickster cattle traders, hay brokers, used car salesmen, politicians or the like that swoop like carrion hoodies and old witches and play on your trow . . .  A toast to all with tasty brose and wishing everyone, and their British White Cattle as well, a very Happy New Year! 


A TALE of the times of old. Far away in the north, where the purple heath spreads as thick on the hills in summer as the snow lies white in winter, where the streams flow down the granite-strewn corries of the mountains, brown gold as the topaz lying hid in their bosoms, a powerful chief ruled his clan.

Over hill and glen his domain spread far and wide, and his name was law itself in peace, and power in warfare. Now, upon two things the chief prided himself more than all else--more than his prowess in war, yes, more than the extent of his domains and power--the beauty of his wife and his own justice. What his clansmen thought of these two things is not to the point; what he thought of them was enough for himself and for us.

It must also be added that he possessed something seldom vouchsafed to men in authority, but an invaluable blessing when procurable, and that was a faithful steward, who had charge of his purse, his farm, and his treasures, with which may be included a charge not the least, you may be sure, in importance at that period--the complete control of his cellar.

Ian na Sporran was faithful to his chief, and was trusted by him in return.

Yet is any one so good or so faithful as to be safe from the dart of jealousy? I trow not. The very fact of Ian na Sporran being so faithful and so trusted was enough to create in the malignant heart of Ian na Piob, the chief bard, the most inveterate and overwhelming hatred. Rent with jealousy of Ian na Sporran, the one question for his evil heart to solve was how to contrive the steward's downfall.

"It is no use," said the chief to Ian na Piob; "it is no use to come howling to me about the falseness of your fellow-servants. Just show me if I have lost any of my corn, any of my gold, any of my wine, any of my jewels, and then I'll see into the matter. I am quite ready to attend to anything reasonable; for you know I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful."

Well, for a whole year Ian na Sporran served the chief faithfully, and for a whole year Ian na Piob thought how he might bring him low.

Now, it wanted three days to the New Year, when all the first men in the clan came yearly together before their chief to offer homage and congratulations, and Ian na Piob, pondering more desperately than ever how he could circumvent Ian na Sporran, was walking in the glen alone, kicking at every root and stone that came in his way, and giving vent from time to time to his feelings in envious groans. "Kera kaw," croaked the grey hoodie of Rothiemurchus. "What's the meaning of this ado? Have you eaten too many blackberries? or what is it that pains you so?"

 And Ian na Piob looked up, and saw the hoodie; and he considered her evil eye spoke a heart as wicked as his own, so he told his tale. 

"Is that all?" quoth the hoodie. "Why don't you say he stole the chief's golden barley?"

"Just because I cannot get at the barley; and, what's more, I have no witness to support me if I lie about it," answered Ian na Piob.

"Silly fool!" croaked the hoodie; "what will you give me if I appear as a witness in your behalf?"

"A measure of beans willingly from my own garden, and some sweetmeats I will steal from the chief's table," eagerly exclaimed Ian na Piob.

"Kera kaw! I strike that bargain," crowed the hoodie. "Bring the beans and sweetmeats to me to-morrow. Call on me when I'm wanted, and I shall be there without fail."  So the beans and sweetmeats were given, and the morn of the New Year arrived.

And indeed it was a crowd that filled the great hall of the castle that same day, as the folk came to deliver compliments to the chief and his lady, to make their statements, and to receive orders. Jauntily among them came Ian na Piob, and, pushing to the front, bowed in low obeisance.

"How now?" said the chief. "Any complaints? any advice? any wish? I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful; say on without fear."

"Ian na Sporran has been stealing your golden barley, O chief!" cried Ian na Piob, "and he should be put to death."

"Who is your witness?" said the chief. "Remember I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful, and I must have proof."

"Just the hoodie of Rothiemurchus," answered Ian na Piob; "none other than he."

"Well, in that case, Ian na Sporran," remarked the chief, turning towards him, "you must die."

"Would not your highness call the witness, and prove his truthfulness before condemning me?" asked Ian na Sporran. "If I am guilty, I am willing to die! if I am innocent, your own justice and your wife's beauty forbid that I should suffer."

"I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful," answered the chief. "You are right. Ian na Piob, call your witness."

Thrice whistled Ian na Piob, and in a trice there stood in the window the hoodie of Rothiemurchus.

"Do you take oath, O hoodie," said the chief, "that Ian na Sporran stole my golden barley?"

"I do," said the hoodie.

"How so?" asked the chief.

"Because," croaked the hoodie, without hesitation, "Ian na Sporran gave me some to eat this very morning to keep me from declaring his offence; for he knew I saw him do it. Look you how my crop is distended full, full, full!"

"Oh!" said the chief, looking at Ian na Sporran, "you must certainly die!"

"I pray you cut the witness open, and see if he speaks the truth," said Ian na Sporran.

"Do so," said the chief; "for I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful."

So they cut the hoodie open, and found nothing in his inside but some sugar and broad beans. Then they flung the carcass out of the window into the loch below, where Spottie Face, the great salmon, had his residence, who ate him up at one gulp, and that was the end of him.

"This is just nonsense!" roared the chief. "The case is dismissed; let us go in to supper." So the chief and his vassals went in to supper, and in the delights of the feast-room forgot all about the evil of the morning.

If there was an angry man in the whole district that man was Ian na Piob; nor did the sense of this failure make him give up his evil intentions, but he pondered again from that day the whole year through how he might bring Ian na Sporran to the gallows.

It was again three days before the New Year that Ian na Piob was walking through the pinewoods of Dalwhinnie, and he crushed the fallen cones of last year savagely beneath his feet into the frosty ground, while from time to time he raised his voice in angry exclamation.

"What's all this to-do about?" said the black witch of Loch Ericht, as she sat at the entrance of the dark cave, blinking with her red een in the blue reek of the peat fire that whirled in puffs out of the cavern, like smoke from some fell dragon's jaws.

At that Ian na Piob looked up; and thinking she appeared as black and as evil as himself, he lost no time in telling her his tale.  "Why don't you say he stole the chief's gold? That's easy enough, I'm sure," said she.

"Because I can't get at the gold, and I have no witness to swear for me, should I need one."

"Silly rabbit!" scornfully cried the witch. "What will you give me if the sun appears as your witness?"

"My best," said Ian na Piob.

"Well, if we want the sun," answered she, "I must brew trolls' broth to attract him. Give me the little toe of your right foot and the little toe of your left foot, and I will do the trick."

Now it must be confessed that Ian na Piob was grieved to lose any of his limbs, and to suffer pain; but what will not ail envious man do or suffer to get the better of an enemy?

So he cut off the little toe from his right foot, and the little toe from his left foot, and gave them to the witch of Loch Ericht to make trolls' broth.

"Now," said Ian na Piob, "I can't walk."

"Pooh! nonsense!" replied the witch; "you shall have my crutch and get on well enough with it." Then he gave a grunt, and snorted twice like a trumpet, and at that a queer thing came out from behind the juniper-bushes, and gave him the hag's crutch. 

