THE SHERIFF AS CHIEFTAIN, AND THE CHIEFTAIN AS SHERIFF

THE SHERIFF AS CHIEFTAIN, AND THE CHIEFTAIN AS SHERIFF

I was studying folklore and legend and myth and history last night when it suddenly occurred to me that a sheriff is really just the hold over from the local ancient (Anglo-Saxon) Chieftain. Except modern sheriffs tend to be elected (and are therefore popular chieftains again, in most cases) rather than appointed, as in later Medieval times.

Don’t know why it had never occurred to me to think of sheriffs as chieftains before, especially given the etymology of the word, which I knew, shire-reeve, but it didn’t. Not at least in the truly ancient sense of chieftain, not as a king-thane but as independent local Chieftain, who must approve of and support the king for the king to reign. That is, my idea of sheriff was sort of stuck in the Christian era/Medieval concept of sheriff as king-thane (kingsman) and had not truly stretched back to “ancient chieftain,” as both law-keeper and judge, and local ruler, or chief (high man).

Why do I mention this? A few reasons. This made me think of the recent (that’s right, believe it or not this was only a few weeks back in time) dispute between sheriff’s all across the country and the Obama administration. Of how the sheriff’s were moving more and more and once again to the idea of being “local law chieftains” rather than merely king’s men or king’s servants. Except in many big cities, of course, where you are far more likely to have sycophantic court men (king’s men) called police chiefs anyway. (Not independent Chieftains, but king’s chiefs, or king’s-law chiefs.)

Secondly, and far more importantly regarding my own ideas, I have been wondering how to work in to my own fantasy novels a truly powerful underground movement of sheriff’s (not the modern idea of a sheriff, but the far more ancient one) who both oppose the government and take it upon themselves to act as a front line militia and frontier’s force against border invaders and skirmishers – as a prelude to a far more extensive and permanent invasion by enemy forces. These sheriffs (they won’t be called sheriffs, but the idea will be the same) will operate both in defiance of the appointed local, state, and kingdom governments and in a manner of real desperation because they know exactly what is coming but can’t convince the urbanites and city-dwelling governments what truly approaches. Therefore they must operate much as the Rangers did in Tolkien’s work (who if you ask me were a sort of militia sheriff/guerrilla force who operated with the knowledge of and supposed sanction of the government but often against government wishes) to try and lessen or perhaps redirect invasion routes but are desperate for full support which they are mocked for by the urbanites/governments (and real governments are always truly urbanite undertakings as rural areas don’t need governments they only need assemblies, sheriff’s, and citizen militias) that scoff at their concerns.

Third, I have for a very long time been working into my fantasy novels the idea of a Lone or Wandering (Circuit) Sheriff, a guy who takes it upon himself to wander about areas of the frontier to conduct spying missions and ambushes against enemy forces and enemy skirmishers and criminals and to keep the local peace. This guy is entirely self-appointed and a vigilante (not in the modern sense of the term but in the ancient, Roman Vigilant-sense) and is a combination of the ancient sheriff idea described above, a spy, a frontiersman survivalist, a scout, and a peace-keeper. Much as the Regulators here in SC were in the pre-Revolutionary War days.

Many people consider this man a hero, others an outright thug or at least a dangerous nuisance (especially city dwellers and those in government). He will be both one of the heroes and the anti-heroes of my novel(s). But more and more I am now moving away from the idea of him being a wandering “sheriff,” and more and more he is becoming in my mind a sort of intentionally self-appointed and self-exiled frontiers Chieftain and Vigilant. Along the lines of the true Vigilants of my novel (in the Byzantine empire) but on a far more local and personal scale. For these Vigilant Chieftains (and I need to invent a name for them) are entirely self-appointed independent operators who will work with no one else.

They often warn of and pass along what they learn and discover to those in authority or those who can make best use of their Intel but they refuse to submit to any authority or methods but their own. They are in many ways the very most true of all the “Chieftains.” Though they have no clan and no tribe and no one to lead but themselves. They are “all-duty” and “complete loners” on the frontiers.

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GODSPEED TURKISH MILITARY

GODSPEED TURKISH MILITARY!

May you and the Turkish People fully restore your Republic!

I am completely behind you and wish you Good Fortune and Success.

BE FREE AGAIN, AND BE WELL AND THRIVE!

I WENT TO YOUR GRAVES

I WENT TO YOUR GRAVES

I went to your graves to speak with you dead
You answered with nary a sound, but
The echoes of stone, and the blood and the bones
Still in the air they redound
Someone must live, and someone must die
I’ve seen my share of those things, yet
You know them all well in your marrow and flesh
For the shroud is the shield that still clings
To the toil that you wore, to the deeds that you bore
To the future and past you present
When I see countrymen free, and the grass
Green overseas that otherwise death would have spent
If you could arise, recall how you died
Who then could discharge the debt?
That we owe in our souls, but don’t really know
In the war and the wound that beset
About you in harm, the wrong, the alarm
As you struggled the catch your last breath
Yet it fled far away, like your soul on that day
By demand, or command, or request,
What can I say, much less best relay
Of what your great efforts have earned?
You’ve written in blood, in anguish, in mud
We’ll honor, and then we’ll adjourn, oh
The tombs that we’ll build, of marble and steel
Carved with your names and your stars
Will pass with the times as the ages unwind
As you fade into memories afar, yet
The world that you built, the anger, the guilt
Of your blood on the altar of Mars
These will live on, and not just in song, but
In the hope and the home of my heart…

in memoriam, 2016

THE WORDY WAY – TUESDAY’S TALE

Last night while in bed I decided to write up some new lines for my Western, the Lettered Men.

