Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Most of the stories I tell are about local "characters" who I've known all my life. The Englishman is an exception to that. He moved over here and took up farming (and a couple of other business ventures) after retiring from his job as some sort of corporate muckty-muck. With the exception of five or six years when he lived in Kenya back in the 50's, he'd been a city boy most of his life.

He was very interested in history and I would often go visit with him and we would sit on his deck and talk about everything under the sun for hours on end. He would also repair to the deck in the Summertime with a cooler full of beers and a bug zapper... He said "When in Rome..." He called that his "redneck entertainment."

He was the only person I've ever met who named his critters that were freezer-bound. Of course he named 'em things like Sir Loin and Lamb Chops and so on... I tried to explain to him that we don't name 'em if we're going to eat 'em over here, but it never fazed him.

He'd starting wearing shorts as soon as it got the least bit warm. Nothing unusual in that, except he had some truly hideous scars on his legs from an accident with a 9N Ford and a sicklemower when he lived in Kenya. The men working with him carried him to town on the tractor after the accident. The town was like thirty miles away. I'm amazed he survived that.

He absolutely hated Germans. He was old enough to remember the Blitz and having to move along with all the other children, away to the countryside to avoid the air raids. He once told me that he and his friends were walking to school one morning and found an HE-111 that the RAF had shot down the night before. They got to rooting around in the wreckage and found the severed finger of one of the crewmen. So, boys being boys, they took it to school with 'em. And got their asses busted for their trouble. More for playing in the plane wreckage than bringing the finger to school. For some reason that story always made me think of the scene with the severed tongue in The Wind and the Lion.

He was as parsimonious as any sterotypical Scotsman. I often accused him of being a Scot, which never failed to get him riled. "Bluidy Jocks!" He would say "That's who we get to fight our wars y'know." More than a bit of truth to that. He was an old school imperialist and was not the least bit ashamed of it.

He passed away several years ago. I miss the old goat. He was fun to talk with and even more fun to argue with. He and his wife introduced me to Billy Connelly, Steptoe & Son, Scotch Eggs, HP sauce and Colemans mustard.

Shortly after he died, his wife called me one day and said she was moving back home (she was never crazy about living here, she was very much a city girl) and asked if I were interested in his books. Of course I jumped at that. Doubled my library in one day. Even though many of the books were on subjects I wasn't particularly interested in, I was glad to get 'em, just because they belonged to Eric. So I guess you could say I still have a piece of him around, even though I don't have him around to argue with anymore.