The Shire Cricket Chronicles
... with personal pennings as well
© 2011 Jeff Lynch
Part One: The Secretary Writes
wish to extend the sweetest and dearest greetings to you my friends. I
sit down here in the comfort of my own home in the cordial village of
Bywater within the bounds of The Shire. I should tell you that I'm
writing this all down in such a warm hole of a room. It is a typically
freezing mid Winterfilth day.
is nobody here to disturb me at all. Nothing at all in my seven
underground rooms, save a friendly dormouse or two. I must confess that
during the cold months I do feed them. People say that you shouldn't
but I can't help do so. A muffled up friend is expected in two hours
time at my round door and a beer or four will be most welcome.
as I write this, I have my pipe of Longbottom Leaf Best to hand. And
the fire in my warped old grate is crackling aloud with a cricket
chirping behind it as well. If Winterfilth be hard with us, why there
is always next Summer's cricket to look forward to.
have plenty of beer in my cool larder too. I might prove necessary if
added friends should pop in. Ah, and what more could a Hobbit want then?
I suppose if it comes down to wanting then, you will need to know that
my name is Bungo Willowbottom. Although I do expect that you have
never heard of my name. Not that it matters of course. That is I mean,
except to me.
have the pleasure of being the Honorary Secretary to the Shire Cricket
Association. These days our President is the very nearly famous Hobbit
immediate past President was course the extremely famous adventurer,
batsman and Mayor of Hobbiton the one and the only Sam Gamgee. He was
my friend as well you see. His name be legend here I say. He is a man
capable of extinguishing a dragon's fire or so it's said. But as
everybody knows, he has now passed over to be with his comrades. And it
was indeed Sam's crossing over with Cirdar steering that prompted me to
sit down and write these chronicles.
so I most heartily invite you to join me in experiencing the last forty
five years in the game of cricket played here in the Shire. My family
name of Willow bottom is a locative one for most of my forebears came
from farms around that little settlement.
fact you will hear a lot of the small villages and outlying settlements
of our beloved Shire in these chronicles. Names, such as Pincup,
Buttercup, Needlehole, Budge Ford, will arise. As will places like
Hardbottom, Scary, Crickhollow, Little Delving and Scary too.
see I have decided to record most of what I know of the life and times
of the generations of the famous and infamous flannelled fools of the
Shire. In my rambling and old time spinning style it will hopefully be
a personal account of the Shire Cricket Association during my lifetime.
tell you the truth, I was most nervous at setting out to write these
chronicles. The fact is that while it is true that I am occasionally
considered to be a poet, I have very little experience at setting down
a history. In my salad days when I was lucky enough to be playing for
Bywater on those green pitches of old, I attempted to be a leg spinner.
was not the best bowler in our team by a very long chalk but when Sam
was only an up and coming batsman I did take his wicket two times. The
first time was a clean caught and bold with quite an ordinary ball. Or
so I did suppose. Sam vowed that the ball had almost magically slowed
up on him. But the second time I took his wicket gave me a great deal
more satisfaction. For it was with my wrong'un on the sloping fields at
his own beloved home ground at Hobbiton.
and I grew up together and we knew each other inside out so we did. It
was in the second innings I recall...ah but shall I ever forget that
ball looked so gettable to Sam on the rise, but then it suddenly
straightened up on him; passing his left leg just like I'd planned. Off
stump goes a flyi'n backwards with a single clunk and lies there on the
foot-stamped grass like a question with no answer.
that left old Dada Proudfoot with nothing to do but to put his crooked
index finger upright. And did I cry Owzat for it, or was just a general
roaring from my team that I was hearing?
Doughty Sam, he looked down the pitch at me and said slowly in his ever honest voice.... 'Well
Willow old chap, (for such was my nickname.) I do declare that ball
surely was as sweet a delivery that a Hobbit might ever have to face
and on a good wicket at that. Willow beats willow eh?' He laughed and shook his head and then off he strode to the boundary with a strange kind of smile left on his handsome dial.
days go by swiftly and years later Sam would recall the ball when we
were both in our cups. It always helped me along in my darker moments
for that was just his way you see. 'Willow beats willow.'
but what wonderful Hobbit he was and all; so straight and standing tall
with you; yet so powerful and yet subtle with his own willow he
was. Ah, but I do miss him so much... still in these days. But on
that one shining day, so, so sweet it was and all for me in my
greengage summer and all those romping times of youth.
I'm sorry to say but it is only the unvarnished truth that I was a right-regular bunny with the bat.
I am well enough known in the Shire as the long standing Secretary of
the Shire Cricket Association and scorer for Bywater. And if I knew how
old I was, I would straight off tell you my age. But I don't and that
is an end to it. Folks tell me that I am efficient but perhaps they do
say behind my back that I'm a bit of a fuddy-duddy too. But I've many
friends and that's a fact.
I have been busily recording our normal events and the occasional
abnormal ones, in what might be described as almost a lifetime's work.
But still it is all play in the end is it not?
I imagine that you have not often read our local paper. It is called 'The Halfling Clarion' and while it is true that I do have issues with the editor Mr Pongo Cotton of Hobbiton.
is a cousin to Rose Cotton whom we all know is the more than charming
wife of our past Mayor Sam Gamgee. But I swear to you that Pongo Cotton
never did love his cousin as half well as I did. Oops.... but that was
supposed to be a secret. Well I suppose that a lot off people knew
about it in any case.
still like to think that our games of cricket form a large part of the
Shire's paper newsworthy content. Nearly every week brings forth a new
story. And I have legions of pub goers to back me up on that too. The
paper's back-files on Sam alone would fill many a drawer I'm thinking.
does seem to concur with me in this matter of cricket's place in The
Shire's society in any case. And once again, the case of Sam Gamgee
will tell us everything. Even after all these years his memory lingers
on so. And it really does that ornery customer Pongo Cotton in the sale
of his newspapers of course. He needs us it seems and the truth is that
we need him too. Such as he is I mean.