"Now, come here, again to-morrow, and the broth will be brewed; then take it on New Year morning, and, walking withershins round the standing-stones of Trium, cast it on the ground as the sun rises, and he will come that day as a witness to the council." So the witch went into the cave, and Ian na Piob hobbled away lame. Let us hope the vision of revenge was a good plaster to his sore feet.

The next morning he came very, very early, you may be sure, and called on the witch, and the queer thing came out from behind the juniper bushes and gave him the bowl filled with trolls' broth, and he took it away and did just as the old hag directed him.

Oh, there was no doubt at all that it was a large crowd which came at the New Year, and gathered together in the hall of the castle, to offer congratulations to their chief and his wife, and to taste good things at his board!

And after many had spoken, and much business had been transacted, Ian na Piob, seeing his turn had come, hobbled forward, leaning on the crutch he had received from the old hag.

"How now, Ian na Piob?" said the chief. "If you have anything to say, say on. I am wearying for my supper, so be quick about it."

"Oh," answered Ian na Piob, "that fellow over there--Ian na Sporran--has been at it again! He has stolen your golden coins, and he should die."

"I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful, so I can't take your word for it alone, you know. Any witnesses? No hoodies, or any of that crew, for me this time, mind that!"

"Sir, my witness is none other than the sun himself," answered Ian na Piob.

"Oh," said the chief, turning to Ian na Sporran, "if that is so, you certainly must have your head chopped off."

"Sir," said Ian na Sporran humbly, "order him, I beg, to produce his witness. If I am guilty, then let me die."

"I am a just man, and my wife is------ What the plague are you hobbling about in that way for?" said the chief to Ian Da Piob, breaking off suddenly in the middle of the well-known sentence.

"Frost-bite!" grunted Ian na Piob. "But follow me, chief and gentlemen all, to the chamber that looks towards the south-west, and then I will prove my accusation true."

"Why to the chamber at the south-west?" asked the chief.

"Because," replied Ian na Piob, "there the stolen money lies, and my witness shall attend."

"Lead on," cried the chief, "and be quick about it, for I am very hungry indeed."

So Ian na Piob led the way to the chamber looking to the south-west, and as they entered the chamber, sure enough the sun streamed in through the window, and shone and glittered on many a golden coin that lay there in rich confusion on the floor.

"Headsman, do your duty!" cried the chief, pointing to Ian na Sporran. 

"Sir chief, I beg you, before I die, take up one of these coins and look at it narrowly in the shade, and see if it is really a golden one or not!"

"I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful," said the chief. "Hand me one of those golden coins."  So they handed him a coin, and taking it into a corner out of the sunlight, he saw it was a common coin, and not a golden one at all.

"If I had yon witness in my power," said the chief to Ian na Piob, "I'd thrash him! As for you, your punishment shall come after supper."

Then the chief took the arm of Ian na Sporran, and hurried away to the banqueting-hall, for he was very hungry indeed, and would brook no more delay.

And for that time again Ian na Piob got off his well-merited punishment, for in the delights of the feast the evil of the morning was forgotten, and indeed, the whole thing was so silly, it was scarcely worth noticing or remembering.

How savage Ian na Piob was at this second failure, you who are now acquainted with him can well imagine. He had gained nothing in the war of revenge, and had lost two toes into the bargain. "I'll have it out with that old witch at any rate!" said he. If she won't help me again better than last time, she shall be burnt, or my name isn't what it is!"

So as the next New Year came round, when, he knew, was his only opportunity, he sought the cavern, and called loudly on the witch: but when she answered, and came to the mouth of the cave, she looked so evil that his courage oozed out of his finger-tips (he had not toes enough for it to ooze out at that end), and his angry words dwindled away to a feeble whine of complaint.  "Well," quoth the hag, "what brings you here again?"

"The wretched failure of your scheme," sobbed Ian na Piob, and he then told her all that had occurred.

"And whose fault was that, I should like to know?" growled she. "I can't think of another plan fit for such a goose as you. Stay, though--no! you're so great a fool, it would be no good, so be off, I shan't take any more trouble." 

"Tell me your plan, I beseech you!" cried Ian na Piob, all pain and disappointment lost in the expectation of revenge. "I'll give anything to bring Ian na Sporran to a bad end!"

"Well, you must bring me some more sweetmeats from the chief's table, and we will prove that he stole the chief's wine this time."

"But I've no witness," wailed he. "The hoodie is dead, and the sun is no use at all; what am I to do?"

"Silly rabbit!" grunted the witch. "We'll get the moon to come, but we must brew her trolls' broth, or it can't be managed at all. Give me the big toe off your right foot, and the big toe off your left foot, and I will do the trick; or else be off, and don't bother!"

Well, Ian na Piob thought that as he had lost his little toes, his big ones might just as well go the game road, so he cut them off and gave them to the witch.

"Wow, wow, wow!" he squealed in pain. "There now, I can't walk, no, not even with the crutch!" and he sat down on the ground and waved his toeless feet in the air.

"Now, now," said the hag, "don't lie here roaring like a baby." And she gave a grunt and snorted twice like a trumpet, and the queer thing came from behind the juniper bushes, and handed him a long, broad petticoat made of stiff hog bristles, and when he had tied it round his middle with some leather thongs, it supported him on all sides.

"You look vastly pretty," said the hag, with a horrid leer.

"I wish you were made just as pretty yourself said he, as he waddled down the road as best he could. "I shall come to-morrow before sunset for the broth."

And that morrow's evening, before the shadows crept out of the fir-wood, and spread over the hillsides, Ian na Piob was at the cavern mouth again.

And the queer thing came from behind the juniper bushes, and gave into his hands the bowl of trolls' broth that the hag had in the meantime prepared.

"Go to the rock of Osinn," said the hag, "where the withered pine spreads its bare branches to the sky. There, as the moon rises, walk three times withershins round the riven trunk, and cast the broth on the ground before her."

And Ian na Piob painfully went away to the rock of Osinn, carrying the bowl of broth in one hand, and struggling with the crutch in the other, his body supported by the bristle petticoat. And he did as the hag bade him, and as the moon rose over the crags of Braeriach, he cast the broth on the ground before her, bidding her come the next day at even to be his witness when he should call.

The next day, when the New Year came, and all the retainers and vassals flocked to the castle to give greeting and receive advice, Ian na Piob came with them, clad in his petticoat of hog bristles, looking his worst, and thinking his cruelest.

"What mountebank have we here?" quoth the chief, as, at the end of the council, Ian na Piob tottered forward to make his statement.

"Alas! noble sir, 'tis the frost-bite has taken possession of my limbs completely--yea, has gotten a bit higher up than last year; but regardless of the pain I am suffering, I have come here to denounce that villain Ian na Sporran, and demand, in the name of justice, that he be put to death at once."

"How now!" cried the chief, "I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful, and I will not condemn a man without proof or witness. Say on, but beware how you trifle with me this time!"

"He has stolen your wine, and I can prove it," said Ian na Piob.

"Stolen my wine! oh, indeed, that must be put a stop to, and you," said the chief, turning to Ian na Sporran, "must be put an end to."

"Again, O chief," said Ian na Sporran, "will you listen to my enemy without certain proof?"

"Nay," answered the chief, "that is to doubt my own justice and my wife's beauty. Where is your witness?" continued he sharply, looking at Ian na Piob.

"The moon," said he, "and none other. The deed was done during the night, and she will come at eventide and give proof of it."

"The moon be praised!" ejaculated the chief, "that she don't want to come now, and that I can have my supper first." So without more ado, the chief walked out of the hall to the chamber where the feast was laid out, and in the delight of the feast forgot soon the business of the morning.

But when they had all drunk quite as much as was good for them, and had eaten, in my opinion, more than was necessary, Ian na Piob scrambled up to the chief, and begged him to step up to the chamber in the north-west tower, for there his witness was waiting to prove his accusation.

"Oh, bother!" said the chief. "Cut his head off! I don't care, and I don't want proof."

"Noble master," said Ian na Sporran, "remember you are a just man, and your wife is beautiful."

"Pest take the whole affair!" roared the chief, getting up. "I can't even have my meals in peace! I suppose, then, I must. But whoever trifles with me now is a dead man!"

So, in a fume, he bounced off after Ian na Piob, kicking him occasionally from behind to make him move faster, and followed by his lady and the rest of the vassals, who were all agog to see what would happen now.

Well, when they arrived at the north-west tower, and had entered the room, there, sure enough, were basins and goblets and beakers set about the floor and tables, and filled to overflowing with dark red wine. No doubt about it at all, for the moon was shining in at the window, and it was almost as bright as noonday.

"I have seen enough!" cried the chief. "Ian na Sporran, down on your knees, and, sword-bearer, give me my claymore! You'll take my drink, will you? I'll have your head off; you won't feel thirsty much longer!"

"I beseech you, my lord," said Ian na Sporran, falling on his knee, "taste but a drop of that wine. Grant me this one last request before I die. I will make no resistance to your demands; only grant me this one little boon."

"Well, you don't deserve it, but I will do that," replied the chief, taking up one of the cups, and placing it to his lips, "for I am a just man, and my wife is----- Ah, auch, phew, bach!!" and with a fearful grimace he spat the liquid out all over the floor.

"Give me some water, wine, brose, anything to take the taste out of my mouth! Oh, ach! phew! I'm poisoned as sure as death!" yelled the chief, rushing out of the room, and scattering them all on this side and on that in his wild dart at the door. "Secure Ian na Piob! He shall die to-morrow before cockcrow!" and he was down the stairs and his nose into a beaker of brose before any one could
say "How d'ye do?" or had recovered from the start he had given them. 

But the chief was not poisoned at all, for it was only brown burn water that Ian na Piob had poured into the goblets, and that looked so purple in the moonlight. So Ian na Piob was placed under lock and key in the dungeon below the moat, and as he was to be executed the next morning without fail, a guard was set over him to make sure of his not escaping.

But, somehow, Ian na Piob contrived to get a message sent to the chief's lady that he had something of great moment to confide to her ear alone, saying that, though he must die, it was a real pity so great a secret should be lost, especially when she could listen so easily at the keyhole, while he spoke to her on the other side of the door, and nobody would be any the wiser or any the worse.

So the chief's lady thought it could do no harm to any one, and besides, the chief need not know anything about it; moreover, she was like every other woman, as inquisitive as an ape, and could not deny her curiosity. Thus it was that at midnight she bribed the gaoler, and repaired to the dungeon where Ian na Piob was confined. There, giving. three raps upon the oaken beams, she applied her ear to the keyhole of the great door.

Now what Ian na Piob told that lady is no business of yours or mine; but what he did tell her must have been of deep consequence, and it seems to have been a secret the full explanation of which he could not give her for three days at least, inasmuch as she went straightway to the chief, her husband, and begged him to defer the execution of Ian na Piob for three days; and the chief, who by this time had recovered his temper, consented after a little demur, for his wife not only was beautiful, but when her mind was set on anything, he knew she would worry the inside out of a pig before she gave it up. Yes, poor man I he knew this only too well, from long experience! Hence his consent.

And it happened, since it was impossible for Ian na Piob to escape with the frost-bite in his limbs, as he said he had, the gaoler allowed him to go about the castle at liberty, for he did not want to be bothered to sit opposite that dungeon three whole days, and was pleased, too, to be saved the trouble of carrying food to his prisoner from time to time.

Sharp though the pain proved that Ian na Piob, was suffering, and deep his fear of the doom that was hanging over him, revenge still was the undying fire that burned in his jealous heart.

"Oh, if I could only compass somehow that fellow's death," cried he, "I should die happy!" and he bit his finger to the bone as he crouched on the stair and thought and thought and thought.

And as he sat thinking on the stairs, he happened to glance up, and the moon sailing in the frosty blue sky looked down at him through the open lattice, and he shook his fist at her and called her an evil name; and the stars came out one by one, and winked and blinked, so shocked were they at such conduct. But as he watched them, a thought, novel and crafty, struck him, and he suddenly rose, and with an evil grin on his face he took in his hand a goblet of crystal that stood on the table by his side, and with the help of the crutch and the stiff petticoat, painfully climbed the winding stairs. Then, making his way to a chamber that looked towards the south, he went in, and after locking the door on the inside, he sat down on a stool in front of the open windows. Then he closed the pine-shutters that hung on each side of the casement, and taking a sharp-pointed awl from his pouch, for two hours by the dial without ceasing he laboured to bore holes through them, some large, some small. He pierced them in straight lines and circles, so as to portray, as best he could, the sets of stars he had noticed often in the winter heavens.

Next, he broke the goblet of crystal with his crutch into small pieces, and strewing them on the table beneath the closed window, and on the floor below, he left the room with a self-satisfied grimace, shutting the door behind him, locking it, and taking the key away with him.

"Now for the key," muttered he.

"Spottie Face! Spottie Face! Spottie Face!" he cried, getting up as best he could on the sill of the passage window, and stretching his neck out as far as possible over the water of the loch below. "Spottie Face, come hither!"

And Spottie Face, the great salmon that had its residence in the pool below, looked up, expecting some food to be thrown him from above.

"Spottie Face! O Spottie Face!" continued Ian na Piob, "if I give you some sweetmeats from the chief's table, will you do me a favour?"

Now Spottie Face was a nasty, cruel thing, and did not like doing favours for anybody; but you remember it was winter, and there was not much food going or any green meat on the banks, and so he put his nose above the water and waved assent with his tail.

"Then take this key, and cast it up on the bank below the window of Ian na Sporran. You know it; it is on the other side of the castle. This is not much to ask, you must allow; and I will throw the sweetmeats out of this window after the chief has left the banqueting-hall in the evening."

So Ian na Piob threw the key out to Spottie Face, and went his way down the staircase.

But Spottie Face, when he had seized the key, found it bitter cold to the jaws, for the frost had kissed the chill metal, and he spat it up again on to the bank just where he received it, and there it lay, a dark object on the frozen snow under Ian na Piob's own window. And Spottie Face sank to the bottom of the pool.

