So, I was reading a little bit of a biography of Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie, who was quite a lady, apparently. She was full of life and ambition, yet a realist. When, in later life, she was being prepped to have a leg cut off, she told the doctor “Make sure you cut high enough.” She had an interesting life, interesting beyond just the fact that she calfed out the most famous British speaker ever.
The reason I bring up the book “Jennie” (by Ralph G. Martin) is that, after wading through some People magazine-type fodder about what great parties they had, I got to a part describing the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. Obviously, supplies got short and there was a time when people were even eating rats:
“Sewer rats were considered ‘far more delicate than young chickens,’….The Paris Journal described the purchase of the rats at the Rat Market in the Place de l’Hotel de Ville:
‘…as the rats are shut up in a big cage, one has to choose the animal one wants out of the crowd. With a little stick the dealer makes it go into a smaller cage where it is alone, and then a bulldog is brought along. The little cage is shaken and the rat escapes, but it is promptly seized by the formidable teeth of the dog, which breaks its back and drops it delicately at the purchaser’s feet.'”
This book passage answers one question I’ve always had: Was there a time when a rat’s ass actually had value? Apparently in that war it did, but I also envision a time, back in old Scottish days, that there may have been a famine; therefore there would be some value in the carcass of a rat. I imagine a local fair where a number of lovely Scottish lasses were bid upon as a fund-raiser of sorts. The winner would get the lady’s hand for a couple of dances that evening. The auction would go something like this (in your worst Scottish accent):
Ian: “I bid 7 rat’s asses for Kathleen”. (a murmur goes through the crowd–the highest bid ever put forth)
Angus: “I bid 8”
Angus: (starts to get anxious, does a quick count of his bag of rat’s asses) “I bid 14 rat’s asses!”
Sean: “Angus, have ye taken leave of your senses? No woman is worth 14 rat’s asses. ”
Auctioneer: “Sold to Angus McKellan, the lovely Kathleen’s hand for 2 dances tonight, for 14 rat’s asses! All rat’s asses go to the orphanage for their Sunday soup tomorrow.”
Of course, people looked in wonder at Angus McKellan ever after; he became a legend far and wide. The lovely Kathleen, who had always thought Angus McKellan a bit rough for her taste, saw him in a new light, even felt a stirring throughout her body at being considered to be “worth 14 rat’s asses”. After a proper courtship, during which some of the knots, crumbs, and sheepdung seemed to disappear from Angus’s hair and beard, and his face was often seen to be scrubbed so you could see that he was actually a reasonably handsome man, they wed and started a clan of their own. Their 3rd son wrote a poem about it (which the 7th daughter later turned into a song):
“The McCollough Clan lasses,
Were worth lots of rat’s asses,
But the fairest that I’ve ever seen,
Was the lovely colleen whose name was Kathleen,
And whose young lass ass went for fourteen.”
Of course, “colleen” is, or was, an Irish term, now that I look it up, but perhaps it was used in Scotland also, because I sure’s the fuck don’t feel like starting over, or trying to rhyme with Connelly or O’Connor.
Oh, what the heck:
Wanted to put Greensleeves, by someone, on here. This is not Greensleeves.