The Composition of the First Shire Cricket Association
is a matter of fact that we have four local hotels here and each one of
them supports a cricket team very vigorously. And there is not a day
goes past in summer but our local cricket is not a part of decisions,
arguments and celebrations in all our locals.
'The Ivy Bush' is the undisputed if only slightly unofficial
headquarters of the Hobbiton Cricket Team. And then there
is my own local at Bywater 'The Green Dragon' is it's fighting name.
This famous pub has long supported the Bywater team. I must disclose
here some occasional bias to both my watering hole and the Bywater
cricket team itself. I take this stand regardless.
is partly this bias that leads me into disputations with Pongo Cotton
from time to time. He supports the Hobbiton Cricket Club whilst I am
naturally a Hobbit for the Bywater Cricket Club. (BCC)
then there is the estimable 'The Floating Log' at Frogmorton. Nobody in
the Shire would readily step up to the bar in that fine pub without
taking a care not to say a bad word of the Frogmorton Cricket Club.
but by no means the last in reputation, is that fine pub The Golden
Perch. This establishment has long been the beginning and the end of
the two villages of Stock and Tuckborough. Their cricket team finishes
most of their games off in that well stocked inn.
situated in Stock in the marsh country, the cricket field shares the
slightly raised lands which makes Stock a much smaller version of the
city of Ely in Britain. Not that anybody has ever been there.
start not at the start but with my father's day I will first list those
teams which made up the official clubs of the time. There were six
original teams in the Shire back then. They were as follows....
2. Frogmorton CC
3. Bywater CC
4. Overhill CC
5. Little Delving/Hardbottom CC
6. Oakbottom CC
this listing, you can see that The Golden Perch had not yet delivered
us the Stock/Tuckborough Cricket Club as yet. The last name team
Oakbottom was to drop out after seven years of competition. It's surely
true that they always did struggle with the very small population of
the farmlands around Dwaling and Long Cleeve.
fact the Poodfoots made up a majority of the club for donkey's years.
And the Poodfoots often made donkeys of visiting teams to their ground.
I am sorry if I have offended any donkeys by the way.
know only too well don't I? For that bustling left hander Pondly
Poodfoot bowled me for a duck there did he not? I recall that it was in
the first innings one surly summer's play out there.
for the club, there was a slow starting but lingering outburst of
bachelor farmers around the area. One of the consequences being was
that there were no young up and coming cricketers in the district.
The Second Composition of the Shire Teams
was then that 'The Golden Perch' stepped up to the crease and the
Stock/ Tuckborough club was admitted to the Association. The
teams then were...
1. Hobbiton CC
2. Frogmorton CC
3. Bywater CC
4. Overhill CC
5. Little Delving/ Hardbottom CC
6. Stock/Tuckborough CC
some sharp observers may express there surprise that the reasonably
large village of Bucklebury/Buckland are not considered in these teams.
There were cricketers beside the Brandywine River but most folks in the
Shire were in the habit of thinking that the people around Bucklebury
to be very queer folk. You have to understand that this was long
standing prejudice. That is until Peregrine Took came along one fine
night at The Floating Log that is.
then there were the problems associated with the geographical distance
between the centre of the Shire say at Bywater and Bucklebury. It was a
goodly step or ride.
was not until much later when Sam Gamgee came up with the idea of a
regular horse drawn omnibus to travel the length of the East Road to
the Brandywine and back the players saw that it was indeed possible to
play there and return on the same day.
so without very much fuss was born, the Gamgee and Cotton Omnibus
Company out of this simple notion. This was operated by Sam's oldest
boy until he went off a somewhere searching for his fortune. And Great
Aragorn only knows where he's gone and got himself to. Some place
dangerous I'll be bound.
bain't been seen for four years now come this Winterfilfth. I do hope
that he has not got himself to close to any of those roaring Dragons or
young whippersnapper Tangles Willfoot operates the omnibus right now
but I think he gets himself into too much strife at places like The
Golden Perch. And just to think that his grand daddy was once the Mayor
of Hobbiton too. But there I go sinking into too much gossip once again.
This was all started when Sam was the Mayor of the Shire and that leads us to the third composition of the Shire's teams....
The Third Composition of the Teams (1490)
was in the bumper harvest year of 1490 that Bucklebury put in 'an
expression of interest' in fielding a cricket team in the Association.
They had been playing local friendlies for two years by now even before
the time of 'the scouring' and as they would have it..
'We are really being as it were, quite close to being up to scratch.'
This was from their Secretary Peregrine Took. They clearly signaled
that a start in 1491 would be their heart's desire. But for now the
Bucklebury Tooks and all their comrades had to wait a while. In the
bumper year of 1490 then, these were the teams in the recommencing and
post scouring Association...
1. Hobitton CC
2. Frogmorton CC
3. Bywater CC
5. Little Delving/ Hardbottom
6. Stock/ Tuckborough
will be clearly seen that the proposal of Bucklebury for entry created
an unprecedented problem for us now. There were six teams in the
competition and the extra team would create a bye for us. The committee
met at the Ivy Bush that time and there was much debate on the matter.
regret to say that Pongo Cotton was rather somewhat more heated the
subject than he should have been. Some of Bucklebury's finest citizens
were maligned by this so-called erudite town editor. In fact it is the
honest truth that Sam as the President, twice had to rule him out of
Sam Gamgee was all for Bucklebury's entry in any case. He argued... 'Why
there had been no proper cricket at just last year and on bye or even
two byes a year, would not hurt a true cricketer's soul.'
lot of people who had long held views on the subject of the strangeness
of the Tooks and the Bucklebury folk in general did not quite know
whether they should support Sam on this matter or not.
Sam quickly saw which way the wind was blowing and craftily suspended the meeting for three weeks.
They would meet at Frogmorton in three weeks time and he would issue an invitation to Peregrine Took be their special guest.
Afterall said Sam... 'He
and his team are the ones with the most to win or lose out of the
situation. And he should rightly be given the chance to explain
Bucklebury's case as best as he might.'
above has been abstracted by me from the minutes. This motion of Sam's
was carried in the end and the meeting went to plan at Frogmorton. This
town being nearer to Bucklebury and thus was sparing Mr Took some weary
night at The Floating Log, Peregrine Took stood up and boldly delivered
a most patient, even a nerve tingling speech. It also happened to
be an all round persuasive speech to all who would hear him. Sam
declared quite loudly.... 'Why in all of my travels I have hardly been ever moved so much.'
Probably he said this in the heat of the moment to warm up the rest of the Committee. And this worked just dandily at that too.
Peregrine plonked enough money on the bar for several round s for every
Hobbit they chaired this Took all round the room three times before
they all came back to stand at the bar for three hours.
so it came to be that in the year 1492, Bucklebury's fine cricket team
was entered into the lists of our noble Association. It wasn't all that
long after that when Peregrine was elevated to the Presidency. I must
say it was a very fine choice too.
The Bumper Year of 1492 and Onwards
had only played their very first game when the goddesses of fate lent a
hand to obviate the necessity of a bye in the competition. The Golden
Perch Hotel had the misfortune to suffer a bad fire early that summer.
There was considerable damage done and the pub was put out of action
for almost thirteen months.
at the same time, some of their best cricketers were attracted to two
of the other active clubs. Thus it can be seen that Bucklebury's
admittance to the competition that year was a most fortuitous piece of
hope it will amuse you if I relate what I might call some of the
cricket games and incidents which, after all these years are still
glued to my mind so stickily. Here one would have to start not
chronologically but in the bumper harvest year of 190. That year the
harvest was one, the like which had not been seen in a gross of years.
may remember that this year was the one that immediately followed the
scouring of the Shire. The Shire was very lucky indeed that year in
all the burnings and the general destruction throughout the Shire, we
were blessed by perfect weather and good timing. The devastation
wrought by the uprising against Sharkey and his evil bosses which of
course was a most necessary thing, was quickly put to rights.
course the Cricket competition had to be suspended during the troubles
of the year of 1491. This in itself was the cause of much misery among
the male Hobbits. But there were far worse things for us Hobbits to
cope with then.
old Mayor Willfoot had been imprisoned in the lockups at Michael
Delving for a considerable time. When he was freed he needed a great
deal of care and attention to bring him back to health. But he returned
to preside as Mayor of Hobbiton once again. And he is still remembered
as the leader in that greatest bumper year of all.
the year of 1491 just happened to be an Overlithe one (which is a leap
year.) And these years were normally celebrated with extra large
harvest festivals. It was also the year that Sam and Rose Cotton
married. I shan't forget that day quickly. Sam chose me to be to be his
best man at the wedding. And while I surely considered that to be a
regular honour it also carried with it the seeds of some personal pain.
was at your wedding Rosie, but I was not the best man. For you see,
there was a matter that I've already alluded to. Rose and I were quite
attached to each other in a way. Perhaps it was more on my side than
hers; that could be so. And it was not a thing that I soon got over.
Sam and Rose did have an understanding and I knew that only too well
for my pains.
Rose and I and Sam, were all kind of tangled up together from way back
in our early grade days of school. Now this happened to come to a head
while Sam was absent on his 'great adventures' in the East.
none of us knew if he and Frodo would ever return from those Dragon
inhabited lands of Black Orcs, Elves and great hopelessly high
mountains as we used to say. I was not all that backward in coming
forward as my other commented when it came to Rose's affections. There
was nothing between Rose and I that you could actually call untoward
you understand. Though I might have been willing you can be sure.
I can remember kissing her one night outside a dancehall in the
moonlight. And a full moon it was as well. She wore a yellow frock I
still recall. She dropped her small bag on the ground in all her
confusion when we kissed.
being after we had two dances together at the ball. But of course, Rose
had to hold true to Sam for a little longer. And it just a truth
that I was more or less forced to give way.
you know the rest of the tale. But it's my simple guess, that sweet
Rose did remember that one kiss as well I do. At least I do hope so.
and Rose were soon engaged. And their marriage coincided with the
greatest Harvest Festival in the living memory of all Hobbits in the
Shire. The day shone so bright and the guests piled in like swarms of
happy summer bees . It was if their union was seen as the epitome of
the days of plenty, after the awful troubles and the great disasters of
the previous year.
then the cricket games started up once again. And the hotels some of
which had been damaged made repairs and as we say here in Bywater at
The Dragon, the bumper romping booming days were back.
ever year for beer brewing it was. In later years folks who might have
just enjoyed a delectable beer would mutter to their mates at the
bar... 'Ah but that was a right fourteen nine o one.'
Longfarthing where the best barley grew, the farmers were almost hidden
in the depths of their crops. And in the same manner in the
Southfarthing the tobacco (or as we say here pipeweed,) was most
prodigiously fine that season.
tobacco harvests laid down a classical Longbottom Leaf that would never
be equaled in the years to come. The grain harvest rocketed up in all
regions however and the grapes grew to amazing heights and breadth.
Hobbits sharpened their scythes and worked all the harder at
high-piling the stacks and the sheaves of wheat and barley.
was malt and honey and heaps of wine and roses to spare for all in
Lithetime. There was plenty of water and babies grinned everywhere you
walked in the Shire. And the balls that were held were talked about by
Hobbits for years to come.
the jump and start one-two-three music at the dances and balls seemed
better than ever. Old folks shook their heads at these new fangled
dances and also at some of the girls' daring dresses. Older men stay
young in their hearts. As the years rolled by, you might hear the men
say things such as.... 'Ah
but can you remember the way that Serandippa Took looked like when she
came all the way from her home by the ale brown stream of the
Brandywine to that ball? Ah, that night she was in her glory in that
low cut red ball gown? '
'Cor but I can remember her that night.... I'm telling you man It was simply punishing.
sure kicked up a high old shindig at the ball that night boy. They sure
don't come like Serandippa these days then eh. I think that went home
twice that night. With two different lads I mean.'
as for me, I was still remembering another ball wasn't I? A ball on
another night I mean. And that was a ball that had taken place in the
the month of Rethe (or March,) when we held our annual pre-season
cricket meeting you could already tell that high summer would bring the
Shire abundance and joy. Not long after the first round of cricket was
played old Willfoot retired and Sam was made the Mayor of Hobbiton.
the time that the month of Astron came around the startling burst of
bud and leaf springtime had lovers all gasping for cooler air.
our days grew longer, so did our hearts grow all the merrier in both
work and at our play. I would be only four weeks now until we could
play cricket even through the evendim as the slow falling curtain of
night lowered over our sweet land.
cricket game that was played at Bywater that year comes to mind to me
as I sit here in my warm and snuggy study by the open fire. And as
usual, Sam was the great star of this wonderful game. He was by and far
the best batsman that I ever saw with my own eyes. And I believe any
other contemporary Hobbit would likely say the same thing... come to
were playing two day matches by this time and when our Captain Lollo
Proudfoot won the toss he sent Hobbiton in to bat. And oh boy what one
big error that turned out to be by our captain. Sam who normally batted
at number four, elevated himself to one of the opening batsmen.
was partly for the reason that one of their openers was injured and
could not take his place. But all the same, I have a sneaky feeling
that Sam felt something special in his bones about this particular
match. Like a party of old, the fireworks were about to begin.
Unfortunately for me, the fireworks started from one of my leg spinners. We used to bowl eight balls an over back then.
all began with the second ball of the over. Sam cut a not so bad ball
of mine to fine leg as quick as blinking. It quickly sped down the
sloped ground towards the Green Dragon corner for an easy four runs.
Old Dada swept his arm length out to the horizontal to signify.
the third ball, I started the ball out to wide and by some prodigious
athletic feat Hamfast Gamgee's son approached the ball inside out and
clipped it over cover with such power that it cleared our wooden railed
fence by more than the height of three Hobbits. Six runs were given him
my fourth ball Sam almost casually stroke-played on the offside.
And he easily managed to run a two for his troubles. This now made
twelve runs from four balls. Not good Willow, not good, I hear
Proudfoot saying out of the corner of his mouth from while returning to
second slip. He sets the field a bit more defensively with not a little
discomfort and he tells me to have a care.
a care? But I have to tell you that it got much worse. Sam smoothly
played the same stroke twice with my next two balls. Both of them went
hot-foot sizzling to the boundary for four runs. Captain Proudfoot is
now positively squirming all over.
runs have come from the over....so far that is. Sam walks back to his
crease after running some yards before he sees it's another four. But
he says not one word for the moment. He is concentrating.
beat him completely with the next ball. All ends up it was and by
rights he should have been out. Missed his bat by the proverbial
moggie's whisker it did. But alas, it went through harmlessly to the
keeper. Sam yelled back down the pitch at me.... 'Eh keep it up Willow... that was a damn fine un I promise you.'
I damn well knew it was too and all. The last ball of the over brought
Sam's total off the over twenty six. And I still reckon that my
delivery was a dangerous ball....for most batsmen that is.
lifted this harder bouncing ball which was coming back quite sharply at
him. I have to say that I reckon only Sam's eye could have done it. He
lifted the ball on the onside with a rising hoick that was far, far
more effective than it was pretty or artful. Anyhow as that may be, the
ball went sailing higher and higher over the fence to the square of the
wicket. But it did not stop there.
landed on a hard patch some twenty feet over the boundary. And it made
a strange whacking sound as it hit the hard patch and all. And then
with only that single bounce it sizzled further onwards and upwards.
was a completely different kind sound that followed. There was a sharp
crashing followed by some tinkling noises from afar. Yes you are right;
a window was caved in.
the ball had been struck so hard that the bounce had seen the ball
right on to the Dragon itself. It smashed a second storey window in the
pub some forty eight odd feet from the boundary in total. Captain
Proudfoot took me off for the day without even saying one more word to
naturally Hobbiton was twenty six runs to the better when our next
bowler came on. When their innings closed midway through the next
morning Sam had scored three hundred and twelve runs. This was to be
his second highest score ever for his beloved team.
every Hobbit remembers that Sam's revered father Hamfast scored three
hundred and six runs on the Hobbiton ground in almost even time in his
day. Like father like son one must suppose. I'd have to guess that
Hamfast scored those runs in quicker time than his son did but I just
cannot compare the innings, for I never did see his father's knock.
you would imagine, Hobbiton CC was surely pleased to declare their
innings at five hundred and one runs for the loss of seven wickets.
Needless to say the weather stayed fine right into Evendim that day. So
there was not a snowball's chance in hell of a draw that day. And
Bywater lost the game comprehensively and Sam's golden tale goes on and
on.... just like the road does.
