Saturday, May 18, 2024

Poacher Bill

April 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Prose

Old Bill a Cotswold man, born and bred to country ways, lived in a beautiful little hamlet, not far from Burford the gateway to the Cotswolds.

He lived in a little cottage with a charming old world front garden, which his wife tended creating a glorious mix of brilliant coloured flowers. Bill’s domain was the garden behind the cottage where he grew vegetables on what appeared to be every inch of space, growing enough for their use throughout the year. A hard working quiet living couple devoted to village life, at least on first glance.

Bill had four great consuming interests in his life. They all started off as hobbies gradually intermingling with each other until they became one, taking over his whole life.

First he loved to make wine, and could brew it from every conceivable living natural thing. His garden shed , kitchen, and spare bedroom contained more bottles than a customs warehouse. If asked to a wine tasting, people for miles around suddenly had to leave the country, any newcomer to the village unfamiliar with these ‘tastings’ would be legless for days.

His second ‘Hobby’ was drinking his wine, particularly if he could find someone daring enough to share his hospitality.

Being a true country man, his third hobby was telling a good old country yarn, and when the wine had been flowing, and he had a pint of beer at his elbow, the yarns became more outrageous than ever. The local Pub never needed hired entertainment when Bill had centre stage.

Now his fourth ‘hobby’ was poaching. He just loved to pit his wits against the wiles of the Keepers, Police, and hostile Farmers. They never caught old Bill, and many a morning when I opened my shed door, I would find a hare, or a brace of Pheasants hanging up, apparently surrendering themselves with the sole purpose of providing me with sustenance. Bill never sold his poaching gains, he gave it away, leaving a hare or a pheasant on many a back door, much to the delight of the recipient.

Working in my garden one evening, old Bill turned up, a bottle of amber liquid in his hand. His greeting, ‘Hello old ‘un, just called to make sure you be pulling up weeds not plants, brought a bottle for the missus ‘cos i knows you be too mean to buy her a drink’. After a few minutes of chat his face changed from country yokel to one of keen eagerness, and he enquired if I locked my shed door at night. When I informed him that I had more respect for my neighbours than to bother with locks, he smiled, his face now resuming his usual innocent look, and assured me that it was right and proper to so do, and that was all I needed to know. I pondered on his strange behaviour but kept it to myself. At that time I lived a couple of houses down from the village pub, it seemed the sensible thing to do, as an hour or two in the Pub with Bill and his cronies demanded a short walk home.

Bill would usually turn up at the pub, park his old Landrover in the car park, leaving his two dogs on guard in the cab, with his gun safely locked in it’s rack on the roof. The local keeper, and sometimes the village Policeman, would stroll past giving a casual glance, noting that the dogs and gun were safely in the old Landrover, Bill holding court in the pub, so all was well, they could now retire to the comfort of their own vehicles, knowing or so they thought that all was well at least until closing time, how could the old rascal poach without his dogs and gun?.

Observing all this from the pub window, Bill would grin and announce in a dramatic voice ‘I be going outside, and may be gone some time’. Once outside the rear entrance, he would jump the fence, creep down to my shed, where he had previously hidden his other gun. Then after a couple of hours poaching, he would be back in the pub, and emerge with the rest of us loudly calling out our goodnights, and complaining about old Bill cheating at dominoes or his adding up of the darts score. It was weeks before I knew what he was up to, he knew more about my shed than I did.

His yarns were so interwoven in innuendo, gradually building up to a punch line, each time with different variations, it was impossible to describe them in detail.

One such yarn involved the illegal killing of a pig during the WW2. , and far too gruesome to describe here. Essentially it involved Bill taking home something called ‘Chitlins’, which were certain parts of a pig’s intestines. He carried these in a paper bag

hanging round his neck, and rode home on his little two-stroke motor bike. On the way the paper got wet, and the ‘chitlins’ fell out, becoming entangled in the drive belt of his old bike. Inevitably he crashed and sustained a cut face which bled profusely. A passing lady cyclist on her way home from evensong, stopped to render assistance, but when she saw the intestines she fainted, Bill’s description of her trying to push the ‘Chitlins’ back under his shirt does not bear description. Somewhere , somehow an ambulance, and a Police car became involved, resulting in his being charged with being drunk in charge of a motor cycle, and stealing a pigs intestines. The Magistrate could not keep his court in order, everyone was laughing so much, he eventually dismissed the case. Bill grumbled about the loss of his ‘Chitlins’ but was pleased to think his insurance had paid off, apparently the Magistrate was one of the recipients of Bills generosity.

His favourite story related to that period after the war when the American Forces occupied a number of local Airodromes. They were always on the lookout for available property to house their married Officers. At this time Bill became the proud owner of his father’s almost derelict cottage, two beds, no bathroom, and no indoor lavatory. This did not deter him, he had visions of collecting large amounts of tax free rent. Appointments were made, and eventually a Colonel and his Lady arrived to view the property. The meeting got off to a poor start, the wife remarking that it looked a little ‘run down’, Once inside she thought it quaint, and asked to see the bathroom. Bill explained that it was usual to use the sink, stripping off, washing down as far as possible, then washing up as far as possible, and if she cared to strip completely wash possible!. Somewhat taken aback the courageous Lady fought back, demanding to see the Lavatory, on being taken up the garden to the little Privy proved to be more than she could put up with, exclaiming in a loud voice’ This is ridiculous, you don’t even have a lock on the door’!. Bill by now was losing all interest in the letting, tells his listeners, ‘I had to tell the old biddy that no matter what they were like in America, people in these parts were not stupid enough to want to steal a bucket of shit’.

Comments are closed.