I’ll do that sometimes right before I go to bed. Got some good stuff done but had to rework some of em this morning. Many of these lines are spoken by Jerimiah Jereds, also known as “Wordy” (the only name his friends call him) because he will either invent words (neologisms) or will twist around old phrases and common sayings in new ways. Wordy sometimes acts as the comic-relief of the novel, which is pretty rough in parts, and sometimes acts as the de-facto Bard of the novel, being a sort of frontier’s poet and cowboy wordsmith.

Now not all of these snippets are by Wordy. But many are.

Anywho I gave my notes to my wife and daughter this morning (before the final rewrites) so that they could look over em and give me their opinion. I heard a lot of loud laughing coming from the kitchen table downstairs as I worked from my office so I reckon I did something right. They both seemed to like what they read.

Also I should not neglect that my mother came down to the house yesterday after lunch and she also reminded me of many of the old sayings and euphemisms of my grandparents and great-grandparents, which were in many ways the inspiration for Wordy.

So here are the final write ups for the Wordy Way. All from my novel The Lettered Men.

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“He’d howl like an old hound dog if ya hung him with a new rope.”

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“Ain’t really worth mentioning Word.”

“Oh yeah?” said Wordy. “Well half of not really worth mentioning still beats ever bit a nothing all day long. Specially in the middle a nowhere. So let’s just work around with what we got awhile and see where it leads us. Maybe tomorrow it still won’t be worth mentioning, but maybe in a week or two it will be. When we’re sitting our asses by the fire back home.”

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“You can’t get there from here boys. But if we can just get over to there I bet we can.”

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“He smells like he smothered a buzzard and kept it in his pants for a keepsake.”

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All the boys laughed when they saw him come out of the barbers. All except Wordy. He just stared at Beau for awhile and then he stood up and circled him like a corvus round a scarecrow. “Hmmm-mmm,” he kept humming to himself as he circled.

“Well now, that’s a two bit shave and a haircut iffin I ever seen one,” he finally said. “Way I see it though she still owes ya a dollar in change just to make it even.”

“Dammit!” Beau said testily slapping his hat against his thigh. Dust and hair swirled everywhere. “I told her it didn’t look right to me.”

“Be alright Beau,” Wordy said. “You’re both new at this. She ain’t much of a judge a jug-heads and you ain’t much of a judge a women.”

“Oh, and you is you Wordy sumbitch!” Beau practically yelled.

“I didn’t say that,” said Wordy. “I just seen enough scalpings in my day to know the difference between a brave and a squaw cut.”

The boys all laughed again.

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“That whore’s dumber than a plow mule, sure nuff, but she’s still twice as easy to ride. So if you’re gonna plow with her then just cut the reins and let her wander. Save ya both a lotta trouble.”

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“He drunk up the sea and spit out Achilles.” (Wordy describing a cowboy that rode into town, got drunk, and started shooting and fighting.)

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“He’s a one mare man. True enough. But he’ll go for any stallion what ain’t tied down.”

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“Book learning ruined him for anything worth knowin. I wouldn’t trust him none.”

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“The mare’s the better horse. He ain’t worth bad oats and barn rats.”

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“There ain’t another man like him in the whole lot. Thank God. Can you imagine a whole herd a dem sumbitches?”

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“She’s got a face like a sty-sow. But he’s a pot-bellied pig so who cares who slops who?”

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“Ride her at your own peril kid. But don’t dismount till ya broke her.”

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“Why, do you think she’ll foal on me?” he asked.

“Probably not,” said Wordy, “but she’s so rough you might.”

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“Boy’s so slow that he’d hav’ta ride as hard as he could for a month just ta reach the county line.”

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“Man knifed three Comanches and a Texas Ranger,” Sole said, “and lived to tell it. So you might just wanna shoot him. In the head. From behind. While he’s sleepin.”

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“Maybe he’s just shot so many men by now that he’s plum forgot how to miss. Ever think a that?”

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“Man smells like a Mississippi pole-cat, but he tracks like an Arkansas wild dog. Just make sure to keep him downwind and you’ll run em all to ground.”

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“He’s slicker than a cold-creek water snake, but not near as warm-blooded. So keep him ahead of ya, but always in sight. Safe plays are always the safest.”

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“Sir, your coffee tastes like chickpeas and boll-weevils. Without the chickpeas.”

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“Damn Word! It smells like you shit a dead possum and then lit it on fire with pine tar!”