Part Two: The Famous Bucklebury Match
great memory was that almost infamous trip by the Bywater team to
Bucklebury on the Gamgee and Cotton Ominbus Co. Disgracefully enough
after setting out very early on by the Saturday morning we didn't get
back to Bywater until late on the Monday evening.
As people would say later on, it was almost Friday the First when we returned.1
Sam's oldest boy was the driver of the first coach drawn by four ponies
whose names were Lantra, Sendledon, Benethadon and Tuk. I know this
because we had bred several of these specially trained ponies ourselves.
was crisp morning in the Lithetime of 1497. The day loomed bright. The
second coach, which was only employed for the carrying of the cricket
teams, was handled by the bandy legged and rather careless fellow by
the name of Tangles Willfoot.
recall that Aragorn had just banned all men from entering The Shire in
order to protect the integrity of all Hobbits in that year.
packed all our gear aboard the coaches and Tangles who was always one
for making a great deal of noise, blew the clarion call of the coaching
horn. The ponies stood there snorting, steaming and stamping in their
harnesses all ready for the take off.
all clambered aboard the coaches and with a clucking tongue and a gee
up from young Gamgee, we were merrily and clinkingly on our way in good
weather and condition. Everyone of us expected to defeat Bucklebury in
this game. Even on their home ground. Our doughty captain Lollo
Proudfoot was even telling all who would listen, that he might have a
wager on such an outcome with Perigrine Took when we got there. And
this betting notion of Lollo's was start of all the rot really.
Betting on things was not really a part of our Hobbit's everyday makeup or doings.
Lollo Proudfoot had always had a flea in his ear about the 'mad Tooks'
of Bucklebury. Lollo's folks had also originally hailed from the
Brandywine region. Lollo reckoned that since the days of 'the great
adventure' the Tooks had took on so.
then to top it all off Peregrine had finished topping the nob by
becoming President. According to Lollo's lights, they all needed to be
taken down a peg or two or three. And he'd be the one to do it this
weekend. I settled down in the coach with my own thoughts and smoked my
pipe without saying a word. And our ponies rattled on easily down the
East Road towards Frogmorton.
had been the Cricket Association's President for several years now. As
a Hobbit born and raised in the Brandywine region, he had been
instrumental in getting Bucklebury into the competition.
as I said, Lollo was keen to try and show him up. But as Sam Gamgee had
discovered many years back, some of the Tooks are not as silly as folks
make them out to be. Even if they are fond of boating that is.
the first halt at The Golden Perch, we got out to stretch our legs and
scratch ourselves. The morning was still little fresh with a light
breeze from the North that told us that good weather for the weekend
was almost a promise.
landlord of the pub Tanta Lightfoot came out from the early morning
warmth of his pub to greet us all most heartily. He was universally
known for his cheeryable countenance and good mein. But Tanta was not a
very rich publican by accident.
wished us much luck in the game and was of the opinion that Bywater
would beat Bucklebury by an innings. If things go according to ability
that is, quoth he. I did not know it at the time, but these days I
believe that Tanta handed Lollo a small wad of money before he got back
in the coach. If I am right in this, then the plot was thickening from
that moment on. They were up to thing then I reckon. It was not to be a
good move by our captain.
took off and Tanta stood there waving at us as his figure diminished
behind us. Butter would not melt in this landlord's mouth I say.
game started promptly at eleven with the sun already high. Bucklebury
won the toss and elected to bat in the fine conditions. Never did a
cricket game have a better combination of wicket good, wonderful
weather, fine food and ale awaiting indoors and an almost tangible
mystery going on in the background.
Before the game opened up, I saw Lollo chatting quietly with Peregrine away from the others at the back of the ominbus.
watched on, curious to see if I could detect whether or not Peregrine
would accept the bet or not. I saw Peregrine listening closely to
Lollo. Once he rocked his head back with laughter and then he called
over to one of the veteran cricketers. This was Lotho Boffin (The
Second). Lotho casually walked over to the couple and the conversation
took flight once again. They seemed to confer on the matter for quite a
time. There seemed to be to-ing and fro-ing until finally Peregrine
shook Lollo's hand, patted him on the back and they quitted each
other's company. In my opinion, as far as I could tell, the bet had
been laid and the game was afoot.
As we walked out onto the field I asked confronted Lollo directly. I said to him a bit testily... 'Before a ball is bowled Lollo... I want you to tell me what's going here?'
looked askance and for just a minute. I thought that he was going to
balk at the matter because for a moment he seemed to be counting birds
in the sky.
But then he said quietly.... 'Peregrine and I have had a wager on the game Willow.'
'Yes I know, but I think that you laid some of Tanta's money too Lollo?'
He looked hard at me again.... 'Well I must say that you do have sharp eyes on you Willow. Well it's true then. Tanta did put his money on us.'
I asked Lollo the terms of the bet and why Peregrine had called Lotho Boffin into the matter. He replied... 'Peregrine
reminded me that Bucklebury had never beaten us. He also pointed out
that the same was true in their record against Hobbiton. They have only
won against the lesser teams in the competition. Once against Stock and
two times against Overhill and the best that they had done was a draw
with Hobbit Peregrine wanted some odds in his favour you see.
that's why he had Lotho come up and join us. Lotho then came up with
the proposition of the winner takes the money but the odds would be,
that if the game was to be a draw then Bucklebury would also be
declared the winner. Not
on the field of course but in the matter of the bet I mean Willow. I
tell you that it was a clever enough move by Lotho for certain. In the
end, we agreed to those terms mate. That's the whole deal..I swear it.
If we are to win the bet we have to win the game.'
