Thursday, September 24, 2009

And so, we hear from Jack...

I’m Karen Bessey Pease, and I have a friend who’s an exceptional writer. Jack has authored some outstanding fiction, and I’ve had the privilege of reading two of his novels. Neither of them is a light-hearted read, but Jack most definitely has a fun-loving and playful side. He has a terrific sense of humor, and I’ve rarely met anyone I warmed to as quickly as I did to this Scotsman who is abiding Down Under. Jack is an occasional contributor to ‘Observations from The F.A.R.M. (Fresh Air and Room to Move)’, and I thought it would be fun to share his first column run by our little western Maine newspaper back in April of this year.


I’m Jack Ramsay, and I’m a gullible idiot.

There. I thought I’d best start with honesty. I’m also a husband, a writer (of the most frustrated kind), a pen-pal (to your very own, the magnificent Karen Bessey Pease) and an immigrant to Australia. But, back to the idiot thing, if you’ll indulge me.

An idiot, if dictionaries are to be believed, is a layman; a stupid person. But some definitions go further and describe me –sorry, ‘idiots’ – as having an intelligence quotient of less than twenty-five. Okay, so I might have an IQ slightly higher than that, but having the combined brainpower of six idiots, in my book at least, still makes me an idiot. ‘Gullible’, of course, isn’t in any dictionary.

Such claims are all very well, in a ‘Saturday night after a few beers with the boys’ kind of way, but I have irrefutable evidence stretching over many years to corroborate my assertion. The examples are many, and the good Lord knows they’re varied in the extreme, but let me take you back to the day I first realized just what it takes to secure the title of ‘idiot of all he surveys’.

I grew up in Scotland, on a farm that nestles in the foothills of the Ochil Mountains near Perth, gateway to the Highlands. Okay, truth time again, they’re Hills. But if you stand at the bottom and look up, knowing you have to get to the top, they’re pretty daunting in a grassy, rounded, picnic-on-a-Sunday kind of way. Sounds like Maine, though, doesn’t it? Looks like Maine, too.

Although I was still in school (junior high, I think you’d call it), after class I’d hang around the smoky little bothy where my dad and a few of the farm men retreated to fix their machinery when it broke, as it often did in winter when it’s too cold and rainy and mucky to be outside.

One afternoon at the end of March I was sitting on my favorite five gallon drum, ignoring the wrestling rats in the corner and trying my hardest to emulate my peers – drinking overly sweet tea that had been stewing on the fire since breakfast, laughing at the right times and nodding at the wisdom spouting forth from such admirable fellows – when something Grieg the Grieve said made my ears prick up (he was the foreman).

He was planning a haggis hunt! The very next day!

Sure, I’d eaten haggis before, many times – I’m a Scot, and there isn’t a Scot alive who doesn’t incessantly crave the succulently meaty flesh and sweet wood fired flavor of the most cunning prey on the moors – but I’d never been on a hunt. Platefuls of haggis had always magically appeared from my mother’s kitchen, surrounded by the ubiquitous guard of mashed tatties and chappit neeps (mashed turnips).

When I questioned the origins of our national dish the shepherds and drovers laughed at me, then I sat listening in awe as they told of the last great Perthshire haggii hunt (haggii is the plural of haggis, just for reference – say hag-eye) which had claimed the lives of four novice hunters in a netting gone wrong. The more they divulged of that fateful morning some ten years before, the more I found myself compelled to claim my right to hunt the haggii. I saw my chance to prove myself.

I, Jack Ramsay, would become the youngest haggii hunt champion in living memory!

And so, after one or two well-placed hints from me, the anvil played host to a whispering confab, and when the huddle broke up I was invited along to what promised to be something extra-ordinary: we were to stalk the (apparently) infamous snorkel-nosed pond-dredging mountain haggii – a very dangerous species, but the tastiest of them all. Barely able to contain myself, I leaned closer as Grieg the Grieve outlined in hushed tones the equipment we would need, and his plan of attack.

We were to leave for the ponds by sun up. My dad agreed to call the school and inform them of my absence – it wasn’t every day that a boy became a man, so a day out of class was acceptable, even laudable.

Next morning I rose before dawn, taking care to follow Grieg the Grieve’s instructions to the letter. After all, what idiot would squander his chance at infamy by failing to rendezvous at the meeting place or bring the essential tools of the haggii hunt or wear every last item of protective clothing necessary to tackle an amphibious horde of such devious beasts?

Not I! I’m Jack Ramsay!

In the next room I heard my father preparing himself for the hunt, talking in whispers with my mother and enjoying his first joke of the day – he was always such a considerate, jovial man – but my tasks were pressing and I had no time to share in that particular hilarity. I made a few final checks, zipped myself up and struggled the half-mile to the school bus stop, where I was to be collected by Grieg the Grieve in his Land Rover. Then to the hills, where we’d meet my father.

