Field o' Dreams
Updated: Feb 15
A short story written in Scottish (East coast) dialect:
At skuil, ah niver kent whit college wis. Eh lived on a sma-holdin, a wee fairm. Ah guess ah shid stairt there. A few coos, an a pig, a great brute o’ a beast it wis. An loads o’ chickens, an a rooster of course. An a horse, a wirk horse that is. An ah looed tha horse. Eh caud him Poppy, but yee’ll ken tha, ah guess. The fairm wis just ootside Alyth, yee’ll no ken tha, in the Mearns…Angus. Eh lived with meh gran and granpa. Meh mam an pa hid buggered aff lang since; ah canna mind them at a. Gran and granpa wir auld, ken, so eh wis awis helpin, wirkin really, on the fairm.
The wee skuil wis great, only twel o’ us; aw ages an a teacher. Eh cuid dae the sums and pentin an stuff, hated the writin, but ah looed the stories. But then, jeez, wen they sent me awa tae the big skuil! An hoor on a hauf on the bus each way, ev’ry day. Eh hid tae get up at five most mornins ti dae the animals. Oats and wairm coos milk oan a cauld winter morn though; noo tha wis braw.
But shite, ah didnae fit in at the big skuil. Kids said stuff ah didna like, ken. But eh wis built strang an quick tempered; an a few whacks made them leave me alone, even the lads. Some o’ the teachers liked me well enough tho, an ah liked them. Meh granpa, Pops eh caud him, wis a mechanic in the war, an on demob he’d wirked in a garage. Aboot that time he stairted collectin auld cars and fairmer’s scrap. He’d fix an salvage parts, or cut em up an sell them on fae use or fae scrap. He made money doin this and the pile o’ metal on the fairm got bigger an bigger. An me, weel eh wis jus startin tae grow tits; an they wir gettin bigger tae.
An the lads stairted takin tae me. Eh hid aways been a blether, every livin beast on the fairm hid a name; the coos and the pigs were meh pals. Oh an Poppy the horse, he knew everythin; meh every excitement an meh every hurt. But now wi these lads, ah couldna get a wird oot. It didnae matter. They were awis mukkin aboot, huvin a laugh an tha an ah joined in. Soon there were missed classes, thrupenny singles, an dirty jokes; even a sup o’ beer sometime, - eh niver understood the jokes but laughed onyways.
Then plunkin, missin whole days off skuil an ah always had tae rush catch the last bus back tae the fairm. The teachers wir aye on at me. An the lads were awis interested in what wis under ma top - eh didna mind that, but anywhere else an they got a whack, ken. Eh could tell yeh a load o’ stories aboot that but eh guess tha’s no whit yer efter.
Eh wid hae ended up in Balgowan if it wisna for meh granpa. Pops wis getting so much metal in, he need help. An ah hud tae help. We sold aff some o’ the animals an spent most o’ the time dismantlin, cuttin, weldin, pentin an stuff, ken. An ah looed it. Pops taught me, an said ah cuid dae this as lang as ah went to skuil, wirked hard at meh lessons an didna get intae ony mair trouble. Wi shook hons on it – like he did makin a deal at the market. Eh’d niver cross him. Wi aw the shite at skuil fae the teachers an fae the lads, eh see noo tha this wis ma escape. Some days eh felt braw an ithers eh felt shite. Some days eh hid loads of pals; ithers, none a ta. But eh wisnae tha bothered. Eh went back tae the fairm an cut and welded, an beat an pented. There wis nae purpose in it; it wis jus somthin ti dae. Eh took some stuff in tae skuil sometimes, for the metalwork class. Eh even stood up an gave a talk aboot it in Art. Eh wis expectin shite efterwirds but naebody said nuthin. The ither daft thing wis, eh found that the mair ah wirk’d at meh lessons, the mair ah liked them.