I said to him.. 'No
you have got that wrong Lollo.. we don't have win the bet...for 'we'
meaning the rest of the team, did not lay the bet. Only you and Tanta
Lollo started to say something.. 'Well then under the circumstances...'
faltered and then stopped speaking altogether. For one brief moment I
thought that Lollo was going to ask me outright to keep the matter
under my faded cricket cap. But I could not be at all sure of that. I
was angry quite with Lollo. Yes, I was not very well pleased with all
of this set to at all was I? But of course it was too late to do
anything about the bet now.
came to the conclusion that I basically believed that Lollo had told me
the truth of the affair. It was not good tho' by a long stroke at any
wicket. I do not like betting on cricket. I do not like betting in any
form under the Shire's variable skies. I surely do not want to harp on
a moral argument here. Some Hobbits will say that I have said too much
already. And I do not wish you to get the idea that the bet was
corrupt. Not at all, for it was more or less a fair wager no more than
backers of the Bywater team had to see their team win the game to win
the bet. So there is no implication of any form of cheating on their
part. But was it the same for the Tookish and Boffinish people here as
well? Well I shall leave you to be the arbiter on that one dear reader.
I think in all fairness, that I did have to tell you how the most
chaotic cricket weekend in my own lifetime came into being.
now the Bucklebury openers had taken block and it was definitely 'game
on for both teams.' We would simply go about our normal business
on the playing field.
play up..play up hard in our chosen sport. And we would play hard
to win as well. But we must always remember to play to enjoy the game
as well. Life is too short for aught else! This was no more than our
usual business on the green fields of The Shire.
for the game itself, there was little of note to describe on the first
day except to say that the match was still wide open when stumps were
drawn late in the Evendim. Peregrine Took had made the highest score in
Bucklebury's first innings and our captain batting at number four was
our highest scorer. But it was clear by the end of play that neither
side had any real advantage.
contestants were quite naturally very thirsty and a hale and rollicking
time was had by both sides in the inn before a second set of stumps
were drawn. I looked up at the Evendim sky and sighed. Was that some
small sign of rain up there?
But on the morrow came a terrible surprise. And it was not only the fact that it had rained for much of the night.
Bucklebury cricket field seemed to have been invaded by a small herd of
cattle. And a very restless herd too. And what with the rain on top of
that, the ground was simply nigh on unplayable.
the cows were herded off the pitch itself, it was seen to be quite
messed about. Holes and scuff marks were abundant all down the pitch.
And what's more, the bowling approaches were even worse.
I suspicious then? Not at first was the answer but I kept on dwelling
on the matter. The cow dung could be easily gotten rid of but the pitch
was in a terrible state. And were there signs of some straw having been
strewn about on the grounds? It was not a laughing matter I might add.
The sun began to shine wanly once again. Would play be possible we all
long before any possible start of play discussions were held.. Could
the game go on at all was the main topic. Naturally the Bucklebury team
was extremely embarrassed about all of this. No apologies could be
enough to excuse this uncommon lapse in form. Nobody could explain it.
local groundsmen were busy patching over for nearly two hours, but
still it was touch and go to ready the pitch. The Sunday's start was
delayed by almost two hours and twenty and twenty five minutesi. Not
all was well at Bucklebury that morning I can assure you. But
eventually the decision was made and the first ball was bowled.
delayed morning's play was about as undecided as the total of the
previous day. The pitch was still not in order but both sides were
being affected almost equally.
bowlers were unsettled by the poor bowling approaches and similarly the
batsmen found themselves on a cross between a sticky wicket and an ill
prepared one. By the late afternoon, it seemed that a draw was imminent
which meant that Lollo's wager would be lost.
were batting and after losing six wickets Polo Bracknboring was facing
the bowling while I was at the non-facing end. Seeing they must get
four wickets and there was only an hour left of play, it would seem
that a draw was looming.
on the next ball, there was a loud appeal as the ball went past Polo's
bat and their wicket keeper gloved the ball cleanly. I thought that
Polo had possibly snicked it and the umpire was of the same opinion.
Polo was given out. Two balls later we lost our incoming batsmen to a
simple offside catch. We were eight wickets down.
as is so often the case in this game, a result might be possible. And
the odds were by far in favour for Bucklebury. We were eight wickets
down with seventy runs to win and some forty three minutes of play
left. And what's more I was not the man to get a lion's share of
seventy runs and neither was my new partner Alby Whitfurrow. For Alby
was possibly a worse bunny with the bat than I.
oddly enough in the next two overs we managed to scramble a creditable
seventeen runs between us. Tom had scored twelve runs, while I had
managed to get five. Now there were fifty three runs to get
within some thirty four minutes. The runs needed stood at forty
nine. Not a soul there that day would have backed us in to win from
had suffered four appeals and survived them all and my partner Alby
Whitfurrow had been dropped twice in the outfield. Plus the fact that a
sure enough ball had already passed my bat but hit one of the hoof
marks and deviated away before striking my wicket. One to the
cows I thought. But we survived and what's more we scrabbled together
another thirty eight runs. Now we needed but eleven runs to win.
brought on their tear-away quick the young Mordy Boffin to bowl. I was
facing and did not have a clue about the first of his sizzling
deliveries. The ball freakishly hit my cricket bat's handle about half
way down the grip and ballooned over the second slip.
ball slid down over the grimy field for a four. Seven runs was what we
needed now. The second ball missed everything including the stumps. I
managed to survive yet another appeal for a leg before wicket and I
blocked the other balls except the last.
again I knew nought, nowt, and nothing about this extra fast ball as it
came in to me. It struck my thigh and skidded just beyond the
reach of the keeper. And we managed to take one run off the ball. Mordy
Boffin scratched his head as he might, as he strode off to his position
in the outfield. Seven runs were now needed.
umpires moved into position and of course this meant there was to be a
last over. Eight balls for us to face and if we were still there at the
end of the over but had not scored seven runs it would be a draw.
we did get the runs we would take the game. I thought our chances were
now almost even Steven. But I didn't know then that Peregrine Took was
to come on. or now Peregrine was indeed given the ball for the last
over. I was to face the bowling.
pinned me down for almost all of his first seven balls. I did not score
one run in seven balls. Two balls I had blocked and the rest all sailed
past me like a whistling train. And there were still seven runs to get.
were done at last thinks I to meself. When the last ball of the innings
was about to be released by Peregrine, an extraordinary thing happened.