Now the fatal day arrived when Ian na Piob was to suffer for his evil deception of the chief, and the gaoler came, and led him into the hall of the castle, where all were assembled, and the chief and his wife sat in state to see the sentence carried out.

"I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful," spoke the chief. "You deceived me, and you tried to poison me: you shall die now, that's settled!"

"A boon I crave, one boon before I die!" cried Ian na Piob. "Let me but whisper a secret of utmost value into your lady's ear."

"Nothing of the sort!" roared the chief. "Go and have your head cut off! I won't hear of any delay."

But his good lady was not going to miss knowing that secret, whatever it might be; for she had been thinking about it for the last two days, and had fretted herself a good deal, besides, on the subject. So she gave her husband one of her looks, and he knew too well to say no when she looked yes. 

Then Ian na Piob whispered in her ear.

"What? what? My jewels, my shining jewels?" screamed that lady, and, clenching her fists, she ran up to Ian na Sporran and, shaking them in his astonished face, cried: "Give me my jewels back, you thieving villain you! give back my shining jewels that you have stolen!" 

"What's all this fuss about!" asked the chief, jumping up with a bounce from his chair of state.

"Why, Ian na Piob says that Ian na Sporran has stolen my jewels! O husband dear! you must send Ian na Sporran at once to the gallows."

"Hush, softly, my love!" said he. "You are beautiful, but remember, be just as well. In fact, I don't believe a word you're saying; and as to Ian na Piob, witness or no witness, I'll never put trust in him again, that's flat!"

"How many witnesses would make you believe my word?" said Ian na Piob. "Will ten please you?"

"No!" roared the chief. "Nothing under twenty, so be off and be hung!"

"There are twenty waiting to prove this at this moment in the castle," cried Ian na Piob.

Then the chief found he was caught, and knew that if he would keep up his character for justice, he must consent to hear the case. 

"And who may these witnesses be?" growled he.

"None other than the stars of heaven," answered Ian na Piob.

"That's a low trick to escape your doom till the evening!" said the chief.

"Nay, but they are waiting you at this very moment in the south chamber," said Ian na Piob; "and what's more, the jewels are there too," whispered he in the lady's ear.

"Come along, come along!" cried she, seizing the chief by the sleeve, and the whole party, headed by Ian na Piob, made towards the door, for the chief saw he must go, willy nilly, as his wife seemed quite out of her mind.

"Now where's the key?" said he when he got to the door and found it fast locked, "that's the next thing."

"Those who hide can find! He's got it, of course," said Ian na Piob pointing to Ian na Sporran, "search him. If he has it not, depend upon it he has hid it in his chamber; and if it's not there, he's cast it out of his window. Oh, I know his tricks!"

"Why, there it is on the bank!" said one of the chief's followers, looking out of the window. And sure enough, there it was, lying on the bank just under the chamber window belonging to Ian na Piob.

So they ran down and fetched it; but Ian na Piob nearly fainted with rage, for he saw that Spottie Face the salmon had deceived him.

But now the door was opened wide, and there within without doubt the jewels lay on the table and on the floor glittering in the light of the stars that shone brightly through the window into the darkened room.

"My jewels, my jewels!" cried the chief's wife, running forward.

"O Ian na Sporran," said the chief, shaking his head, "you must this time without doubt be put an end to!"

"Yes, yes," cried his wife, "at once! at once! for he deserves it."

"I pray you, noble chief," said Ian na Sporran, "question those witnesses, and ask them the truth." 

What nonsense you're talking! Why, they are thousands of miles off," said the chief. "How can they hear me?"

"They are not further than the other side of the window," answered Ian na Sporran. "Permit me to go and beckon to them."

"Don't let him, don't let him!" shrieked Ian na Piob, hobbling forward in his petticoat to prevent him. "He's going to play some nasty trick!"

"You forget yourself, Ian na Piob!" thundered the chief; "and you forget also that I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful. Ian na Sporran, go and beckon to them."

Then Ian na Sporran went to the casement and flung the shutter wide, and the bright daylight filled the chamber, and all put up their hands to their eyes, for they were dazzled at the sudden change.

"Dear lady," said Ian na Sporran, "look now at your jewels! Nought but glass are they, you see; and--where are my enemy's witnesses? I trow they are still sleeping in the dark coffers of the night, the other side of the ocean."

"Ian na Sporran, forgive me and all of us!" said the chief coming forward, and giving him his hand. "We will never, never, never distrust you again, as long as we live. Ask me any favour, and it shall be granted."

"Then give me the life of Ian na Piob," cried lan na Sporran; "for as I am the happiest man to-day in the country, I would have none sorrow while I am glad." 

"On one condition," answered the chief. "Ian na Piob, stand forth, and with both hands uplifted, swear you will never try to give false-witness and lie to me again."

Then Ian na Piob waddled forward, and flung both his hands up over his head, but leaving go of the crutch, he overbalanced himself and fell flat on his face before the chief, and by no effort could he raise himself up again.

"You have signed your own doom," said the chief. "To the loch with him! Hanging is too good!"

Then they flung Ian na Piob, petticoat, crutch and all, out of the window into the loch below, where Spottie Face the great salmon had his residence, and he had not reached the bottom before Spottie Face had him fast, and with one great gulp swallowed him, petticoat and all.

"My dear," said his wife to the chief, "I think you are as clever as you are just," and she gave him a good kiss on his brown cheek.

"And you, my love," said he, vastly pleased, "you are as sensible as you are beautiful."

And with these words he gave her a good kiss on the left cheek, which was real good of him, don't you think, for turn and turn about is but fair play!

Source:  Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales, by George Douglas, [1901], at

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Magic Rocks and the Beggar - A Christmas Story

Folk Tales of Brittany, by Elsie Masson, [1929], at

The Magic Rocks and the Beggar

N Brittany near the sea there is a village called Plouhinec. It is surrounded by moors with here and there a grove of fir trees. There is not enough grass in the whole parish to rear an ox for the butcher nor enough bran to fatten a little pig.

But if the folk there have neither corn nor cattle they have more stones than you would need to build a town. For just outside the village there is a big stretch of heather where long ago the Korrigans, a race of elves who lived in ancient Brittany, planted two rows of tall rocks which look for all the world like an avenue, except that they lead nowhere.

Near there on the banks of the river there once lived a man named Marzin. He was rich for the place, that is to say, he could salt down a pig every day, eat as much black bread as he wanted, and buy a pair of wooden shoes every Palm Sunday.

So everyone said he was proud and haughty. He had refused his sister Rozen's hand to several ardent lovers, who earned their daily bread by the sweat of their brows.

Among the suitors for the hand of Rozen was a youth named Bernez. He was a steadfast toiler, upright as the day is long, but unfortunately he possessed nothing in the world save his industry.

Bernez had known Rozen since she was a tiny girl and when she grew up his love had grown up, too. So you can quite understand that Marzin's refusal to consider him as worthy of his sister's hand nearly broke poor Bernez' heart. Rozen, however, was still permitted to welcome Bernez on the farm.