So it was that I found myself waiting impatiently by the side of the road in the farm manager’s tatty old wetsuit, his lead belt around my waist and his snorkel by my ear, ready to dredge every pond in Perthshire in search of my quarry. So it was that my knees came to buckle under my burden of fishing nets, wooden stakes, sledgehammers and oxygen tanks, a combination which, even on that cold April morning, brought sweat to my brow and a desert to my throat.

And so it was that, as the school bus rounded the corner and headed towards me, its occupants’ mouths agape, their fingers pointing, I realized without a shadow of a doubt – I’m a gullible idiot.

NB: No haggii were harmed in the telling of this story.


And, back to me...

I encourage readers of GAG who are interested in obtaining valuable writing tips or resources, or who would like to view first-rate photos from Scotland and Australia, to visit Jack’s website. Just click on his name under ‘Karen’s favorite links’ to the right of this posting. If you are an agent or publisher and would like to read a synopsis of, or sample chapters from, Jack’s completed works (Rohallion Dawn and Brogan’s Crossing), this same link will direct you to Jack’s contact information.

No idiots were harmed in the telling of this story.

** The photograph above is of Ben A'an, in Scotland. If anyone can spot the snorkel-nosed pond-dredging mountain haggii in this picture, please contact Jack. He is offering a reward for its capture, as it happens to be the one that got away...

Photo copyright Tina and Andrew Thomson.

Below are the words to 'Address to a Haggis', generously supplied to me by my pal Jack. To enter the contest for an autographed copy of Grumble Bluff (and the accolades of Scotsmen--and women--everywhere), just make a recording of yourself reciting this poem and email it to me at Yeah, it's takes a LOT of courage...but you can do it. I DID, and I'm alive to tell about it. (I just been banned from ever entering the country of Scotland, that's all...)

Address To A Haggis
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn,
they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve,
Are bent lyke drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
"Bethankit!" 'hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a haggis!


  1. Isn't it, though? It actually reminds me of one of the peaks on Borestone Mountain in Elliotsville Township, Maine. We don't have snorkel-nosed pond dredging mountain haggii on Borestone, though. We've got 'sidehill gougers'. Wild, wicked critters who are as fast as all get-out...unless you can catch them and flip them around. Legs are shorter on one side, you see, so if you can flip them side-to, they can't run, they just tip over. Our Mt. Blue, of course, has the infamous sidehill 'winder''ve gotta spin them in the opposite direction of the 'gouger' to achieve the same result, as they are a freak of nature. The legs on the OPPOSING side are shorter, you understand...

    Did that answer your question, Trev???

    :o)> Grrr.

  2. There was a young cougar from Maine
    Whose lopsided legs gave him pain
    When he got flipped around
    His face hit the ground
    And the sidehill winder kicked his ass once again

  3. Ah, do bring a smile. Was it not you who wrote the poem in the comments section of 'Innocent Until Proven Crazy'? That one was a masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned!

    I enjoy your participation here on you not have a photo you could post along with your name? Let us get to know you a little better? Would you like to become a 'follower'? There are absolutely no benefits from doing so, as far as I can tell, but it would make me feel good...and really, what's more important than that?

  4. I get that Jack was flooed, but what the **** is a haggie?

  5. errr, meant fooled and haggii...least I spelt **** right!

  6. Hello, Anon. (Are you the same Anon I've corresponded with before? If so, welcome back. If not...couldn't your parents come up with a more original name? Heh. Sorry...there were FIVE Karens in my class in school--I'm a little touchy about the subject of original names...)

    I really think Jack should answer the question regarding haggii. That is, most definitely, a species native to Scotland, and therefore is totally outside my area of expertise! (YES!!! I DO SO have an area of expertise! I'll let you know when we've hit on it!)

    Anyway, perhaps Jack will pop in and give us the low-down on that great Scottish mystery.

    And hey! If anyone will recite Robert Burns' 'Address to a Haggis' and email it to me, I'll send them an autographed copy of Grumble Bluff! (Just the FIRST one to send me a recording, mind you...a gal has to make a living and can't give 'em ALL away!) on that spelling, won't you?

  7. Oh, there's something I wanted to call attention to. I'm not sure this 'comments' section is the proper venue, but it's a start.