For a moment I thought that I was seeing things. As he was coming in to
bowl, the ball flew out of his right hand and flipped into the air a
while to land square on the sticky pitch.
It lay there about a three quarter way down the length of it.
ball was not moving at all by this time. There had not been a no-ball
called by Aldeberry Took the umpire at the bowling end either. Now one
of the fielders swiftly went to pick up the ball but Aldeberry spoke
out and prevented him from doing so. Now Aldeberry Took spoke up again
with the voice of authority but not at all pompous like... 'The
laws of cricket allow the batsman a fair strike at the ball now.
Uninterrupted I mean. The one strike only ye ken Willow... if you
a to-do it was all round. It seemed that I was required to hit the ball
in any direction I desired. The thought passed through my mind whether
or not our old Dada Proudfoot would have known of this arcane law. All
the fielders looked around the cricket ground with extremely nervous
all wanted to know where I might aim the ball. I could not have told
them myself as it happened. When I studied the ball more carefully I
could see that it was sitting on a ridge of a hoof mark made overnight.
This meant the ball the ball was perched just a little clear of the
flat surface. It was more luck for me because I might just be able to
smack it from that position.
went up to it and drew back my bat. I was not all that sure that would
be able to strike the blasted thing at all. My bat came down and like
some kind of unseen magic it seemed to swing in a perfect arc all of
it's own accord. On impact the ball took off like a rocket and sped at
a very odd angle towards the boundary.
was more surprised than I was and I actually saw it running away from
me. It was certainly going in a different direction than the one I was
Few of the fielders could actually see the ball as it took it's odd and unknown path across the field.
young tear away bowler was the nearest to it and Mordy Took took off
after it going at full pelt. But even he had to sprint for a full forty
yards before he could gather in the ball.
this time we were coming back for our third run. As I hurtled towards
the crease, Mordy released the ball with a great heave of his powerful
young shoulder. I started to stumble as I approached the safety of the
crease. Although I couldn't see the ball at all, it went hurtling
towards my end.
felt something strike my bat as I was falling past the wicket.
Instinctively I now realized that it was the ball that Mordy had thrown
to my end. And then from the safety of the ground on the other side of
the crease, I began to appreciate rather than see, that the ball had
managed to richochet off my bat and start on it's way towards the
Hobbits flung themselves uselessly at the ball but the ball slid by
them to keep on rolling downhill to the fence. I also saw Peregrine
Took throwing his cap to the ground in great disgust. He knew what was
coming now. Then I witnessed Alderry Took our undoubted savior, lift up
his right arm. Without his fine and correct knowledge of the laws of
cricket we would have lost the game. Now he lifted it up to the
horizontal to signify by a waving of the arm that the ball had run on
to the boundary for four unexpected otherthrows.
had run the three runs and now we were being awarded the four overthrow
runs from poor Mordy's attempt to throw down my wicket. We had the
score of the seven runs in the bag. And Bywater had just won the match.
celebrations were wild that night and little by little things got a bit
out of hand. It is very hard to keep secrets in a Hobbit t out about
our captain Lollo's wager and this had it's own consequences in the end.
of our players started accusing Bucklebury players of attempting to
sabotage the pitch and indeed the whole field by opening the gates and
letting the cows onto the pitch and the grounds. I personally could not
see that that Peregrine Took would have anything to do with an
underhand act such as that.
the same it did look kinda suspicious seeing that according to the
betting agreement, a draw would have been sufficient to gain the money
course we were supposed to return to Bywater on the omnibus that
evening. But what with all the rowing and carousing and Lollo shouting
the bar with his winnings things did not go to plan. In the end we
found young Tangles Willfoot slumped down in a corner. He was totally
unable to move, let along drive the coach and four.
so it was that we had no option but to allow him to sleep it off. Some
of us went back to the bar for a while where Peregrine was doing some
hand stands on a chair. But it was long before the rest of us sought
after a bed wherever we whist. Some of us were lucky enough to get a
regular bed in thre inn while others slept in the stable with the
ponies. It was eleven am the next morning when we pulled up the omnibus
coaches at Bywater.
Part Three The Latter Years
the years I had made great friends of Milo and Peony Baggins. They were
married but somehow they just sort of clicked with an old bachelor like
me. Milo who was a cousin of Frodo, was most unlike Frodo in that he
loved cricket almost as much as I did. They were always looking for a
hand of cards over Longbottom best, beer and lashings of food and good
Milo and I both played for Bywater and many a time after just enough
beer at the Dragon, I would end up at Peony and Milo's snug Hobbit hole
down by Bywater Pool.
and I had another thing in common with me. Although he hadn't gone to
school with Sam like I had, he and Sam were on very good terms.
