The Sheep Pasture Assignment
A Tale of The Stuck In Boys
Main Cast of Characters
Legio II Augusta
Decimus Falerius Turneus – Legate Legio II Augusta – on the fast track broad stripe aristocrat
Gaius Maximus Ricardus – Primus Pilus 1st Century 1st Cohort Legio II Augusta – The Chief
Gaius Carbo Nascareus (Nascar) – legionary 1st Century 1st Cohort Legio II Augusta – a real track expert
Gaius Josephum Postalianus (Postal) – legionary 1st Century 1st Cohort Legio II Augusta – the chatty type
Gaius Jacobus Duoavianus (Two Birds) – legionary 1st Century 1st Cohort Legio II Augusta – can be profane
Gaius Ocho Bennacos – legionary 1st Century 1st Cohort Legio II Augusta – one blow to the head too many?
Parmenio – Quartermaster – with apologies to Robin Carter
Matunos – Blacksmith – the original club maker
Tolmach – local villager befriended by Ocho
Macrob – local villager befriended by Ocho
Various and Sundry Others
Rubicon – white battle stallion of Legate Turneus
Flock of sheep – golf course grounds keeping crew
Voice of John Cleese – a powerful persuader
Nertomaros – former warrior from Long Haired Gaul, now a merchant.
Ocho was not having a good day on the sacred fairways of northern Britain. Indeed his erratic, slice inducing tee shots were the main reasons, as he couldn’t hit a fairway with a tractor. It was on the 14th hole that he decided to put some rage into his tee shots. Now the 14th hole here at Carlisle Golf Club in Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K. is a shortish par 4 with a dogleg right. The smart tee shot is a 5-wood to the corner of the dogleg. Ocho was past playing smart and pulled out the big dog in order to fly his drive over the trees at the corner of the dogleg thus putting him close to the green. Ocho looked back at his Hoover playing partners as he placed his ball on the tee; ‘Don’t try this at home boys and girls. Professional driver on a closed course.’ Putting the rage of many double bogeys into one mighty swing Ocho sends the dimpled sphere soaring up and toward the trees guarding the corner. ‘Go you flying monkey butt’, beseeches Ocho, but alas the ball smacks into the top of the last tree, careening backward where it clips another tree and comes to rest in a tangled mess of thick forest floor undergrowth and leaf litter. His playing partners all hit 5-wood to the center of the fairway.
‘Good luck finding that ball.’ said Rick as he dropped Ocho off at the edge of the woods and drove off to hit his second shot. Searching fruitlessly while his partners hit up to the green Ocho suddenly realized he did not have any more balls to play. When Rick drove back to see how Ocho was doing he flipped Ocho a ball to use. ‘Thanks, I’m going to look in one more spot and then I’ll just drop back up the fairway a bit.’ said Ocho as Rick drove off again.
Meanwhile back on the tee the next group saw Ocho’s buddies drive to the green but they did not see Ocho in the woods. The first in their group decided to hit away and sent a bullet in Ocho’s direction. Seeing Ocho at the last minute the sender of the projectile shouted out ‘FORE’! However, due to a combination of genetics, working in loud data centers for 35 years and listening to The Who through headphones at too high a setting, Ocho is a little hard of hearing so the only thing he did hear was the thwack of the golf ball clanging off the side of his head.
Near Luguvalium – early stages of the construction of Hadrian’s Wall
The First Cohort of the First Century of Legio II Augusta was completing a recon of one of the local villages and was looking forward to some downtime back at camp when a disgruntled villager threw a rock towards the legionaries hitting Ocho in the side of his head tumbling him to the ground. ‘Shields’! bellowed the voice of The Primus Pilus, chief Centurion of the 1st Century, Gaius Maximus Ricardus. At once the cohort drew into battle alignment; shields up and at the ready, gladii ready to be unsheathed but the crowd of villagers dispersed and no further trouble was had. ‘Okay boys, doesn’t look like we’ll be getting stuck in today. Let’s head back to camp.’ said Ricardus, ’Two Birds and Postal give Ocho a hand, he looks a bit woozy.’
Nascar: ‘That was a nasty knock you took there Ocho. How ya feelin’?’
Ocho: ‘I’ve felt worse after a night of drinking that pig swill they serve in the mess. How about we head to town for something a little more palatable.’
Postal: ‘Let me just say that I’m so hungry I could eat a whole pig.’
Two Birds: ‘Postal? You are a pig but I get your point. Let’s go.