Now one Christmas eve there was a storm and people were unable to get to midnight mass. So Marzin invited all the field-hands and several neighbors to his farm. Bernez was among them. The master of the house, to show his generosity, had planned to treat them all to a supper of pig's pudding, and a whole-meal pudding sweetened with honey. All eyes were fixed on the open fire where the supper was cooking, all, that is, except those of Bernez, who kept gazing at his darling Rozen.

Now just as Bernez was drawing the benches up to the table and Rozen had stuck the wooden spoons in a circle in the huge pasty basin, the door was pushed open and an ugly old man stepped into the room.

He was a beggar, a strange man, who had never put his foot inside a church door, and the God-fearing people were afraid of him. They accused him of placing a curse on the cattle and making the corn blacken in the ear. Some folk even went so far as to say he could turn himself into a werewolf.

However, as he wore a beggar's habit, farmer Marzin let him come near the fire, gave him a three-legged stool to sit upon and the same share of the food as the invited guests.

When the old beggar, whom folks called a wizard, had finished his meal, he asked where he could sleep. Marzin opened the door of the stable where there was only a skinny donkey and a scraggy ox. The beggar went into the stable, lay down between them to get their warmth and put his head on a sack filled with chopped heather.

Now you must remember that it was Christmas eve, and just as the beggar was about to fall asleep, midnight struck, that mysterious hour when animals of the stable are said to talk like men.

The old donkey shook his long ears and turned toward the scraggy ox.

"Well, cousin, how have you been getting on since Christmas a year ago when I last spoke to you?" he asked in a friendly voice.

"It is not worth while for us to have a gift of speech on Christmas eve on account of our ancestors having been present at the birth of the Holy Babe," the ox answered crossly, "if our only hearer is an old-good-for-nothing like this beggar."

"You are very proud, my lord of Lowing Castle," said the donkey, laughing. "But I know how to be satisfied with what I have. Anyhow can you not see that the old beggar is asleep?"

"All his witchcraft doesn't make him any the richer," the ox said, "and then when he dies he will go to a nice warm place without much profit to himself. It is strange that his chum, Old Nick, has not told him of the good luck to be had near here merely for the asking."

"What luck is that?" said the donkey.

"Well," sniffed the ox, "didn't you know that once every hundred years, and the time is drawing near, for it is on this New Year's eve, a strange thing happens? The great rocks just outside the village leave their places and go down to the river to drink. Then it is that the treasures they guard beneath them are laid bare."

"Yes, yes, I remember now," answered the donkey, "but the rocks return so quickly that they catch you and grind you into powder. Folks say that the only way to avoid their fury is to hunt a branch of verbena and bind it with a five-leaved clover. This is magic against all disaster."

"But there is another condition harder to fulfill," said the ox. "The treasures that you find will fall into dust unless in return a human soul be sacrificed. Yes, you must cause a human death if you wish to enjoy the wealth of Plouhinec." When he had said this both the animals became silent.

Now all this time the beggar had been listening to their conversation, hardly daring to breathe.

"Ah, dear beasts," he thought to himself, "you have made me rich. And you can wager your last wisp of hay that this old beggar will not go below for nothing!"

And so the wizard fell asleep. But at crack of dawn, he hastened out into the country, his eyes all eagerness to find verbena and the five-leaved clover. Well-nigh endlessly he looked, up and down, here and there, hunting inland where the air is mild and plants keep green all the year round. At last, on New Year's eve, he came back to the little town of Plouhinec. His hands were clutching as though at treasure. His face bore a striking resemblance to that of a weasel that has found its way into a dove-cote.

As he was walking across the heath to the place where the huge rocks stand, he saw Bernez. Bernez, with a pointed hammer in his hand, was chipping away at one of the largest rocks.

"Well, well," mocked the wizard, "are you trying to hollow a house out of this great stone pillar?"

"No," said Bernez quietly, "but as I am out of work just now I thought I would carve a cross on one of these accursed rocks. Perhaps it will be agreeable to Providence, and possibly I shall some day be rewarded."

"You have a request to make then?" asked the old beggar slyly.

"Every Christian wishes the salvation of his soul," answered the lad.

"Have you nothing else to ask for?" whispered the beggar.

"Ah, so you know that too!" exclaimed poor Bernez.

"Well, after all it is no sin. I love the dearest maid of all Brittany and long to go before the priest with her. But alas, her brother wants for her a husband who can count out more silver coins than I have lucky pennies."

"What would you say if I could put you in the way of earning more gold coins than the maiden's brother has silver?" murmured the wizard.

"You!" exclaimed Bernez.

"Yes, I!"

"But what will you want in return?" inquired Bernez.

"Only a prayer when you say yours," answered the wicked wizard.

"Then tell me what to do!" cried Bernez, letting his hammer fall. "I am willing to risk a score of deaths. For I should rather die than not win Rozen."

When the wizard saw Bernez was so eager he explained that the next night at the stroke of twelve the great rocks would go down to the river to drink, leaving their treasures uncovered, But the crafty beggar did not tell Bernez how to avoid being crushed when the stones returned to their places.

The lad suspected nothing. He thought he had but to be brave and swift.

"As there is a Heaven above us I shall do what you say, old man," said he. "And there will always be a pint of my blood at your service for what you have told me. Let me finish the cross that I am cutting on this rock," he continued, picking up his hammer, "and when the appointed hour arrives I shall meet you on the edge of the moor."

Bernez kept his word and was at the meeting place one hour before midnight. The beggar was already there. He had three knapsacks, one in each hand, and another hanging around his neck ready to be filled with treasure.

"Well," said the beggar to the young man, "sit down beside me and tell me what you will do when you have as much silver, gold and precious stones as you can dream of," said he.

Bernez stretched out on the heather. "When I have as much as I like," said he, "I shall give my sweet Rozen everything she wishes, linen and silk, white bread and oranges."

"And what will you do when you have as much gold as you like?" the wizard asked.

"When I have as much gold as I like," the lad answered, "I shall make Rozen's family rich, and all their friends and all their friends, too, to the limits of the parish!"

"And what will you do when you have many precious stones?" went on the wizard, laughing up his sleeve.

"Then," cried Bernez, "I shall make everyone rich and happy, and I shall declare it to be of Rozen's doing!"

While they were talking, an hour slipped by. From the distant village came the stroke of midnight. Scarcely had the last note sounded when there was convulsion on the heath and in the starlight the huge rocks could be seen, leaping from their beds, tumbling headlong towards the river to quench a century's thirst. They rushed down the hillside tearing up the soil and reeling like a throng of drunken giants. They then disappeared into the darkness.

The beggar leapt through the heather, followed by Bernez, to the place where the rocks had been. There, where they stood, two wells were glittering, filled up to their brims with gold, silver and precious stones.

Bernez uttered a cry of delight, but the beggar began to cram his wallets in the wildest haste, all the while listening for the return of the rocks, his ear turned toward the river.