“Yeah,” Wordy said. “I ain’t feeling too well right now.”

“Fine,” Mason said. “But did ya have to spread it around to everybody else like that? You made the local skunks puke.”

Hart Thomas snorted, spit out his chaw, and then laughed out loud.

“Hell Hart,” Mason said, “you was the skunk I was referring to!”

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“He’s cotton-brained and toe-headed. You walk a mile in his moccasins and you’ll end up Boot-hilled.”

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“Oh, he went to war alright. He just never met a battle worth sitting through or a man his equal at a foot chase.”

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“Ah hell Bill, iffin you gave him a new bull and three pregnant cows then in five years time he’d still be a sheep farmer.”

 

Hope you enjoyed em…

 

THE SHADOW MAN

Never-before-seen Tolkien poems written before The Hobbit are discovered

NEVER-before-seen poems written by J.R.R. Tolkien have been discovered inside an old school magazine.

JRR TolkienGETTY IMAGES

Poems by J.R.R. Tolkien have been discovered

The Shadow Man, written a year before his first classic work The Hobbit was published, was found after staff at Our Lady’s Abingdon school, Oxfordshire looked through back issues of its magazine.The poem, which was later appeared as Shadow-bride, and was released as part of the fantasy icon’s Adventures of Tom Bombadil in 1962.

According to the independent school’s principal, Stephen Oliver, they began to look through their archives after being contacted by an American Tolkien scholar, Wayne G. Hammond who had seen that two of Tolkien’s poems were listed in The Abingdon Chronicle.

MagazineOXFORD MAIL•SWNS GROUP

Tolkien’s work was found in a school magazine

Now, Mr Oliver believes that the poems may have been given to the magazine after Tolkien struck up a friendship with the nuns that were running the school.As well as The Shadow Man, the poem Noel was written to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Tolkien lived in Oxford at the time he wrote the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Mr Oliver said: “We had no idea that we had a copy of some of Tolkien’s poetry so it came as a surprise when we found them. I feel pretty privileged to have been a part of the discovery.”An American academic got in touch with us to say that he was looking to find them and that they were contained in a publication called the Abingdon Chronicle.

“At first we couldn’t find the 1936 edition and referred Mr Hammond on to the archives of the Sisters of Mercy, who founded the school, which are in London.

The poemOXFORD MAIL•SWNS.COM

The Shadow Man

My excitement when I saw them was overwhelming

Stephen Oliver

“But after we were preparing for another event for former pupils, we uncovered our own copy and discovered the poems that he had been looking for.”My excitement when I saw them was overwhelming. I am a great Tolkien fan and was thrilled to discover the connection with the school.

The magazineOXFORD MAIL•SWNS.COM

The poem

“The school magazine was something that was produced each year to provide things like updates on the alumni and would also contain bits of poetry.”It was brilliant to find it and it’s great that we have found such a great bit of heritage to tie to our school. We had no idea that there was a link between us before that point.”

THE RAINS OF THE SATRAPS OF PERSIA – FIRST VERSE

THE RAINS TO COME

This morning I awoke to a veritable deluge. After feeding the animals I sat down and watched the heavy rains fall. Something became triggered in my mind. About modern people, about the past, about how nothing is ever really learned, and still the Rains fall as they have ever fallen. And so do people, and nations… The storms always come and yet so few ever are prepared.

I just started it and then my wife interrupted me so I had to leave off. So it is unfinished, of course, but then again, what isn’t…?

THE RAINS OF THE SATRAPS OF PERSIA

This storm is like the rains of the satraps of Persia
Grey and harsh, heavy and burdensome, slavish and cold
Unrelenting does it fall across the broad expanse
Of a slumbering world blind and dumb in its naïveté –
Of unnumbered peoples in distant and yet unconquered lands
Eternally preoccupied in their basic self-absorption

Yet still the rains of the satraps of Persia drop countless
Flooding tokens of their weight, their true intent lost among
The Forgetful Minds of Men distracted by the unmarked cenotaphs
Of daily Life, though they have seen no sun in many years…

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other lines I’ve yet to work in:

No clear moon in decades now

The Reign of the Satraps of Persia
Time forgets nothing, though men forget everything
Except to remember what befalls when they don’t…

KASHMIR – BOOKENDS

A poem from my book BHAIRAVANANDA

KASHMIR

The force of the blow struck me just above the eye.
A liquid odor, heavy with thick salt, burned the air.

But I knew there was no blood.

The light wood bent gracefully under my draw.
The shaft sprung forward, my essence following after.
I felt the impact yet failed to perceive an injury.
Within myself I am a hard enemy.

Deep war drums began to sound, an ordered measure,
Like some huge stallion in motion.

The air began to warm.

The desert rose from the moist earth and drifted through me.
The air was still.

I heard the strings quiver and looked upward.
Three prey-birds floated above me a moment,
Then turned earthward.

One fell beside me whistling into the soil.
The other two struck me full in my unarmored heart, drove me down,
Pierced through.

The drums continued yet I failed to hear.

The mountain banner rose above me.

The air was still.