A few days later, Zander and Grunt had a second encounter with the local “ball boys”.
A group of elderly visitors were playing immediately ahead of them. No one had thought to tell them about the problem posed by the local children and blissfully unaware of this on-course hazard, they had started out.
Zander and Grunt hung around the starter’s box until the last group had teed off, then followed them out onto the course.
They played the long downhill first without incident, then as they teed up on the short par-four second – which runs parallel to and in the opposite direction to the fifth – they looked across to the 5th fairway to see if there were any signs of ball gathering activity, and saw none. It was a few minutes later, as they approached the second green, that they saw why the little “ball gatherers” were not working their usual patch today.
Some way ahead, between him and the fourth tee in the distance, two of them were hiding in the trees to the left of the fourth fairway, ready to “find” the seniors balls after they were driven from the fourth tee.
From where the youngsters were they knew that none of the old codgers had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting anywhere near them, let alone catching them and that they had plenty of time to gather in their loot, retreat towards a little bridge over the river at the 4th green, cross it, slip through boundary fence and quickly be safe home.
Reassured by the visitors’ obvious lack of mobility, they had strayed that critical bit further from the bridge than usual.
And right now, they were waiting for their intended victims to tee off.
Grunt assessed the position of the “ball boys’” relative to the bridge, and believed he had a good chance of cutting them off before they could reach it, so like a stalking tiger, he threaded his way through the head high saplings that separates the second from the fifth fairways, and closed in on the unsuspecting ball boys.
Meanwhile, totally engrossed in their nefarious activity and blissfully unaware of Grunt’s ever-nearing approach, the youngsters had moved even further away from the bridge, their only link with safety.
Yard by yard, Grunt was homing in on the bridge, until with a sigh of satisfaction, he reached it and had the “ball boys” isolated and at his mercy.
It was now Grunt’s turn to watch and wait until, true to form, the “ball boys” ran out, picked up their spoils – and not really looking to see where they were going, took time to taunt their victims with gestures and remarks one would not normally hear in the classroom.
The first clue the youngsters had that they were in trouble came when a huge shadow loomed over them and a powerful hand grabbed each of them by the scruff of his scrawny little neck. Alarm bells now rang in their heads, together with the panic stricken thought, we’re in trouble.
Holding one in each hand, Grunt hoisted the struggling youngsters up in the air, walked effortlessly onto the simply constructed parapet less bridge where, at mid span and with both arms extended sideways, he held the two screeching, struggling little tykes perilously suspended over the cold, dark waters of the Braid Burn. A sign of their fear marked by a damp patch at the front of their pants and drips of piddle adding to the flow of the burn.
Poor wee souls, they didn’t even get the chance to try on the old chestnut,
“It wisnae me Mister, it was the big boys that did it and ran away”,routine. They had been caught red handed.
‘You were going to give these balls back, weren’t you?’ Grunt queried, in a soft voice, laden with menace.
Now terrified and acutely aware that if they wriggled free they would take a cold dip in the river, the poor little darlings stopped struggling and with heart-felt promises, begged for mercy,
‘Aye Mister, we’ll gie ye the ba’s back, and if you’ll let us go Mister, we’ll niver nick nae mair ba’s.’
Then, realising that their plea for mercy was get them nowhere, they launched into a high pitched, tirade of threats promising “Mister” that big brothers, fathers and other local heavies would find him and when they did, acts of extreme violence would rain down on his miserable person.
Although these are not the actual words the mini-wildcats used as they dangled helplessly over the air rights of the burn – they did put across their vicious, snarling threat clearly enough.
Grunt, standing like the Colossus of Rhodes, saw the green keeper drive up on his quad bike, dismount, go over to Zander and in an loud, exasperated voice say,
‘I know these little blighters. I’ve caught them often enough in the past. I’ve even had the police to their parents. It makes no difference, so I’ve just given up.’
‘Oh dear,’ said Grunt with a quizzical expression on his face. ‘What are we going to do with them then?’
Pausing for a moment and pretending to think, he made an offer to his captives,
‘Now boys, you said you wanted me to let you go. What if I do let you go, will you promise me you’ll never steal golf balls again and that in future, you’ll stay away from the golf course?’
Almost before the words were out of his mouth, an answer came back.
‘Aye, mister, Ah promise, cross ma hert an’ hope tae die, honest.’
The slower one’s reply followed,
‘Aye, mister, me tae.’ he may have been a slow thinker, but when he saw a way out of the jam he was in, he had jumped on the bandwagon quickly enough.
‘Good lads,’ said Grunt smiling benevolently and as de did, caught a sly look of triumph pass over his captives’ faces.
From the depths of their trouser pockets, the youngsters “found” the golf balls, threw them along the bridge-deck, to run onto the bank of the burn.
Grunt, ever the honourable man, in a condescending tone, now said,
‘Well lads, I always keep a promise, so I’ve got to let you go. Whereupon he did just that!
Like synchronised divers, one on either side of the bridge, the tiny prodigal sinners plunged feet first into the cold running waters of the burn.
Although fairly shallow at this point, the water was deep enough for them to lose their footing on its slippery riverbed and plunge under the surface.
Scrambling to their feet, drenched to the skin and spluttering for breath, they heard Grunt offer them a reward,
‘I can see a couple of balls further down the burn and seeing as you’re already wet, why don’t you wade down there and get them, and because you’ve been such reasonable little chaps, I’ll let you keep them.’
One of these little horrors has since become the club’s junior champion, and is as fine a young lad as you could ever wish to meet. Now though, he is often the victim of the current generation of young ball gatherers!
Golfers the world over, have their own unique hazards with animals on the course: