Stand and Deliver Part 2
About the time of the American war of Independence, England was plagued by a scourge of highwaymen. These ruffians waylaid coaches and horses in remote places and held the travellers for robbery. Centuries later such incidents became the subjects for films made in Hollywood. Dick Turpin (aka Brad Pitt) became especially famous not that his deeds were especially heroic - he was more a violent common thief. But history painted him with glory and he has lived through history as a gallant “ner-do-well“. In literature, Dick’s laudable aim was to redistribute to the poor the ill gotten gains taken from the travellers on the coach, who must be rich to have afforded the fare. The horse and rider knew of a convenient lay by wherein they could hide from the coach until at the last minute when they would spring out onto the road . The black masked Dick, (an English version of Zorro) brandished in each hand a flintlock pistol, and would call out to the horses “stand” and to the team driver “deliver”. As reinforcement of his determination Dick would fire one of the pistols to ensure compliance. Of course, the myth is that the team of four very big horses would instantly come to a halt and that the driver would call out to the passengers that they must meekly deposit their trinkets into the hat of the highwayman. Gallantly Dick would hand back a sparkling engagement ring which has been proffered by a young beautiful woman exhibiting ample cleavage (aka Dolly Parton) but he would keep the fat purse of the local landowner’s disagreeable agent, (aka Robert de Niro), who wore a beard. Eventually, after this gallant display of social responsibility, the gallant Dick would ride off to spend his ill gotten gains. This story, of course, made a lovely fairytale, readily attributable to a politician’s spin master of a byegone era.
But how might Barry and Joe have fared in yesterday’s world? I do indeed know the location of a convenient lay by, halfway up the hill located on what was once a Roman Road - ie a road lade down by Roman soldiers in the 1st century AD. My boy Joe, might indeed have stood still for almost five minutes, about the time it takes to nibble all of the weeds in the hedgerow. As, eventually, I came to hear the approach of the sixteen hooves of the four in hand, I would take out from the deep pockets of my Australian riding coat, two primed pistols. Now these were no Colt 45s, indeed they did not even fire shells - they fired a lead ball. ‘Fired’ was literally a good description because the explosion was caused by the flint induced ignition of gun powder. I would have had two shots - no more. And since the gun would have gone off right by the ear of my trusty steed I doubt if I could have managed firing one pistol, let alone two. Then, urged on by my muscular thighs, my loins and the newly acquired classical posture, Joe would have obediently stepped out onto the track, at exactly the right moment, directly in front of four 16 hand coach horses coming up the hill at the trot. At least, I would like to think that Joe would do his duty but he was very much a pragmatic chap and he would see the concept of stepping about in front of four heavy horses to be a distinctly dodgy move. He simply would not have done it and who could blame him.
So, ignoring this slight problem, I would call out to the coach driver “stand”, but I do have serious doubts as to whether this stalward individual would hear my cry, let alone stop. Regardless of any training such as which my horse had been a recipient of, Joe would be off up the lane like a startled rabbit. As to what the team of coach horses would do at such the sound of a gun I shudder to think. The driver of the coach would probably be some oik from up the Welsh valleys and the chances that he would meekly surrender are a bit thin. Whether or not there would be travelling in the coach some coin laden land agent and a fair young damsel is what, I would describe as very wishful thinking. No, I don’t believe Joe and I would make much headway as a Black Bess and Randy Dick Turpin.
How do all these thoughts comes into mind? Well, if you had ever sat on Joe’s back in the lay by on a busy road in Britain, waiting for a long line of speeding cars to pass by so that you could cross the what is now a remade Roman Road you’d know just how implausible all those stories about highwaymen really are. And as for buxom ladies with ample cleavages - well, one has to remember that there was no running water in those days and neither was there centrally heated water. True there was no oil shortage and neither was there a risk of Global Warming but it is a fact that there was not much hot water either So back then , the ladies of the night did not wash that regularly I do honestly believe that I would preferred to sleep with my Joe than to dally with a damsel in distress, even a young Dolly Parton, from a bygone era. No, now that today I reconsider the realities of life as once it might have been, I think it highly improbable that me and Joe would have made good highwaymen.
Perhaps Brad Pitt & Robert de Niro should both decline the parts. As for me and Joe, well that is another reason for not continuing with the Classical riding instruction - isn’t it!.