The four veterans of countless engagements were something of a legend in the Legio II Augusta. No fiercer warriors existed in the 2nd; they were the shock troops of the legion. Their reputations giving rise to two nicknames; The Stuck In Boys and Wall Breechers for wherever the fighting was heaviest and deadliest, that’s where you’ll find The Stuck in Boys. Whenever a local tribal citadel was under siege it was the Wall Breechers who would find and exploit any weakness in a wall’s defenses and would be the first in and the ones who fought to the gate. Recipients of numerous phalerae and citations as well as various battle scars, these four boon companions inspired awe and not just a little fear when the blood lust of killing rage coursed through their veins.
Ricardus: ‘Mind if I join you ladies? I assume you’re heading to town to quench a terrible thirst.’
Postal: ‘Of course, Centurion. You’re always welcome.’
Ricardus: ‘How many times do I have to tell you to drop the formality when we’re off duty?’
Postal: ‘Sorry Centurion, it won’t happen again.’
The tavern, a low slung log building with a thatch roof and thick smoke for an interior wasn’t much on amenities but it was the only place in town and that made it a popular spot for the 2nd Legion. It also meant that it was usually very crowded.
Two Birds: ‘Juno’s hairy arm pits would you look at all the riff raff and ne’er do wells that call themselves legionaries. No open tables that I can see.’
Ricardus: ‘No problem. Leave it to me.’
Now, the presence of a centurion much less a senior centurion in any situation is enough to give young recruits nightmares. Ricardus strode over to a table that was being used by just such a group of new recruits, vine staff in hand and a scowl on his face. ‘Don’t you ladies have somewhere else to be?’ asked Ricardus as he slammed his vine staff against the table. The recruits, a couple of whom had to exert great control over their bladders, rose as one. ‘Yes Centurion, sir.’ As they were leaving Ricardus replied, ‘Take this horse piss you were drinking along with you. Our palettes are much too sensitive for this stuff. Barkeep bring us the good wine and be quick about it.’
Several cups of unwatered wine and many hours later Ocho was dreaming. He was standing on what seemed to be a manicured sheep pasture that had a wide strip of shorter grass in the middle while the edges were uncut and studded with large holes filled with sand. Off in the distance he could make out a saucer shaped area where the grass was even shorter and had what appeared to be a flag planted in the ground. Then a voice called out to Ocho from the fringes of the dream. A voice that sounded a lot like John Cleese. ‘Ocho! Build this and teach the locals the game of golf. The future of mankind depends on this. Do not fail.’
Nascar: ‘You’re as daft as one of them old crones selling magic potions. You want us to help you build a what?’
Ocho: ‘I know it sounds crazy but somehow I have acquired the knowledge of this thing called golf and I’m bound up in this destiny. I feel it in my bones. Besides you guys won’t be the only ones helping. I managed to borrow the services of the recruits in the 4th cohort. I promised the optio a couple amphora of the Legate’s finest Falernian.’
Two Birds: ‘Jupiter’s hanging bollocks! How did you get your hands on that stuff?’
Ocho: ‘With Postal’s help of course. He can talk the scowl off of Medusa so while he was chatting up old Parmenio the quartermaster, I snuck in the back and made off with the wine. The Legate will naturally blame Parmenio which is fine by me. No one likes the drunken bastard anyway.’
So it was that 100 new recruits were toiling in the hot sun under the frightening looks of The Stuck in Boys. Some of the recruits were just off the farm so Ocho had those gather up all the sheep they could find. The sheep were then herded to the pasture where Ocho was going to build his golf hole. The job of the sheep was to crop the grass in the middle. Stakes were set out to delineate the ‘fairway’ from the ‘rough’; both terms just popping into Ocho’s mind when describing what he wanted. Another group was engaged in digging holes at spots Ocho chose. These would be filled with sand that was being harvested by another group of recruits at the Solway Firth. It was the saucer shaped bit that had Ocho scratching his head when he heard the sound of an approaching horse. It was the Legate Decimus Falerias Turneus on his white charger Rubicon.
Legate Turneus: ‘Pray tell what are my heroes of the Legion doing supervising a bunch of recruits who should be undergoing some sort of painful yet necessary training abuse? No need to explain. I heard about this strange dream of yours from the blacksmith who it seems is also working for you. It seems he’s making some sort of crooked sticks for this golf thing. Doesn’t seem to me to be a proper activity for a true Roman. It does seem appropriate however for these ghastly barbarians. Well, carry on. I have to go see Parmenio. Seems the sot has taken a liking to my Falernian.’
Ocho: as he mounts one of the auxiliary cavalry horses he borrowed, ‘I have to go see the blacksmith. I found something I think I can use as a golf ball. Postal, I need you to head into town to the butcher and procure all the pig and sheep bladders he has. I’ll be back in a bit. In the meantime Two Birds and Nascar outline a large circle here and have the some of the sheep start mowing it down.’
The blacksmith, a hulking, hairy specimen from Gaul named Matunos was just putting the finishing touches on the last crooked stick or 7-iron as Ocho called it when Ocho walked in. Matunos or Bear as he was aptly called looked up at his visitor, wiped the beads of sweat trickling down his ash embedded face and handed Ocho the 7-iron.
Matunos: ‘Here’s the last one Ocho. I made six of them just like you asked. One with a flat blade and the others each with a blade at a slightly different angle.’
Ocho: handing Arcturus a basket, ‘Thanks Bear. The irons and the putter look just fine. Can you tell me what these bronze twelve sided objects are for? I traded a nice flagon of Setinum that Parmenio seems to have misplaced or consumed for a dozen of them. I think I can, well you can, modify them for me by grinding away the edges and leaving them as round as possible.’
Matunos: ‘Don’t recollect what they’re called but they are popular with the traders who sell them to the gullible and superstitious. Calls them some sort of magical talisman; a pile of pig shit is what I calls it.’
Ocho: ‘I owe you big time, Bear. Come by the tent later. I’ve got some nice Caecuban that the Legate doesn’t know he donated to me.
Matunos: ‘Oh I’ll be there just as long as I don’t have to play dice with Nascar. That dozy bastard cheats.’
So it was that over the course of the next two weeks the hole was completed. Also completed was the assembly of a dozen golf balls. Ocho hired some of the women in town to cut and stitch a pig or sheep bladder over the rounded bronze cores. Everything was ready except for some villagers to learn the game.
Tolmach and Macrob were what we would call nowadays streetwise entrepreneurs; meaning that they were pickpockets and thieves. Ocho discovered them one day as he lounged outside of the tavern drinking one of the local barley brews favored in that region. He watched as they worked in tandem to snatch a moneybag from a well to do merchant. Draining the last of the beer followed by a healthy belch, Ocho got up and followed the two miscreant teenagers. He watched as they sat down behind an old dried up well to count up their loot. Unaware of Ocho’s presence, Tolmach and Macrob were startled by the metallic rasp of a sword being drawn from its scabbard. Looking up the boys saw this Achilles like creature, scars on arms and legs speaking volumes as to his ability to survive and his unmistakable ability to deal out death. ‘Laddies I’m in a generous, giving mood so I’m going to give you a chance to do the right thing. Hand me the bag. I know the merchant and will return it to him. Now in return for my not turning you over to him I will require your assistance in a very important matter. By the way the merchants name is Nertomaros, a former warrior from Gaul. His name means big and strong; and he is that. I’m sure he would have no problem dealing with you two in a most unpleasant fashion. Meet me at dawn in the sheep pasture just east of the camp.’
Ocho and Postal arrived at what was now called the Augusta Golf Course arms loaded down with the newly made 5-9 irons and putter. Slung over Ocho’s shoulder was a pouch containing the twelve golf balls. To honor The 2nd Legion Ocho had drawn a small eagle on each ball with II Legio Augusta written underneath. Postal was carrying a pole to which a small flag was attached. It too was adorned with The 2nd Legion insignia and name. Tolmach and Macrob arrived a moment later, a mixture of curiosity and suspicion on their faces as they eyed the strange crooked sticks and bladder covered balls.
Ocho: ‘Ah good morning laddies. Glad you decided to join us. In case you’re interested Nertomaros was extremely happy to get his money back. He was ready to tear your village apart. Oh yeah, he would have found you; no doubt about it. Okay, let’s get started on your golf training. Postal, please take the Augusta flag and plant it in the hole in the ahh, what is the name of that short grass area? Oh yes, green, it is called a green. While you’re doing that I will show these fine upstanding youngsters how to hit a golf ball.
Tolmach: ‘Hey, what are we supposed to do with this new training? It certainly won’t fill our bellies or shelter us in the winter!
Macrob: ‘Don’t much like the idea of wasting our time. There are purses to be lifted, you know.
Up to this point the revelations of golf that came to Ocho were of the practical kind. How to build the course, how to fashion the clubs, how to hit the ball and so on. The abstract concept of why came to him now like a thunderbolt and when he started to speak it wasn’t his voice that was heard but the voice of John Cleese.
