Joe Corrie


IT'S mony a lang day since I haed the toothache, sae when I woke up the ither mornin wi a pain in my jaw I wondered what it could be, till I touched yin o my teeth wi my tongue, an shouted oat, "Oh!"

"What's wrang wi you noo ?" says Maggie, aye hopin' for the worst. "Oh," says I, "juist nipped my tongue atween my teeth." "Where ye should aye keep it," says she. Noo, onybody wi the toothache is in fine fettle for a row, but it shows ye the extraordinary patience I have that said naething, but juist slipped an my jaikit an walked oot.

Apairt frae the fact that I'm mortal terrified o the dentist, for some reason or anither I hae aye considered it a duty to support the blacksmith, me hivin sae much cairter bluid in my veins. An there was aye a kind o satisfaction sittin on an anvil an givin' an exhibition o courage an fearlessness afore an admirin' audience o fermers, cairters, an apprentices. It was that kind o spirit that won the battle o Bannockburn, in my opeenion, an no bellyfu's o hauf-boiled parritch, as the historians wad hae us believe.

But to my story. Doon I went to the smiddy to get the extraction. Donald Ferrier, the smith, an me are auld freen's, an he haed duin me the same obligement in the past. Donald haes a wey o his ain, nae artistic flourishes or onything fancy, juist in wi the pliers an oot wi them, an if ye wanted your tuith back ye haed to leuk outside, for that's where it landed frae the pliers. But when I stepped into the smiddy I could see by the wey Donald was hammerin' that he wisna in the best o fettle. Then I minded. Him an me haed got thigither wi a wheen a' fermers the nicht before an haed drammed no wicely but ower weel. An if it wisna the cause o my toothache, mibbie, it was certainly the cause o Donald's extrae physical strength. When my shadow darkened the smiddy he leuked up an said wi a girn, "What dae you want in here at this time o the day ?"

"Man, Donald," says I, "I hae raither a bad doze o the toothache, mibbie you'l obleege ..." "I'm a blacksmith," says he, "no a dentist " an he threw the lump o hot iron he'd been hammerin' into the trouch sae that I couldna see him for steam. But when he did come oot the mist I juist said. "Thank ye, Donald, for you're nae damned guid at drawin a tuith onywey !"

"I'm what!" said he, comin doon on the anvil wi his hemmer wi a his strength, then throwin' it amang a pile o auld horse shuin. An afore I kent where I was he haed thumped me on to his anvil, which was raither warm, I mey say, an was leukin sae far doon my mooth that he must hae seen the inside o my belly-button. I was aboot to put my finger in my mooth to point to the offendin' molar, but he pou'd my hand awa an said, "I see it, I'm no blin'."

Weel, he got a pair o pliars, an he dunted them on the anvil to knack the stoor aff them, then plunged them in the warm watter in the trouch to tak the cauld air aff them. An he haed juist got a ticht grip o the back o my neck wi his big hand, an haed telt me to open my mooth, when wha should step into the smiddy but John Strang, the polissman. "Oho!" says John, puin' doon his tunic in a maist official mainer, "what dae I see gaun on here-oh ?"

Donald's grip slackened on the back o my neck, an he turned his heid to leuk at John. "Did I hear somebody speakin'," says he, "or haes somebody broucht a cuddy roon' to get shod ?" Donald haes haed a terrible spite at John for mony years. When John was coortin' wee Leezie Langholm, Donald teuk the notion o her, an him bein a blacksmith an believin' in strikin' the iron when it's hot, he teuk the chance o John bein at Stranraer attendin' his mither's funeral an proposed to Leezie, a proposal which was accepted because Leezie thocht that John was playin' for ower much time. It turned oot that Leezie was a wee spit-fire, an Donald haed leived a life o misery wi her ever since, which, o course, was a tremendous satisfaction to John, wha haed remained a happy bachelor. Sae that's why Donald made the nesty remark aboot the cuddy.

But John, wi his lang experience o the law, remained unperturbed, he juist pointed a lang forefinger at me an said, "What's gaun on in here ?" Donald put the pliers in the trouch again to let him see what was gaun on, but John said in a deep voice, "Is that within the law eh !" "You should ken whether it's within the law or no." says Donald, "for ye ca' yersel a polissman, daen't ye ?" "Weel," says John, sittin doon on the ither anvil an puttin' his hands on his knees, " cairy on, an we'll let history decide wha's richt an wha's wrang."

I was for risin, for I didna want to get involved in legal proceedin's, but Donald gae me a thump on the shouther that knocked ma dizzy for the minute, then he turned roon' to John an lauched, yin o yon sarcastic laughs that, can dirl the tackets o a polisman's buits. "Open that mooth o yours," he yelled at me, which I did. Then, efter anither leuk at John, an anither lauch, he shuvved the pliars in my mooth, teuk a grip, turned his wrist, an shuvved my thrapple wi the yin hand while he pou'd wi the ither. Then he tossed the tuith at John's feet an said, "There's your evidence."

It was throu tears in my e'en that I saw John lift the tuith an put it in his pocket-beuk. Then he leuked at his watch, an started to write doon the time, an place an criminals, an the offence in his wee note bookie.

Donald wiped the bluid aff the anvil wi his leather apron, sayin to me, "That's pruif whether I can draw teeth or no." I heard John mumblin to himsel as he was writin. "Evidence supported by verbal declaration in presence o witness," whatever he meant by that.

By this time I haed got ower the shock sufficiently to run my tongue roon' my mooth, an was beginnin to wonder to mysel when John spak to me, "You'll understand, Mr Lowrie," says he, "that you'll have to appear in person to prove that this tuith in my possession was yince in yours."

"I'll be able to prove mair then that," says I. "An what micht that be ?" says John. "That he's pou'd oot the wrang tuith," says I. Weel, John lauched that much that he nearly fell aff the anvil. Then he teuk the leaf frae his wee bookie an tore it in bits. "As the purpose o the law is to learn folk a lesson," says he, "the law haes taen its coorse oot o coort. Case dismissed."

But that wisna satisfactory to Donald, he grabbed me by the shouthers an was tryin' to get me doon on the anvil again, an John was on his wey to my liberation when wha should come into the smiddy but wee Leezie. "Your breakfast's oot," she yelled at Donald. An a' at yince the muckle lion became a wee lamb. He teuk aff his apron an went oot the smiddy like a dug wi its tail atween its legs. An when Leezie's e'en got used to the gloom an she saw John, she leuked up in his face an said, "Fancy you bein here, John, an it's me ye cam to see, I'm shuir it is, eh?" But John, wice man, juist put his beuk in his pooch an says to me, "I'll see ye as far as the dentist's, Mr Lowrie, for by the leuk o that face o yours, an the side o that anvil, ye micht need a bluid transfusion before ye get there."

Sae we left Leezie girnin' her teeth. It must be a terrible feelin to be despised by the man ye should hae mairried, an to want to poison the yin ye got.

The dentist happened to be on holiday, but there was a young wumman deputisin' for him, juist aboot as guid a looker as I hae seen for mony a day. Man, the touch o her hand, an the radiance o her smile, made the puin' oot o the richt tuith a plaesur. There was only yin disappointment, she kept referrin' to me as "Grandfather."