    Next week, October 4th-10th is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week. In addition, Monday the 5th is National Blue Shirt Day. If you think of it, please wear a blue shirt that day to show your support for the 'STOMP Out Bullying Campaign'. This campaign is focussing on reducing bullying and cyber-bullying, decreasing school absenteeism and truancy (often due to fears of bullying), educating against intolerance, and deterring violence in schools, playgrounds and communities across the country. And, because bullying is not confined to America's borders, I encourage any of my friends 'from away' to join in supporting all the good people who are working to stomp out bullying!

    Because we are human beings, and it is in our nature to find our place on society's ladder, there will always be bullies. There will always be those who are easily victimized. But I truly believe that with attention to the issue, education starting at a young age, and vigilance on the part of responsible teachers, parents and care-takers, we can greatly reduce the instances of bullying. I look forward to the day when it is 'cooler' to be kind and tolerant than it is to be a bully!

    To read more about this subject and some of the campaigns that are related to it, please click on my underlined 'Mrs. Grins' logo accompanying this comment. If I did it right, it will take you to Sue Scheff's blog posting earlier today.)

    Remember, shirts! Thank you!

    And on this same read an excerpt from Grumble Bluff, please see that little light-blue column on the right-hand side of the screen. (Unless you're over there...then it would be on your left...)

  8. Yay!!! I tried it and it worked! I am getting so SMAHT! Give it a whirl!

    Thanks. Karen (aka Mrs. Grins)

  9. There was a young haggis called Enus
    Who had a really long...

    Probosis...For dredging ponds, you dirty crew :)

    Thanks for posting the article, Kazza. Sorry - should I call you 'Karen' here? Hm...too formal. Kazza it is, then.

    A haggis (pl = haggii (hag-eye, I tells ya!)) is best described as very tasty mush. Serve it hot and spicy. All us Scots like hot and spicy. We gave curry to the Indians, you know.

    And I'm heartened to hear/read that almost every community on this dear planet has its equivalent of the lopsiders. I'm equally heartened that 'Anonymous' can spell ****.

    I'm off to see if I can find a blue shirt for next week. Then I have an appointment with a tub of lard and a ten-foot python. Ah, snake season...who'd ever ban it!?

  10. Jack..I like those sort of poems where you think it's going to be something naughty and it isn't.

    Mary had a little lamb
    She kept it in a bucket
    And every time it jumped the fence
    The bulldog used to chase it..

    Kazza,..Just for you would develop a profile but too many women are after me for child maintenence so prefer to keep a low profile.

  11. Hey, Ramsay! Nice to 'hear' from you! And thank YOU for the 'Scots Idiot' contribution to GAG.

    Also, thanks for clearing up the 'hag-eye' question...I think. Hot and spicy mush, ay? You don't work for the Scotland Board of Tourism, do you? I know you made ME want to jump the pond to try their most excellent cuisine! :o(>

    And Jack, thanks for looking for that blue shirt. I hope you find it.

    P.S. Ten foot python! Come on, man! I know writers are allowed some literary license, but are you sure it's not closer to six inches? And lard? Give me a break...

    P.P.S. You ARE going to enter the caption contest, aren't you? I can write a mean poem! Really, I can! I'll bet I could even write one in Gaelic (pronounced by the Scots as 'gah-lick') if you win! The more, the merrier, Pal. Just go to the 'Silent Predator' blog posting down below, somewhere. (Where's my down-pointing arrow??? Does anybody know? I hate these computers...)

  12. Cripes! I just had to go through THREE security clearances to post a comment to my own blog! Who let the Australian Customs in here???


    Trev! Hello again. Another stellar poem!

    Here, my young friend, is a suggestion...

    Try keeping a 'low profile' more often, and you'll avoid 'child maintenance' issues, altogether! There's a good lad. Don't say I never gave you any sound advice! Grumbles and Grins is more than an entertainment medium, you see. I, your humble hostess, aim to solve the world's problems, one teensy profile at a time!


  13. Hey Trev...I hate those maintenance chasers too...following the ambulances all over town and country listening for the popping and wailing. Ugh. Glad we're on the same waves regarding the naughties - that's my thing, friend :-)! We're all alike! (see, indoctrination can be a terrible thing...she says it often enough and I start to repeat it.)

    Kazza, yep, I'll do the caption contest - but you'll be the butt of it, so to speak. Sorry - going through a mean patch these past few hours. Could be the coffee. Or lack of sleep.


  14. Hey! I just saw a Dozycow show up in my 'followers'!! Can it be? Dozy-dear?

    Hehe. Welcome, you gorgeous bovine, you! I'm udderly overwhelmed! (Is there a spell check thingy on here? 'Overwhelmed' doesn't look right...) Oh, well. At least I can spell ****.