He had just finished stuffing his knapsacks and Bernez had managed to pocket a few gold pieces for himself when a dull rumbling was heard, which swelled rapidly to thunder. 

The rocks had finished drinking and were coming to their places. Tumultuously they plunged forward, faster than man can run, crushing everything before them.

When Bernez saw the rocks upon them he could not move: he cried aloud, "We are done for!"

"You are!" sneered the wizard, "but this will save me," and he clasped tightly in his hand the verbena and the clover. "You must die in order for this wealth to be mine!" shouted the wizard. "Give up your dear Rozen and think about your sins!"

While the beggar was shouting the rocks rushed headlong on him but he held up his magic leaves and the huge stones stopped with a violent jerk; then passing to the right and to the left, they rushed upon Bernez.

Bernez saw that all was over. He fell on his knees and closed his eyes. The mightiest rock of all was leading. Suddenly as it reached the kneeling Bernez, a strange thing happened. The huge stone stopped, closing up the way, standing before Bernez like a barrier to protect him.

Bernez opened his eyes. Upon the mighty stone he beheld the cross that he had carved. The stone now could do no harm to a Christian. There it remained motionless before the young man till all the others had resumed their places, and then on it went, tumbling toward its own. It came upon the beggar by this time bent double with his laden bags.

The beggar held up the magic plants but the rock was carved with a cross and in consequence was no longer in the power of evil spells. It hurled itself upon the wizard and crushed him into powder.

As for Bernez, he picked himself up and slung upon his back the wizard's bags of silver, gold and precious stones, and trudged off for home with them.

And so he married pretty Rozen after all. Together they lived as happily as both their hearts. desired, and brought up as many children as has a jenny-wren in a brood.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tracking Down White Park Cattle - Now there is an interesting headline . . .

Update 12/20/11:  This particularly amusing article from 1912 does indicate either the continuation of the original 1891 'breeding experiment' at the London Zoo, or a brand new set of 'wild white cattle' -- whatever the case, black or mostly black calves continued to be born to the pristine wild white cattle Zoo stock in 1912.  And that stock was said to be in 1915 from the Chillingham herd:  "With the exception of two animals in the Zoological Gardens of London and of those in Chillingham Park, there is not another One of these cattle in the world."  (Evening Post, Jan. 1915) This was said in reference to Lord Chillingham gallantly offering to send examples of his wild white cattle to an exposition.

"Many years ago, when the British wild ox roamed throughout the country, an occasional white calf would be born (says a writer in the Daily Mail). This, if not killed by its fellows, would be regarded as sacred by the ancient Britons, and carefully guarded when captured. The mating of these occasional freaks resulted, it is supposed, in the establishment of the white wild cattle in semi-captivity, such as the Chartley herd. Recently a few members of this old herd was established at the London Zoo, and once or twice a black calf has been born to the herd. Two of these interesting black "throw-backs" have been mated, and a black calf was born last week. This seems to point to the fact that we have got back to the beginning of a herd of the real ancient British ox. of which the white cattle, as we know them, are but the modern albino descendants."

Tracking down White Park cattle

by Luigi, Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog, on December 6, 2011

"A current project coordinated by Rare Breeds International (RBI) is studying the degree of divergence between national populations. It already has demonstrated that descendants of cattle exported 50 years ago still have the same DNA profile as the current population in UK. In the course of this research RBI has discovered references in the twentieth century (1930s to 1990s) to White Park animals (also referred to as Park or English Park, and Ancient White Park in North America) in several zoological gardens in Europe, including Copenhagen, Prague, Riga, London and Berlin. We are interested to pursue further this thread of research to explore the possibility that the White Park was found more widely in zoological gardens. We request anyone with relevant information to contact RBI at and will be most grateful for your assistance."
This is a plate from a book published in the late 1890's and entitled
'White Cattle of Cadzow Park', and it is apparently a fraud.  See
the original below entitled 'Chillingham Cattle'.
It seems an opportune time to point out yet again the results of the grand experiment at the London Zoological Gardens that began in the late 19th century.  Perhaps the RBI has overlooked the results of that breeding experiment in their research efforts as they are only now realizing that specimens of the ancient wild white cattle were in fact sent to various Zoos, including the Bronx Zoo of New York by way of Toronto -- shall we enlighten them on that one? 

You decide, perhaps they would have better luck than I did in having the Bronx Zoo archives explored in regard to the Park Cattle that so very briefly called this zoo home -- but only if someone with 'veracity' accomplished that task. 

By now in this 11th year of the 21st Century, the RBI certainly ought not to be suddenly surprised to learn that specimens of the breed were shipped to various locales across the world in their target time frame beginning in the 1930's - so I must say I am quite surprised at this RBI 'new' information and research focus - actually, I am quite skeptical and have to wonder at the motive of such naivete' from such an organization.

Please pay more attention than usual to the photos and their captions in this blog, as they are quite demonstrative of . . . well, lots of things that are quite pertinent historically to the much beloved ancient wild white cattle of Britain, both horned and polled -- and the veracity of the postulated history by pompous and influential individuals for well over 100 years of the laughable purity of horned Park cattle in comparison to polled Park cattle, or British White, as they are known today.  Veracity - such a potent word when it comes to attempts to 'shape' any history . . .

The 1891 Grey Argus news article quoted below tells us that a heifer from the Chillingham herd and a bull from the Chartley herd were 'captured' and taken to the London Zoological Society as the first two representative animals of the 'wild white cattle' of Britain.  They were to be used in a breeding program focused on trying to arrive at the 'original' type of wild white cattle. 

We know that plans were in place to obtain specimens from several other wild white cattle herds of the late 19th century, including specimens from the polled Hamilton, Blickling and Somerford herds.  This is highly pertinent to the ongoing stance of the horned Ancient White Park Cattle Association of the UK - and other flatulent and interested parties - which wish to establish the horned Park Cattle as the 'true' original and 'ancient' wild white cattle of Britain with NO genetic relationship to the polled British White cow of today:
"The Zoological Society will try to procure specimens from the other herds— Mr. Assheton-Smith's at Vaynol, the Duke of Hamilton's at Cadzow, Lady Lothian's at Blickling, and Sir Charles Shakerley's at Somerford, near Congleton." Grey River Argus 29 April 1891
"Zoologists hope by crossing the various strains to arrive at the original type, which is older than English civilisation and from which all these species are derived." Grey River Argus 29 April 1891
This 1835 drawing is entitled 'The White Urus' (or Hamilton breed
of wild Cattle) and is a true Original drawing, and is available
for purchase at this link: Prints Old and Rare.  Note the polled cow.
What a bold statement!  All other species of bovine were believed by some folks in the British Isles to be derived from the wild white cattle back in those days.  Just what was the result of this breeding experiment for 'original type'?  Abnormally colored calves were born to a Vaynol cow and Chartley bull.  I've been unable to find where specimens were ever obtained from the other various herds mentioned in the article above. 