Ocho: (in the voice of John Cleese) ‘To borrow a phrase from Two Birds, why in the name of Venus’ awe-inspiring tits would I waste my time and yours? There is a purpose to this lunacy. Once you are capable of playing reasonably well you will then become the teachers. The game of golf is the key for mankind’s survival.’ He then pulls Ocho’s gladius from the scabbard, ‘This weapon, this killing device will no longer be needed. They will be re-forged and come anew as golf clubs. No longer will the world be subject to the insanity and the horror of war. Battles will be fought here on the pristine confines of The Sacred Fairways. Golf and golf courses will become the mediator in disputes as well as being the sport of the masses. Look at what we have wrought here, a sheep pasture has become hallowed ground , now imagine hundreds, no thousands of these golf courses spread from Hibernia to Bosporus. The two most sacred, the most hallowed will be called Augusta and Saint Andrews. Augusta will be formed in a land across the sea but Saint Andrews will be founded not far from here over on The Firth of Forth. You see? A simple thing really, all you need do is learn and then pass it on. Your children’s children’s children will be the deciders of man’s fate. Mind there are forces that will try to thwart this gallant effort to bring peace. A beastly, ghastly thing called The Industrial-Military Complex, the roots of which are now growing out East in the blasted desert of all places, will stop at nothing to squash this glorious quest. They will strive to change the purpose of golf, making it nothing more than a game for the privileged and as for the peace part? Well, see this gladius? Now imagine a gladius of mass destruction, one capable of killing thousands with one blow. You are important my young hooligans, so learn well.’
The voice of John Cleese faded back into wherever it came from leaving Ocho somewhat dazed. ‘Are we under attack?’, he asked looking at the sword in his hand. ‘Oh wait, now I remember. Well that was quite a show. Now to the matter at hand.’ So began three weeks of intensive training and drills. In sunshine or in pelting rain Ocho with a little help from The Stuck In Boys, molded the two light fingered youths into golfers . Not as intensive, mind, as what those poor recruits were enduring under Ricardus. The occasional scream could be heard all the way to the sheep pasture.
At the end of the three weeks Ocho, who was by himself this day, spoke to the boys about their immediate future.
Ocho: ‘Right then. You may have noticed that I am alone today. Truth is, The Stuck In Boys are going on a mission to someplace called Byzantium. Leaving today actually, so here is what’s gonna happen to you two. Nertomaros has agreed to take you on as his staff for a new market he is opening up in Otadini territory on The Firth of Forth. Teach the locals the game of golf and no more stealing! Okay then, let’s play one more hole. Since Postal isn’t here I’ll go on up ahead and watch where the ball lands.’
Ocho headed up the right side of the fairway heading for a spot behind a tree. He was not concerned about Tolmach or Macrob being wild off the tee so was not paying too much attention as Tolmach began his backswing. Just as he started the downswing a hideous scream came roiling over the sheep pasture from one of Ricardus’ recruits. The result was that Tolmach flinched a little and instead of being square at impact, the 5-iron connected while slightly open causing the ball to speed off with a nasty side spin. The ball ricocheted off the side of Ocho’s head and came to rest deep in the woods in a tangled mess of forest floor undergrowth and leaf litter.
Ocho slowly got to his feet as Rick helped him up asking, ‘Man that was some nasty knock you took there! You feeling okay? You look a little woozy.’ ‘I’ve felt worse after a night of drinking that pig swill they serve at the mess.’ answered Ocho. ‘What?’ asked a befuddled Rick. ‘I don’t know where that came from.’ replied an equally befuddled Ocho, ‘Hey I found a weird looking ball.’; said Ocho bending down to pick it up. ‘It’s not dimpled and the cover has an animal feel to it. It has some sort of logo on it. Says II Legio Augusta written underneath what looks like an eagle. What in the name of Vulcan’s flatulent arse is going on here? The handwriting looks a lot like mine! Know what? I feel like I’m supposed to hit this ball. What the hell. I’m shooting three from here and my round is already knee deep in the shitter.’
Ocho proceeded to hit the II Legio ball with his 3-iron hybrid and watched in amazement as it soared majestically and landed softly on the green, rolling to a stop a mere 3 inches from the pin. As Ocho strode to the green for his tap in par he said to Rick; ‘Did you know that golf was invented by a Roman Legionary in the II Legio Augusta? Hey, I just caught that! Augusta! Home of The Masters; man what a coincidence.’
Notes and Acknowledgements
- Many thanks to the following members of The Historical Writers Assoc. website who supplied me with enough information on dodecahedrons to convince me they couldn’t be used as golf balls. SJA Turney – Tim Hodkinson – Robert Low – Romanike I used them anyway J.
- Many apologies to Robin Carter of Parmenion Books for the less than flattering rendering of Parmenio. J
- Once again I have my Hoover buddies to thank for allowing me to blaspheme them in print over and over and over….
- For those interested I have two blogs – one is of my stuff – https://mystoriesandsuch.wordpress.com/
- The other is of book reviews I’ve written – http://hooverbookreviews.wordpress.com/
- Carlisle Golf Club in Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K. – I have no idea if the 14th is a shortish, dogleg right but that’s what I wanted J
- Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment of The Stuck In Boys – The Byzantium Labor – here’s a preview: Two Birds: ‘By Poseidon’s hairy nuts if I have to ride one more camel!! When are we gonna get there?’