Shall I tell you of my travels?
Of watching the sun set into (and rise from) the Atlantic (and the Pacific)? Shall I turn out a fiction about scaling Mr. Eiffel’s monstrosity or a truth about chiseling away on the Berlin wall? You see, I’ve wandered a bit in this old world, and while I’ve chased down the beggars that stole my wife’s wallet in Paris; been stymied by the language–and driving habits in London, and supped on raw horse-meat in the outskirts of Nagasaki... I’ve found that travel is as much an inward thing as an outward one.
Let me instead tell you of a much quieter place where there is nothing of human grandeur greater than the simple stacking of rocks to make a wall. The first wall was a division by decree that has outlasted the empire that made it.
On the occasion of visiting Hadrian’s Wall (The ancient Roman dividing point between Scotland and England) I have this day met a fine border collie. I thought her name was “Lucy” but I have since been informed that it is Loo-See.
Being a guard dog of the highest order, the name fits her. For, whenever there is a curious noise or action it’s this lovely black and white canine who is the first to go and have a look see.
She has today told me a message that I promised her I would pass on to those who might find themselves in similar straits but, since she was doubtful they’d listen, I’ll instead share it with you who better learn such lessons. Luckily, here at the tourist stop, right on that wall, there is an internet connection and hot tea, so I’ll take a moment and type this out.
Loo-See tells me that there once was a nearby wild dog, whom she referred to as a wolf (though I have my doubts), who would take the occasional stray sheep, eat what he could and leave the rest to rot, here near the old Roman fort of Birdoswald.
After many years, and several generations of this wolf’s activities, a wise collie (apparently this one’s great, great grand *****) went to the wolf and offered this:
“If you would please,” she kindly said, “you are doing an awful lot of chasing and leaving quite a bit of unnecessary waste so, if you’ll agree to a deal, we can all get on much better.”
“You need to eat, obviously, and we need to live in peace. Let us agree to this then: Every third day, I will gather my flock and you may take a small bite from each one–until your hunger is satisfied. We will each hurt a bit but that’s the worst of it. What say you?”
Well, the wolf agreed and all was fine for a fortnight, and then another... but, on a cold midwinter morning, when the wolf was sleeping amid his new benefactors, the old urges overcame him and he ate a small lamb whole.
“We trusted you,” cried the collie, who had no interest in violence but was fond of her charges and knew the requirements of her job.
“It won’t happen again,” said the wolf.
And it didn’t...
For the collie tore his throat out in less than a minute... ending the entire line.
Ignoring my allergies, I thanked the dog for the story, with a long, slow scratching down her neck and as I turned to leave, she barked me to turn back. When I did, she reminded me to tread lightly amid these ancient ruins, on the marked path only, and not to stray. She gave me a funny wink, but all the same I noted that her teeth were sharp and well maintained.
Now that I’ve finished writing this down for you, I shall leave very carefully indeed.
Perhaps worth your stopping by too: Birdoswald - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia