Mi chickens had stopped laying eggs by now so the small amount of money I’d made out of them had all but dried up. It was probably the best thing all around because it was not long before I was due to leave home and go to Australia. There were no more forms to fill in and I’d already been for my medical and was pronounced fit and in good sound health.
The agreement I had with Jim Bailey was to return his money that he had invested in the hens as soon as I killed and dressed them and sold them off to some of the school teachers.
Around this time, Trevor Davies had a friend who wanted to sell one of his Lurcher dogs. He only wanted 10 bob for it. Somehow I managed to scrape together the money. Thinking about it now, I probably sold off some of mi old toys that I would no longer be needing. Trevor said one of his friends would deliver the Lurcher dog at my hen hut on Friday night so I would have to get busy cleaning out the hen shit and scrubbing the walls down so as to make it a suitable home for the Lurcher to live in. Mi mother still had Raja, the Springer Spaniel so there was no chance, whatsoever, that she would let me keep it in the house.
By the time Friday night arrived the new doghouse was spotless and a bag of wood shavings had been thrown around the floor to make it nice and comfortable for mi new Lurcher. As I was waiting for the boy to show up with the Lurcher, I was thinking about how good it would be to walk over the hills again, looking for rabbits and hares. When the boy arrived, I gave him the 10 bob and took possession of the Lurcher. The Lurcher didn’t seem to want to stay with me but the boy said, “It’s only because he’s used to living with other dogs in a shed, just like this one. Don’t worry about his trying to get out, he’ll get over it in a couple of days.”
That evening, I spent a good 3 hours sitting in the new dog shed with the Lurcher. No matter how much love I gave it, the dog just kept right on scratching at the door, trying to get out. In the end, I locked the door so no one could steal it and went off home to have a cup of tea and off to bed.
On Saturday morning, I got up early and went down to me hut to check on mi new dog. Everything looked normal and quiet as I approached the front of the door. I banged on the wooden door a few times to see if the Lurcher was a good guard dog as well as a hunter. After 3 or 4 loud knocks there was no sign of barking so I opened the lock and pushed the door in a little ways so the dog would not bolt through the open doorway. Sticking mi head around the side of the door, to my shock and amazement there was no Lurcher dog in sight.
‘Oh Shit!’, I thought. ’He’s escaped somehow.’ When I made a detailed investigation of the shed, I found that he had forced his way through the backside wall of the old shed. In the back wall of the shed was a large piece of tin, which had been nailed on the wall from the outside. The Lurcher must have been jumping up at the tin all night and finally broken the nails out of the old rotting boards and forced his way between the gap and was now long gone!
I had no idea where Trevors’ friend lived so I would have to go up to Trevors’ house and tell him what had happened. After I found Trevor and told him the story, he said “The dog has been living with other Lurchers for 2 years so it will be difficult to keep it in for a while but it should get used to it. I’ll go over to mi friends house. For sure it will have found its way home by now.”
“All right Trev.”, I said. “You go to your mates place and I’ll fix up the shed where he got out and I’ll wait for you at the shed. You can bring the dog back there and tonight I’ll chain him up so he can’t get out again.”
All afternoon I worked at making the shed more dog-proofed and by the time I had finished fixing it up much better, it was getting late and no Trevor had arrived. Just as I was about to leave, I saw Trevor walking down the front of Boston Street towards my newly converted doghouse.
“Hello Trevor, where’s the Lurcher. Did you find it?”
“No Dick. I went down to mi pals dog hut and they said it had not come back there, but as soon as it does they’ll let me know and we can go and pick it up, alright?”
“All right mate. That’s about all we can do.”
That Saturday evening as I was sat at home, watching the Telly, a knock came on the door. I jumped up and said, “I’ll get it. It’s probably for me. I’m expecting mi friend Trevor to call.” When I opened the door there were 2 strange boys standing there with a large grain bag at their feet. I closed the door behind me so Iris and Jim couldn’t hear anything.
“Your name Dick Swindells?”, said the biggest boy.
“Yeh, why? What do you want?” I said to him.
“We brought the Lurcher back for you.”, he said.
“Oh, that’s real good of you, but where is it?”
“It’s in the bag, dead.”, said the other boy. “Got run over by a car when it was trying to get home to the other dogs.”
“Oh shit!”, I said. “But why did you bring it here if it’s dead!”
" ‘cause you bought it from our pal and he says it’s your problem now, so here it is. We’ll see ya later."
They left the large sack, with the dead Lurcher in it, on mi mums’ step, then turned around and walked away, up Boston Street and out of sight.
‘Bloody hell, now what do I do? I’ve lost mi 10 bob and now I’ve got a dead dog in a sack sitting on mi mums’ back step. If she finds out, there will be hell to pay for this. I opened the back door and said to mi mum, “I’ll be back in a few minutes, I’m just off down to mi hen shed.”
“Don’t be more than a quarter of an hour or you’ll be in trouble when you get back!”, said Jim Bailey.
‘In trouble.’, I thought. ‘I can’t get into much more trouble tonight, even if I tried!’
I grabbed he end of the sack and threw it over my shoulder, then made mi way up the street and down to the hen shed. Halfway down the front of Boston Street I ran into a boy called Ernest Hargraves. He was about 18 years old and had red, fiery hair and a face full of freckles. He also wore thick bifocals, which made him look like a real geek. Because he was so big no one ever teased him or anything.
“Where are you going with the sack, Dick? You look like a real burglar”, he said.
Earnest was always in trouble with the Police and they came after him for all sorts of crimes, but he was too smart for them, most of the time.
“Hello Earnest. I’m in real trouble now. I’ve got a dead Lurcher in the sack and I don’t know what the hell to do with it and if mi mother finds out, she’ll bloody well beat me!”
“What the fucking hell, are you doing with a dead Lurcher in a sack?”
After I explained the whole story to him, he said, “Tell you what I’ll do with ya Dick. You give me half-a-crown for some fags and I’ll get rid of the dead Lurcher for you.”
“I haven’t got half-a-crown Earnest.”
“OK, you can owe it to me. Pay me in a week or so, I may be really broke by then and half-a-crown will come in right handy!”
As I contemplated it, half-a-crown seemed really cheap. It was not much money in comparison to the big dead problem that was slung across mi back, in a bag.
“It’s a deal, Earnest!”, I said as I handed him the bag. “But what are you going to do with it?”
“Oh, don’t you worry about that Dick. It’s my problem now, not yours.”
“All right Earnest if you say so. I’ll have your money sometime within the week.”
We shook hands and parted company.
‘What a great bloke Earnest is.’, I thought as I walked off back up the street. ‘He solved all my problems for half-a-crown and to me that’s well worth it’.
A few nights later, I’d been out playing with a few friends and was now on mi way home. I always had to be aware of the time because Jim Bailey was sat at home, just waiting for me to be late so he could say, “What time do you call this Lad?”, but tonight, I had time to spare as I shoved open Boston Street door. As I walked inside, I saw there was a stranger sat on one of the guests’ chairs and the house was unusually quiet.
“Hello everybody.”, I said, in a rather cheerful voice.
“This gentleman is a Railways Inspector.” said mi mum, whose voice was in the fire mode.
“Oh, that’s nice.” I said. “It must be a really interesting job you have, is it?”
“I’y, it’s a great job. There’s never a dull moment. I get to investigate all sorts of crimes. Take, for instance, today. About 2 O’clock this afternoon one of the Engineers mates was filling up one of the steam engines with water out of the large overhead water tanks and what do you think he found floating on the top of the water?”
Now he had aroused my curiosity, so I said, “It could be anything, so I’ve really got no idea at all.”
“Well, in that case let me tell you. The Engineers mate found a dead Lurcher dog.”
The shocked look on my face must have been obvious as Iris, Jim Bailey and the railway inspector all stared at me.
“Would you like to tell me about it Richard?” he said.
There was no choice but to tell the inspector the whole story, after which he said, “If I was you, I would not have any more dealings with Earnest Hargraves. We know who he is because he’s been stealing things from the railways’ yard for years but we haven’t been able to catch him at it, but seeing as you are supposed to pay him for getting rid of the dog, we may still be able to get our teeth into him at long last.”
After the Railway Inspector left, mi mother hit the roof!
I won’t bore you with the gory details, but she ran ‘true to form’. I never say Earnest again after that because there was only a few more months to go before I left for Australia, and he never came around the area where I lived anymore. That was the last I ever heard of Earnest and the Lurcher.
More of the Adventures of Dick-lad, leading up to his emigration to Australia. More stories at http://aninheritancefromyorkshire.blogspot.com/