But then a daft thing happened. Meh art teacher, Miss Schlueter – ‘Shlooty’ we caud her, foreign she wis, kept me behind efter class. Eh’d awis got on wi her; she wis tough; even the lads wir feart o’ her. An she asked if ah’d thocht aboot goin tae art college. Whit! eh said, an ah realised ah hid nae idea whit she wis takin aboot. Tha wis still true even efter she explained it. So she asked if ah could put on meh guid claes the next market day, and she’d tak me tae Dundee on the train. Pops had took me tae Dundee aince or twice a year as a treat for claes an shoes when things were guid. Else it wis just Kirriemuir or Forfar. We wir puir sometimes but niver broke. Pops had made money wi the scrap tho, and he’d newly bought a truck. Dundee tae me, wis a strange, bustlin grey, smoky place, friendly folk though, an excitin place.
Ah’d thought ah wis goin wi the hale class but it wis jus me an ‘Shlooty’; she said to ca her Greta; eh niver kent tha wis her name. Eh’d put on meh church skirt and shoes and ah iron’d meh white blouse but ah oanly had a rain mac to wear on tap. Shlooty had dressed up too, an she looked different – she looked magic; no like a teacher! mair like a model in a catalogue. We left the skuil but she took me beh her hoose, on the way to the station, a sma cottage near the centre o’ the toon. She sat me doon in the wee kitchen and went ben the hoose, only to come back with a light blue, wool coat and a colourful greeny-blue and yellow scarf that she bade me try on. Eh’d niver worn anythin as smairt afore an she said if ah wis happy, eh could wear them for the day. An ah did, wi a smile. An she tak’d aw the way in on the train an telt me aboot college, aboot her time there. It sounded tae me like a big skuil. She said she’d spent most of the time penting. “Eh didnae want tae pent a day.” ah telt her. “It’s not just painting,” she said, “Wait and see, wait and see.”
But it was aw the ither stuff she taked aboot, the student life, tha opened mah een. She telt me aboot livin in flat wi ither students, going oot at nicht tae cafs and bars, an goin dancin. An cookin an shoppin for claes and gettin yir messages fae the market; thas whit interested me the maist. “Livin in a flat,” ah said, “tha sounds just grand.” Eh kent whit a flat wis mind. Meh aunt Lizzie had deed in hirs, doon by the docks, an we had to collect a hir stuff in the truck. “But miss,” ah said, “Miss! whar wid eh keep Poppy?” fir she kent aboot meh horse. Dead serious ah looked. She looked at me as if eh wis daft but ah couldna stop the smirk. Greta burst oot laffin and ah joined her. I think that wis the first time eh’d evir telt a guid joke. Efter tha we wir jus like pals on a trip, an eh felt a wee bit mair grown up.
Then ah seen the college. Yi shid a see the place. Big reid sandstane blocks, great big rooms wi tall windaes, aw pointin tae the north sky. An the grand hall, yer steps echo’d on the black and white tiles when yi walked through it. Roman columns, a gallery, statues, loads o’ pentins, sculptures o’ Greek gods an a. No tha ah kent a tha then. There wis odd stuff too, big pentins o’ nothing but splashes and streaks o’ colour. Eh liked some o’ them though, but most wir shite. An we waked round the university streets an seen the cafs, shops an bars Greta hid tak’d aboot. She bought meh ma dinner in a wee caf in the Perth Road. Eh said ah cuidna pay but she said not to worry. Eh remember it still; ah hid a ham and pineapple salad an custard and peaches efter. An ah creed in the toilet when we wir leavin; ah didna really ken why.
Eh made sure she didnae see ony tears, “But Miss,” ah said, “n truth, eh canna dae this,” ah said, “even if eh got in.” “We’ve nae money for this and ah cuidna travel every day.” “Don’t worry,” Greta said. She then said they geid yi money ti study; a grant it wis caud. “Whit!” ah said, “whit! yeh get paid to fart aboot with paintin and drawin an sculptin. ….. fukkin ell” ah said. “Eh’d dae tha aricht! Och no! wait ah said, noo your kiddin me!” “No Florrie,” she said, laffin, “I’m not. I’m perfectly serious.” ”fukkin ell” wis a ah said. “Whit about the fairm wirk?” ah said. “You’ll get long holidays; I’ll talk to you grandparents. I think it will all be fine.” she smiled.