  15. Well Karen you certainly know how to hit a man below the belt.
    Us blokes do all we can to keep you ladies happy and what thanks do we get.
    Just vilification. there's just no gratitude any more. Never once has anyone but me paid for the motel rooms and drinks.
    Maintenance chasers they are Jack spot on there. Just as well we are all alike...United we stand etc..low profile ...hrumph I say to you KBP for turning my reasonable explanation into something so frivolous and also being funnier than me.

  16. Trev! I think you've given me a clue, here (for I'm a very curious girl, you know...)

    You say 'spot on'...isn't that a British phrase? Are you an Englishman? Stiff upper lips get you in MUCH less trouble with those 'maintenance chasers', you know. Take it from me, my friend. This is all part of your education on your road to enlightenment. GAG will straighten you out in no time a'tall!

    (No Trevs were harmed in the straightening out of this story...)

    Hehe. I kill me, I really do...

  17. Uh oh..hold the line steady there chaps..I think she's onto us. So stiff upper lip...take it like a man and say 'damn you Jerry you may have got me but you'll never take England!'

  18. I haven't received a single recording of 'Address to a Haggis'. (Do Scotsmen really talk to their hot and spicy mush? I must research this...)

    Don't make me show you that it can be done! I am perfectly content making a fool of myself in good old American English!

    'Fair fa', your honest, sonsie face...'

    Sonsie...I wonder if I just insulted some hot and spicy mush? If so, I beg its pardon.

  19. Just a quick announcement for any GAG followers here in western Maine...(and YOU know who you are!)

    Be sure to pick up a copy of The Irregular tomorrow, October 14th, to read 'Snakes Alive' by Jack Ramsay. He is my guest columnist in 'Observations from The F.A.R.M. (Fresh Air and Room to Move)', and I am delighted to have him share a story from Down Under with us folks Up Over. If you have an online subscription to the newspaper, you can also read the column RIGHT NOW--this very minute--at If I did this thingy correctly, just click on my name (the one with all the e's, a's and s's) and the link should take you right there!

    Thank you!

  20. I sold an extra copy of The Irregular today! Methinks the publisher owes me a commission on that $0.75! When I told a certain lady that this week's 'Observations' column featured my Scotsman-in-Australia pal, Jack, she snatched up a second copy of the newspaper to take home with her. !!! Apparently, he's doubly delicious!

    Either that, or she's still house-breaking that mangy mutt, Smelly Nellie...

  21. It's five a.m. as I write this, and the stars outside my skylight are absolutely breathtaking. Stunning. And that made me think of my 'Address to a Haggis' contest.

    Why, you ask? (If you don't ask...if you already KNOW, then you are as awesome as those stars!) See, I was thinking about those stars...those constellations and how much joy and peace I receive when looking at them. I thought about other constellations...most particularly, the Southern Cross, as I'd just read a reference to it in Peter Watt's novel, Papua. That made me think of the southern hemisphere, and the different view of the heavens seen from there. Thinking of the southern hemi made me think of Australia, which made me think of my pal Jack, which made me think of haggis (Lord, that's an image every virile man is going for, I'm sure...hehe) and thinking of that dubious delicacy made me think of this contest.

    Comprendez? Of course, you do!

    Not a single entry, so far. Therefore, to try and bolster your courage, I shall make a recording of myself reciting the poem. That's right...abject humiliation, just for you guys! I'll have my web manager upload it onto my website at, because I'm not bright enought to figure out if I can put it on my blog. It will make Scots everwhere cringe, I've no doubt. And so, I'll apologize in advance...but someone's gotta be brave, here. And this is Grumbles and Grins by ME. I'll take the lead, but it won't be pretty.

    If I can do it...anyone can. So please, give it a try. Sometimes, it's kind of fun to make a fool of yourself. That's what I've been telling myself for the last forty years...and it helps. It really does. :o)

    I'll do it just as soon as I come down off my father's barn roof, although it may not be uploaded until tomorrow, when my web manager comes off her weekend. Check it out, and then come play with me, won't you?

    Go look at the stars, now, and see where they take you. My gaze took me 10,000 miles. What fun. :o)

    Happy first quarter moon, everbody. Kaz

  22. Okay, ladies and gentlemen! I've recorded 'Address to a Haggis' and sent it to my splendiferous web manager, Karen. (Confusing, yes? I like life that way...)

    She should have the rcording posted on within--well, whenever she's good and ready, I guess! (She's too smart and invaluable for me to nag, you see...)

    Anyway...check it out, and then give it a try. I'm not leaving 'And so, we hear from Jack' until at least ONE GAG follower gives it a try. I have the BEST bunch of readers in cyber-space...and the bravest! (It's not like you can insult Bobby Burns by totally stuffing up his poem...the man is DAID!)

    Okay. That's all. I shall be waiting patiently...

    I shall be waiting.