But, there is written proof of the result of a Vaynol and Chartley breeding (if in fact it was a Vaynol female):

"In the same house is a black calf of the Chartley X Vaynol blood, two abnormally colored calves having been thrown in succession by the same cow."  Source: Science, Volume 28, October 16, 1908; By American Association for the Advancement of Science

This drawing dates from . . . hmm, no one knows except the perpetrator. 
It is a fraud, merely a colorized version of the original drawing of the
Hamilton herd of wild Cattle, and re-named 'Chillingham Cattle'.
It is available for purchase from Prints Old and Rare.
So, would this be an example of the wild white cattle reverting to 'original type'?  No doubt that is the case.  There are centuries of documented observations of the birth of black calves, or mostly black, or however one wishes to describe them - born in to the Chillingham herd and swiftly destroyed.  No doubt this wild white cattle breeding experiment was 'swiftly' ended shortly after 1908.  (Update 12/20/11: See update note at beg. of blog.)

There is some question as to whether the heifer was actually a Vaynol animal or one from the Chillingham herd.  The story of the great furor created by the capture of the wild white heifer that was sent to the London Zoological Gardens refers in one article to its being captured from the Vaynol herd, and another of its being captured from the Chillingham herd.  As the Grey River Argus article refers, as noted above, to the future plans to obtain a 'specimen' from the Vaynol herd, it seems more plausible that it was actually a Chilllingham heifer.
 "A wild bull was presented from Lord Ferrers's herd at Chartley, near Uttoxeter, was presented to the gardens last summer, and a wild heifer from Lord Tankerville's herd at Chillingham has now been added." Grey River Argus 29 April 1891

This article is from the February 12, 1891, Timaru Herald and indicates two months prior that the heifer was from the Vaynol herd:

"Some notion, of the untameable nature of the 'wild white cattle', of which two interesting examples have lately been transferred to the Zoological Gardens, is to be gathered from Mr. J.E. Harding's account of the capture of the white heifer, which belonged to the famous herd Mr. Assheton-Smith's Park at Vaynol, near Bangor. These animals we are told, never suffer anyone to approach near enough to handle them."

"The heifer was lassoed in South American fashion, and it required the united efforts of five or six horsemen to prevent its rejoining the herd after it had been ridden out. Its bellowing then brought up its companions to the rescue, and it needed tact and care to prevent a charge and general stampede."

"Even when the herd had been successfully kept at bay, it required all the strength of five men to get the captive out of the park and into a loose box, where, as it had never before been under a roof, it  remained for some days extremely wild and savage. It was eventually got into a strong deer cart, and thus was transported to the Zoological Society's grounds. Its companion, the young bull, came from Lord Ferrer's seat,  Chartley Park, and represents a distinct type of this ancient breed."
This appears to be an original 1885 color lithograph of the Chillingham Cattle,
although I can't imagine how they could have got so very close to the so-called 'wild' cattle,
and is available for purchase from Prints Old and Rare.  And the de-colorized
late 1890's book plate shown at the beginning of this blog as Cadzow cattle appears to be a fraud.
Here is a writer's observation of the Chartley bull in the Zoological Gardens in 1890: 

"Students of natural history are much interested by the latest arrival at the Zoological Gardens of the so-called "wild bull" from Chartley. In spite of its fierce name it is the mildest-looking little beast imaginable, very small, with a rough, white coat and black points . . . " (Agricultural and Pastoral News, 1890)

Does that cow above remind you in any way other than color of the same breed
of cow in the old Chillingham lithograph just above?
This is a March 2004 photo in Mother Earth News, and is representative
of the horned 'Ancient' White Park Cows found in the USA today, and found
by the referenced and recent study by the RBI to have the "same DNA profile" of those
found in the UK today.  What they don't mention is that yet again the horned White Park is found
most closely related to the English Longhorn in that study, and that
would be due to crossbreeding with English Longhorn, as well documented many years ago. 
This awesome painting is entitled "White Park Cattle", and was presented by the Plymouth
artist, Carol Payne, to the Duke of Cornwall in June of 2010, and is found at the
UK's "Field Day" blog.  One comment was made on the blog:
"That is a British White cow!"
I'm guessing the Duke of Cornwall is well aware it is a 'white' Park cow
that happens to be polled, and happens in the short term of history to have been labelled "British White".
"He (the Duke of Cornwall) suggested one of two breeds and I chose White Park cattle." Since then Carol has researched the subject and "worked flat out day and night" to create the painting of a cow in a field of buttercups."

This is a vintage postcard from 1903 available from entitled:
Old English Wild Cattle, "A Somerford Park Cow"
Compare this old postcard with the modern painting presented just above, and you decide
just which type of ancient Park Cattle, polled or horned, have remained the
most true to type of the breed of old . . .


"Park cattle, descendants of the gigantic white beasts which once roamed wild through Britain's forests, are to-day setting up new milking records. The cattle, owned by Sir Claud Alexander of Faygate, Sussex, last year attained an average milk yield for the herd of 8,060 lbs., with a butterfat content of 4.50."

Tracking Down white Park Cattle . . . indeed it is always an interesting hunt!  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fast and Furiously - Texas Ranger Border Justice and Patrol in the 19th Century

Attorney General Eric Holder clearly has 'no shame' and no remorse -- this cold and expressionless man seems an empty vessel occupying a desk and drawing a federal salary.  What gives him his casual confidence that he will not be forced to resign?  His arrogant attitude toward all questions?  Who really heads the Justice Department these days?  Anyone?

"As they said in the McCarthy hearings, have you no shame?" asked Holder, referencing a famous retort to McCarthy.  (CNN, 12/8/11)

"More people are going to die, probably," said Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican. "Unfortunately, I think that's probably true," Holder replied.  (CNN, 12/8/11)

What follows is the full text of a very well-written article about the Texas Ranger in the late 19th century, and the rigors of their proud life protecting the great expanse of the Texas border.  How shameful it is that today our Justice Department now makes a mockery of almost two hundred years of lives dedicated to protecting our borders -- of almost two hundred years of lives lost protecting our borders.

Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XXVIII, Issue 198, 28 September 1894, Page 4

Outside of the pages of fiction the Texas Ranger is seldom introduced to the general public. His personal acquaintance is something to be prized, and with my fingers still tingling from his hearty hand clasp, the memory of his original ways still fresh in my mind, it is a pleasure to speak of him, to tell who and what he is, and what manner of life he leads.  He met me with a warm smile of welcome, and the pleasant light in his eyes was in strange contrast to his costume, with its belt full of cartridges about his waist and the heavy pistol on his hip.

He was an ideal host. Everything he had was mine, and the entire camp was at my disposal.  I had every opportunity to study him, and I availed myself well of the chance; for there is in all America no more interesting figure than the Texas Ranger.

Texas has long been a favourite field for romance and story, and in many a thrilling tale the Texas Ranger has been a character, both picturesque and prominent; yet even though his name and his fame have been so widely heralded, he is somewhat of a myth to the world at large, and even to the average Texan he is little known, much misunderstood, and thoroughly unappreciated.