Well as you ken noo, Eh went tae art college. Got a scholarship. An it wis fine, at first onyways. Ah lived in student rooms, an ah went daft. Daft for the drink, an daft fir the lads.
Eh soon learnt how to no pay fir ma drinks. Eh couldna dance but it didna stop me tryin. Greta hid talked to me aboot lads an ither stuff before ah’d left. An eh tel yi, tha saved ma life. An ah kent whit wis too far, just, only just. Eh still got up at five an wirked on ma stuff, portfolio they caud it, day in, day oot. Eh hid to relearn that lesson but ah did. Eh knew that if ah fucked up ah wis oot the door, an ah didnae want that. An when ah went home tha first Christmas, we had sic a braw time. Pops said ah didna stop talkin for two weeks – no that ah telt them everythin.
But that Easter ah went hame, an Poppy wisnae there. Ah kent a about fairm animals and seen many o’ meh pals go to the knackers but ah niver thoucht tha Poppy would leave me. That shut me up, ah tell yi. Ah calmed doon, eventually, an ah just wirked. Pops hid got a new angle grinder for meh metalwirk an ah went oot in the yard, an doon tae the workshop. Eh needed to be dragged in for meals and often didnae sleep. An efter a sad while ah learnt that Poppy wisna gone at a. He wis still there in ma heid, aw the time. He still heard aw ma excitement and aw ma hurt. He drove me on. Ma hulkin great beast.
An ah lived the life Greta hid telt me aboot for twa mair years. Then, just at the stairt o’ meh final, fourth year, Pops left us. Suddenly, nae warnin. Eh went hame an felt ah’d niver be happy again. Eh felt shock. Eh felt guilt. Eh thocht it wis aw meh fault. Aw that fun ah’d hid; its nae allowed is it. Eh stayed wi gran; eh looked efter the animals and helped sort oot the hame, the wirk an the money. Gran taked tae me an taked tae me. Oh she suffer’d too; she bore it, but ah cuidnae. Greta cam by. Some pals, ither students from the college, cum up fae Dundee tae see me. Nothin wid shift me. Eh fed the animals, ate little, an slept an slept. Greta said not to worry, she hid tak’d tae the college an said they widnae throw me oot, but eh said ah wisna goin back.
Then ane cauld, black, night, wen thir wisnae ony wind, Poppy clomp’d intae ma bedroom. He didna tak. He just stood there, a silvery vision, towerin o’er me, shimerin. He was young again; taut, sweatin skin over strong bones an firm, bulging muscles Eh cuid see the blood pumpin in the veins in his neck. Eh could feel his power an the power o’ aw his kin. An eh got up at 5 o’clock the next morn an went oot ti the yard…
The Times, Monday, 10th September 1962
“The Hepworth Prize of value £2,000 has been awarded to Miss Florence Makin, a final year honours student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, in Dundee. She is the youngest recipient by far of the prestigious national art award. The winning piece is a 24 foot shiny-grey metal sculpture of the head and shoulders of a horse, the large head held high, open mouthed as if rearing in effort. Despite its physical weight, the sculpture seems light and airy as if it would leap from the ground if untethered. The texture of its reflective grey, shimmering surface makes it appear translucent against the greyling sky. “You can feel the labour, strain and sweat in this horse.” said one critic. You are humbled in its presence.” said another. The judges were unanimous in their decision and said that it was a representative piece which broke boundaries in modern sculpture. Unusually titled Poppy with no explanation, the piece has already been sold for an undisclosed sum. The artist was unavailable for comment.”