WILL WEST (SLAM ONE)

As I rode down the lane on Billy my pony homeward bound from school, I met Will West (Slam I) as he was known. With Sam his whippet dog Slam I walked the four lanes west of the village daily. Wharf lane down one laneside hedge and back up the other side. Sam searched the hedges and fields, first one side, on the return the other. I met him on his way back from searching lower lane hadges. Slam I had already walked Middle lane and Upper lane in the mornings as was his custom. “Hello” I said as I reined my pony in and stopped to chat. “Haven’t seen you lately” Slam I leaned on his tick, the picture of a worn-out old man. He was always dressed the same, a pair of grey britches, black boots and leggings (polished daily) a cap, muffler knotted around his neck, with a big over jacket with two large poacher pockets running around the width of the jacket. There was plenty of space in these deep roomy pockets to conceal rabbits, hare, partridge, or pheasant. Slam I sold all and any to his neighbours and had plenty left for himself. Many a gravy pudding was enjoyed for a shilling ― his charge for a rabbit. This was a Souldern expression when a rabbit was bought from him “There you are missus ― a good gravy pudding for your family”

“Haven’t been out much” said Slam I. “I’ve had the screws last six or seven weeks ― I ent bin too good at all ” He pushed his cap back with one hand and resting the other on his back “A touch of the ‘can ’t helpt its’ I calls it. But I thought I’d come out today, I’ve come further than I should, I b’ent no good, I dun’t know how I shall get back hum” Sams sensitive nose was snifting the hedge a few yards away, then in he jumped. “Look out” said Slam I, “ol Sams got a rabbit.” I swear Slam I jumped three foot in the air as he dashed off alongside the hedge. Sam turned the rabbit out, right by Slam I. Whack! his stick came down as he said “Slam I had her.” All the strength left him as he picked the rabbit up. “Pesky thing” he said as he opened his jacket and pushed it in well into his pocket with a struggle and buttoned up his jacket. He picked up his stock. “Darn’t know how I’ll get hum ― that I don’t” as he tottered onto the lane road leaning heavily on his stick and struggled for home. Sam his dog and friend walked behind him. I swear as that old dog winked at me as he passed, he’d heard it all before, or was it what do you think of that ― not bad for a couple of old ones!

As Slam I walked the lanes he paused as he came to the village and stopped to talk to the chaps stood at Bates corner. There was in the twenties always twenty or thirty men (boy chaps (teenagers)) out of work stood mostly by the corner of the street, or on wet or windy days crammed in the jietty by the village pump. Everything was discussed about the village, gardens, homes, families, anything and everything. One time Slam I stopped, they were talking about shaving. How long do you go between shaves. One chap went three days, others as much as a week between shaves. “Well” said Slam I “ I annt had a shave for eight or nine days this week”, being as its Thursday I shan’t shave to the weekend, Saturday I specs.” Beside the screws Slam I suffered with corns. Going into the shop he asked for a pot of raspberry, strawberry ― “Oh my dang corn” as he hopped about the shop. The poor old chap was forever after that asked “How’s your corn Will ― be um troublesome Will” We children, cheeky little so and so’s, would shout “a pot of raspberry strawberry oh my corn”!! Not that it worried him, as he said, he didn’t give it “No never mind”