The Frontier Battalion, as the Texas Ranger force is now designated, is in every way unique. It is a standing army, regularly enlisted in the service of the State, always in the field, always under arms. It has been an important factor in the affairs of Texas for more than half a century. 

It was in 1832, when the citizens of Texas were assembled in convention at San Felipe de Austin to sue for statehood under the Mexican Government, that they provided for the protection of the frontier by a body of mounted men, or civic militia, on duty for 40 days at a time, in relays of 40 men.

Texas Ranger Camp in 1887
(photo from collection of Mike Cox, Austin, Texas)
The exact extent of the force is not known, but it continued in existence and constituted one of the people's main defences during their subsequent struggle with Mexico.  Under the Republic the organization numbered 1000 men, and was divided into small troops patrolling the Mexican border and the equally dangerous frontier to the west and north, from which the murderous redskins made their frequent raids. 

When the State was admitted to the union the Rangers had yet much to do. They took a most prominent part in the Mexican War, and remained in the saddle when that war was over. Much of interest might be written of the doings of the Rangers in the stirring times which followed, when but a call was needed to augment their thin lines along the border into a determined little army, and hurl them an avenging host, down on the Mexican raiders or the Indian hordes, with the trail of burning homes and murdered, mutilated forms they always left behind them.  It is the purpose of this sketch, however, to picture the Texas Ranger as he exists today.

The force was reorganized by act of the fourteenth Legislature, and on April 10, 1874, six companies, of 75 men each, were put into the field.  The disasters of the civil war had left Texas, as were all other southern States, prostrated and poverty-stricken; but Texas, in addition to sorrows and suffering it shared with its sister states from the horrors of reconstruction, was scourged with a harassing, never-ending warfare with border ruffians and Indians, grown bold by the license of war and the subsequent years of misrule. Indians and Mexicans ranged their prairies, back and forth across the border, and murder, robbery, and arson were done by day and by night.

Progress and prosperity were held in check, the State was at a standstill, and the life led by those hardy pioneers who had pushed their way to the outposts of civilization was hazardous in the extreme, exposed as they were to the hardships of an undeveloped frontier, surrounded by a lawless desperate element, the outgrowth of existing conditions.

Captain Frank Jones’s Company D, Frontier Battalion, of the Texas Rangers, 1890's 
The Texas Rangers soon made themselves felt, however, and before their steady front, step by step, they pushed the opposing forces of lawlessness and discord. Many a hard-fought fight marked their way, and the milestones of their progress were graves enclosing the forms of brave rangers who fell before the bullet of the outlaw. Today the Indian is gone, and the desperado is held in check; but the Texas border can never be stripped of its charms for fugitives from justice and desperate men from all nations, and the day will never come when there will be no demand for the services of the Texas Ranger.

With the advance of civilization the number of Rangers has been gradually reduced, until there are now but four companies in the field, and the minimum limit has in all probability been reached. To these four companies is entrusted the guardianship of the frontier, from the Pan Handle to the Gulf of Mexico, a stretch of border country greater in extent than the Atlantic coast from New York to Charleston.

Texas Rangers in Presidio County, El Paso
district, in 1890.
When it is realized that the Rangers keep this entire line under constant patrol, the significance of their name is seen. Empowered with the authority of peace officers, heavily armed and well mounted, they ride the broad prairies, and shrewd indeed must be the criminal who escapes their vigilance. They act in conjunction with the sheriffs of the border countries, and whenever practicable, cooperate with the regular United States army forces along the Rio Grande. Criminals of all kinds know them and fear them, and their very name is a power for good.

Some idea of the extent of their operations may be gained from a statement in a recent report of the adjutant-general— their official head —showing that in one year they scouted over 89,472 miles in the discharge of their duty, and arrested 597 desperate criminals.

I cannot give a better idea of the Texas Ranger of today than by showing him as he appeared to me on the occasion I have before mentioned, when I was the guest of one of their companies, shared their hospitality, and accompanied them on their round of duty for nearly a month.

It was in the Rio Grande country, and although winter the weather was hot and dry.  In that country rain is often unknown for many months, and on this occasion the drought had been almost unbroken for two years.  The camp of the Rangers was located in the midst of country barren of vegetation as to
resemble a desert;  yet this very country was a cattle range, and in favourable seasons the rich grass carpeted its vast stretches with verdure, on which countless herds were fattened.

A row of tents, neatly arranged, presented an appearance quite military; but with that the resemblance ceased, for the rigour and discipline of a military encampment were entirely absent. Obedient to every command, the men yet held themselves the equal of their captain; and he, in turn, treated them with an off-hand freedom very different from the attitude of the officer towards the regular in ranks. The secret of this is found in the fact that the captain has chosen every man in his company with a personal knowledge of his worth, and knows he can depend on him in every emergency. He gives no unnecessary orders, and when he speaks his men act.

The captain of the company is paid 100 dollars a month, and the privates 30 dollars. All supply their own arms and horses, and the State furnishes them with ammunition and provisions. No uniforms are worn, and in the midst of the ranger camp one finds himself in rough-looking company indeed.  Shining rifles, big revolvers, long knives, woollen shirts, and slouch hats, pants in boots, and sometimes leather breeches, are the accompaniment of every man, giving the camp the appearance of a crowd of brigands rather than a posse of police officers. It doesn't take long, however, to find that their roughness is all outside. There is no bigger-hearted, generous fellow on earth than your genuine Texas Ranger -- no more warmly hospitable place than a ranger camp.

The routine of arresting cattle thieves and trailing ordinary criminals is often varied in the round of ranger life; when big raids of outlaws, intent on driving whole herds across the border, are to be intercepted, fugitive train robbers run down, or some noted desperado taken in charge. All seems confusion at first; but when the time for action comes, a word brings order, and in a moment every man is in the saddle, belted and spurred, ready to sweep like the wind across the dusty prairies.

It was such an occasion I have in mind. A fugitive from Mexico, at the head of a motley crew of cutthroats, came in conflict with the United States troops, one of whom was killed, and the rangers took the field to assist in their capture or extermination.

Night and day they rode.  The comforts of camp were unknown.  The drought-stricken country for hundreds of miles was their field of action, and through the trackless chaparral, where naught of life was seen but the sluggish vulture feasting on the famine-slaughtered stock, they pursued the fleeing outlaws.  Many a fight they had, and it is no fancy picture which shows the ranger fallen in the fight, the smoking pistol still in his hand, while his faithful horse, with wind-tossed mane and tail, sniffs at his lifeless form. The country was sparsely inhabited, and the people, far from the centers of civilization — for the most part rough, ignorant, superstitious descendants of the lower class of Mexicans were friendly to the fugitives; yet success went to the rangers. 

A number of prisoners were taken, some worthless lives cut short, and some vacant places left in the ranks of the rangers. Those of the outlaws not captured or killed were swept from Texas soil, law and order were upheld, and though humble hearts in humble homes mourn the dead ranger so soon forgotten by the world, the result is good. The price of peace is always paid in blood.

And such is a brief glimpse into the life of the Texas Ranger. --- New York Once-a-Week

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame
The Texas Ranger, Legends of America