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Elphinstone Kist   Stories for Bairns

The Thinker     by: Wheeler, Les

Story suggested by a Netherlands folk tale

Eence a lang, lang time ago in an airt further awa than far there wis a wee toon in a bonnie strath. Yowes an coos wir in the parks roon the toon an a sma river gaed throwe the toon as weel, sae thir wis gweed, clean watter for aabody.

In the toon thir bade a fine, young loon ca’ad Andra fa bade wi his faither an mither in a gweed, sonsy hoose near the centre o the toon. Andra’s faither wis a weaver an his mither a spinner: fan the oo cam aff the backs o the yowes Andra’s mither wid spin it an pass it on tae her man fa wid wyve it intae claith that fowk used tae mak claes.

Aften in the gloamin fan fowk wir stravaigin roon the toon they wid pass the weaver’s hoose. They wid hear the weaver singin his aul ballads, his wife soughin her saft lyrics an Andra jinin in. As weel as that they wid hear lots o lauchin an they wid waak doon the street an say, ‘Fit a quaer family. Funcy spending yer nichts singin an lauchin!’

Fan Andra wis nae at the skweel an his fowk wir tchaavin on wi thir work Andra wid sit outside his hoose on an aul stirrup step, a block o steen horse riders wid use tae mak it easier tae get on thir horse, an read awa at a beuk, scrieve a fyow noties or jist sit an think.

Noo, ye micht hae thocht that thi toon wis a rare place tae bide but it hid ae muckle problem – in a cave in the wids on a hill jist outside the toon a dragon hid set up hame an nae only ferm beasts but fowk as weelwir stertin tae disappear an that, as ye micht suppose, worried the fowk o the toon. Something hid tae be daen an they expectit the Provost an cooncillors tae dae it.

The Provost ‘issued a proclamation’ – he sent oot a letter – offerin a hunner gowd merks tae onybody that wid get rid o the dragon. Fowk thocht killin it wis the best wye tae get rid o’t. The Toon Clerk stuck the letter on the toon notice boord an fowk cam alang tae read it. It wisna jist a complete waste o time for some brave, some fowk wid say feel, loons read it an thocht they micht hae a go at getting rid o the dragon an sae become rich, feel loons. But they wir nivver heard o again. It wis plain tae aabody that something different needit tae be daen. A Toon Meetin wis cried for.

The Provost got the meetin gyan by spikkin far ower lang an fowk hid hin eneuch o his bletherin sae wir gled fan the local baker interupted the Provost tae spier fit he’d daen tae get rid o this cratur that wis quaetly aiting aa the fowk o the toon.
‘I pit oot an order!’ said the Provost.
‘Fit order miht that be?’ spiert the baker.
‘It wis an order banning the dragon fae the toon an aa the airts roon aboot!’ said the Provost, raisin himself oot o’s seat an noddin like he kent fit he wis spikkin aboot: makkin siccar at the same time that aabody could see his chyne o office an fit a bigsy cratur he wis.
‘The Provost is richt,’ said the Toon Clerk, ‘ for I stuck the order on the toon notice boord.’
‘An I stood gaird on the notice boord for at least an oor!’ roared the Heid Bobby aye read tae show fowk fu gweed he wis at his job.
‘Div ye ken, by ony chunce, if the dragon or ony dragon, read the notice?’ spiert the baker.
The Provot lookit tae be in a richt stammygaster, ‘Weel…na...weel..he disna come intae the toon verra offen.’

Noo, it wis ta this pynt that a wee sma vice interrupted the meetin.
‘Eh…Excuse me, but micht I…’
‘Fit’s that interruption?’ spiert the Provost.
‘It’s the weaver’s loon,’ said the Toon Clerk, ‘his name’s Andra.’
‘Andra is it? Fit dis he think he’s daein? Fit kine o a loon is he?’ spiert the Provost.
‘Weel,’ said the Toon Clerk, ‘he’s aye reading beuks an he dis an affa lot o thinking!’
‘Thinkin!’ glowert the Provost. ‘I’ll gie him thinking!’
‘Andra! Keep quaet an shut up!’ said the Provost rudely. ‘We important fowk are busy wi a serious problem. We dinna wint things being connacht by scunners o loons like you. Keep quaet!’
The butcher then made a suggestion. ‘You are oor Provost an heid bummer. Fu dinna you gyan an kill the dragon yersel?’
‘Me?’ squeakit the Provost. ‘Weel…weel…I micht but I hiv tae be here to lead the council, tae tak decisions an tae send oot orders. Me fecht the dragon? Na, na that widna dae at aa.’
The butcher wisna tae be pit aff. ‘Fit aboot the Toon Clerk, then?’
‘Och, na, na. Oot o the question,’ said the Toon Clerk. ‘Fan the Provost maks a decision an pits forth an order in council I hiv tae scrieve it an see that it’s pit on the toon notice boord. That’s the laa. Och, na,na. I’ve far ower muckle tae dae without chasing dragons aa ower the place.