Rosie and Sam would join Milo, Peony and I at dinner and playing cards
at night and the like. I cannot deny that Rosie's presence always did
lift my spirits. But then having said that, Rosie could make an Orc
smile I reckon.
course Sam played for Hobbiton and we'd all established the fiercest
but friendliest rivalry that was possible in this here green Shire of
cricket does not last for ever. Games have an end and so do the playing
lives of cricketers. I got a bad knee and although Old Dada treated it
by both heat compresses and manipulation, it soon packed up on me. I
had to retire from my beloved Bywater team.
played on for one more season after that.. Sam, who was made of a
tougher mettle than either of us played on for five more seasons for
Hobbiton. Now all the three of us were often seen helping our clubs out
in various ways off the field. From time to time we would be
asked to take a mild part in social games of cricket. Beer-knocks we
called them in those days. As we grew older those events got rarer. We
settled for cakes and ale and stuff like that.
is was a stroke of good for me that upon my retirement from playing
Oldo Boffin gave notice that he would relinquish the job as The Shire
Cricket Association Secretary. To cut a long story to a shorter version
after some politicking up and down the Shire I was appointed as the new
as the years ground on towards our greyer elven days, in the order of
our Hobbit ways our lives started to change. Sometimes the change would
be for the better. Bywater would beat the socks of Hobbiton. Or Rosie
would have another child and so on. She ended up having thirteen
children you know.
in the matters pertaining to our Shire's cricketing life, we saw the
Association grow with two new teams. Now there were eight fine
the Brandywine region Buckland was admitted joining Bucklebury and was
now the second team in the region. And back further to the west of the
Shire, Little Delving returned to the Association when it combined with
two more villages, Michael Delving and Hardbottom to make a strong and
viable team. They were admitted to the Association a year after
Buckland was admitted.
of the great cricketing occasions of these times was the vast and
rather wild celebrations that went with the Sam Gamgee Testimonial
Cricket Match held two years after Sam retired from the game.
of the highlights at this event was the return of Gandalf to the Shire
where he repeated his success at a well known party held quite some
years before. Yes he set up a wizard fireworks display to rival the
first one. Complete with another sky-riding Dragon and all.
match itself was rather cheeky affair with Hobbiton pitted against a
combined 'rest of the Association' team led by Peregrine Took. Nor did
Sam disappoint his many fans. His well balanced Hobbiton team narrowly
won the match by four runs. And Sam was highest scorer with a not out
98 runs to his name. There were beer and skittles for young and old
that evening and many folks did not get home until two in the morning.
It was just a lovely party.
was particularly fond of Goldilocks, who was Sam and Rosie's sixth
child. It was she who helped Rosie to raise up so many children in such
good grace and order. Some might even call this "the mooch of life.'
naturally enough, there had to come to us all something else. I mean
the changes for the worse that were to come to us. Rosie died and
it was so painful to see old Sam grieving so. I will confess to be
almost no better. But Hey Ho and hobbit life must go on with a smile at
many years now we could see that Sam was doing things differently. He'd
undertaken a tree planting program throughout the Shire for one thing.
He had been a wee bit secretive about some substance that he had
brought back into the Shire with him.
seemed to be some kind of dust that promoted good growth. In the end he
had confided in me that it was a magical elven substance which had been
handed to him by Galadriel. Certainly of all the plantings across the
Shire we never saw any failures. The Sam went away for the last time.
Never to return I mean.
a while Milo, Peony and I did not really know what to do with ourselves
but things often work out in most mysterious ways. I had watched
Goldilocks grow up in Sam and Rosie's household for years out of mind.
She seemed to me to be the pick of Rosie's bunch by far. She had been
married at quite a young age to Fain.
after only fours years of marriage he had been killed in a farming
accident out at Whitfurrows. There were no children from this union. I
think that she was lonely for some years but Milo and Peony helped her
a little at least.
after the passing away of her father, Goldilocks had got into walking
from her marriage hole up on the higher grounds at Bywater, to Milo's
place down by Bywater Pool. She would sometimes join us in an evening
meals and the occasional game of cards to pass the awkward times away.
night I looked at her and she looked back at me, if you know what I
mean. Just across the table. She looked at me both hard and soft all at
the same time. I'm positive that it's happened to you before this. Well
I hope so.
At the end of the card game she said to me quietly... 'Willow would you please step outside with me for a while?
course I only did what I was asked like a good Hobbit should. When were
alone out there, Goldilocks looked at me once again in the moonlight.
spoke quietly one more time...and I now realized that it was possible
that I'd been a mite too slow on the uptake for a great length of time.
I've been known to be that way with women before you see and could be a
part of the reason that I was still single.
'Willow, I must ask you this ...do you think that you could come to love me in time?'
was startled not so much by her question, but by the sight of her
standing there in the stark-striking moonlight. It was a full moon you
see and I suddenly knew that I had been stupidly blind to what I should
have seen all along.
She was a beautiful Hobbit girl and all. And I had loved her for so long.
Well finally I found my voice. I did find a voice that had been sadly lacking for almost three years. I said simply.. 'My dear, I do not think that I could love any other in the whole of the wide-green lands of The Shire.'
And so it was that a late-life marriage was in the offing.
were married the following month and Milo was our best man and also
gave us away at the same time...you see, we Hobbits always have a
sneaky way of things when the crunch might come down on us?
Peony was the maid of honour and doubled up by doing all the wedding decorations, bouquets and such.
did we live happily ever after in this cricket loving Shire of ours? No
such luck I'm afraid. For arguments happened about as frequently among
us as with most married folks. But no more than that I will gladly add.
And we always would worry a lot about all the four kiddies and the
then we never did say it was going to be one of Sam's almost perfect
gardens complete with Galadriel dust and such things. But if you ask me
were we happy in our marriage? Ah, that is a different thing now dear
friends. Why, it was almost as good a game of cricket.
Note: 1. Friday the first does not occur in the hobbit Calendar....meaning much the same as 'pigs might fly.'
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