The butcher, haein catched his breath syne spiert, ‘Weel, fit wye can the Heid Bobby nae dae it? That’s fit we piye him for is it nae?’
The Heid Bobby wis swack in getting up tae defend himself. ‘Oh, that widna dae at aa. I hiv tae gaird the Provost an the Toon Clerk or we wid nivver hae ony orders tae tell us the richt wye tae dae things. An forbye that ivery year that comes roon I hae them carol singers gyan aa ower the place wi thir sangs, harps an pipes. Them gangs o weemin can be affa tricky tae hunnle in the caul an snaa. Oh, na, na. I’m far ower busy but I’ll get aa my bobbies tae consider gyan up agin the dragon. I’m sure they’ll aa volunteer tae a man!’

Noo, thir wis only fower bobbies in the toon an they wir aa staunin at the back o the haa. On jalousin fit the Heid Bobby wis sayin they aa thocht they’d something better tae dae an creepit oot o the haa afore onybody made the awkward suggestion that they should gyan oot an face the dragon the verra next morning. Nae dragon huntin for them!

Andra tried again. ‘If I could jist mak a suggestion. I’ve bin thinking aboot oor problem..’
The Provost hid hin enuff. ‘Chuck that loon oot o the haa,’ he baaled. ‘He’s nithin but a trouble maker an a thinker!’

It wis then that the Dominee, usually a quaet, shulpit kine o cratur, decided tae spik his spik. ‘If I could jist say something, your worship, spikkin tae the Provost gie politely for the Provost, efter aa, wis his boss. ‘I ken Andra rael weel an he’s een o my verra best loons. He’s a stotter o a body wi his beuks, bricht as a Broch button an aye reading an thinking.’
‘That’s his problem,’ girned the Provost. ‘Fa iver got onywye in this life by thinking? Eh?’
The Dominee summoned up his courage an said, ‘ But he micht be able tae help. Wid it dae ony hairm tae listen tae him?’
The Provost gaes the Dominee his ‘I winna forget this look’ an growled,’ Aa richt, we’ll listen tae fit the loon his tae say.’

‘Weel, Provost,’ began Andra, ‘I’ve been giein the problem a bittie o thocht an efter a bittie o research I think I can get rid o the dragon. I hae a ploy that wid seem tae fit the bill.’
‘Fit sort o a ploy?’ spiert the Provost.
‘Och it’s a gweed een. I think I’ve got aathing workit oot.’
‘But fit is yer ploy? Govie Dick, are ye iver gyan tae tell us? coontered the Provost his patience growin a bittie thin.

‘Weel I’d rather nae gyang intae details,’ said Andra, ‘ but ye can be sure it’s as grand a ploy as ivver ye’ve heard o.’
The Provost lookit like he wis aboot tae gyan aff like a cannon but calmed doon fan the Toon Clerk fuspert in his lug, ‘Yer worship, fit hairm can it dae tae let the loon try? It’ll mak aabody think we’ve made a decision an that’ll get aa them orra toonsfowk aff wir backs for a filie.’ The Provost likit his thinking an noddit in agreement. The Toon Clerk hid hit the nail on the heid as far’s the Provost wis concerned.
‘Weel, this is a sair thing for me tae dae,’ said the Provost soondin like he’d a plum stuck in his moo, ‘ but I’m gyan tae let this loon hae his chunce. I’m gyan tae accept Andra’s brave offer. Is thir onything ye micht need,Andra?’
‘Jist a shairp claymore, nae ower big, if ye widna mind, Yer Worship,’ said Andra.
‘Nithin else?’ spiert the Provost a bittie pitten oot foo settled the loon wis. ‘Nae armoor or onything like that?’
‘Na, na I’ve aathing I need for my ploy tae work,’ said Andra an haein made his pynt set aff tae gaither his bits an bobs.

Aabody in the toon gaithert tae see Andra set aff. He cairriet his smaa, shairp claymore, lent tae him by the Heid Bobby fa’d nivver used it, a length o towe an fit lookit like a picter happit by a bittie o claith.
‘Weel, I’ll haud awa then,’ said Andra an mairched proudly taewords the wids far the dragon bade, but jist as he got tae pathie leadin tae the dragon’s den he turned roon, held up the picter an stairtit waakin backwards intae the cave. ‘He’s aff his heid!’ roared the Provost. ‘Fit can he dae waakin backwards?’

Andra wis seen oot o sicht in the wids an the toonsfowk watchit an waited. Efter fit seemed like ages they heard a lood, orra skirl that wint richt throwe them. Aabody thocht the worst hid happened.
‘I kent this wis a stupid ploy in the first place,’ muttered the Provost. Syne they heard a lood scrapin soond comin fae the wids an heidin stracht taewards the toon. The Heid Bobby, shakkin in his beets aboot fit micht happen, roared oot, ‘It’s the dragon comin tae kill us aa. Rin! Rin!’

An rin they aa did. They cooried doon in doorways, ahin waas an up trees. A brave chiel taen a peek an shouted, ‘Look, aabody! It’s Andra an he’s draggin a lang, green thing in ahin himself!’

Certes, he wis richt. Fan they lookit they saa Andra stravaigin alang, draggin the dragon’s tail by the towe he’d taen wi him. Aabody stairtit cheerin an Andra wis a hero.
‘Ma loon,’ dribbled the Provost, ‘ I nivver thocht for a meenit ye wid let us doon but foo did ye manage it?’
Andra explained,’Fan the last couple o fowk wint oot tae try thir haun at killin the dragon they wir frozen tae the spot eence the dragon lookit intae thir een. I kent that an efter that it wis gey easy.’
‘But foo did ye manage nae tae look intae his een?’spiert the Toon Clerk.
Andra taen the happin aff o the picter an let them see that it wis a looking gless. ‘Ye see,’ explained Andra, ‘I held the looking-gless abeen my heid pintin at the dragon. Syne I waakit backwards using the looking-gless tae guide my steps. That wye I didna hae tae look in tae the dragon’s een but fan the Dragon lookit intae the looking-gless he seen his ain een starin back at himsel an sae he wis frozen tae the spot. It is gey easy syne for me tae gyang up an hack the dragon’s tail aff.’
‘But foo did ye cut aff it’s tail? Did ye cut aff its heid as weel?’ spiert the Toon Clerk.
Andra gaed him a peetyin look, ‘Ye dinna hae till. I thocht abody kent that tae kill a dragon aa ye hae tae dae is hack aff its tail.’
The Provost made a quick interruption an giein the Toon Clerk a superior look said, ‘Certes, only a feel gype widna ken that!’
The baker syne hid his tippencewirth, ‘Ye dinna suppose thir micht be something tae this thinking efter aa. Maybe we should aa gie it a try?’
‘Nae gweed tae me,’ said the Heid Bobby, ‘I dinna need tae think. I’m a chiel o action!’
‘Nae eese tae me either,’said the Toon Clerk, ‘I jist copy oot laas an orders passed by the Provost an council. Dae ye suppose ye micht dae some thinking, Provost?’
‘I’ve ower muckle tae dae tae be gyan aboot thinking aa day. If I ivver get a filie tae masel I micht gie it a thocht.’
‘I think it’s time tae gie Andra his reward,’ said the butcher an aabody cheered.

Andra grinned, booed ower ab accepted a pyock wi a hunner gowd coins in it. He taen the pyock hame an gaed it tae his faither, fa syne gaed it tae Andra’s mither fa pit it awa in a fine safe place. Andra cairied on sittin on the stirrup step reading an thinking an fan fowk spiert aboot fit he wis gyan tae dae wi the hunner bitties o gowd he wid jist say, ‘I’m jist gyan tae think aboot it.’

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