There was once a young man who went a courting a young woman. Each night he would visit her house and her parents would welcome him to the fireside and pour him a mug of cider. This night they ran out of cider and the girl’s father sent her down to the cellar to draw some more from the barrel. The girl put her jug underneath the tap and let the cider out. As she did so she looked up at the ceiling and saw an axe blade lodged in the beam.
‘Oh my,’ she thought, ‘what if I were to marry my sweetheart and then we were to have a son and he grew up into a fine young man who came down here to the cellar to draw some cider and that axe head dislodged itself and fell on his head and killed him?’
And she wept, and her weeping soon turned to sobs and there she sat in the middle of a puddle of cider, bawling her eyes out.
After a time, the mother began to worry about where her daughter was, so went down to the cellar, where she found her in a right mess. She sat down beside her and asked the cause of her sorrow. The girl explained and the mother too was upset by what could happen to her future grandson that she joined her daughter and they wept together.
Upstairs the father was wondering where his daughter and wife were, so he came down to the cellar to find them both huddled in a puddle of cider crying their eyes out. When he asked the cause of their distress his wife explained, then he too set up a wailing about what terrible future awaited his grandson.
Meanwhile the young suitor was puzzled by the absence of his sweetheart and her parents and descended the stairs to find the cellar flooded and all three overcome with grief. He went straight to the barrel and turned off the tap then asked the cause of the distress. When his sweetheart explained, he looked up at the ceiling and laughed.
‘I’ve never met three sillier people in all my life,’ he said, ‘but I will go out into the world to see if I can find some, and if I do I will come back and marry you next week.’
With that he set off up the stairs and out into the wide world, in search of sillier folk than his sweetheart and her parents.
It wasn’t long before he came upon a woman who was pushing her cow up a ladder on to the roof of her house.
‘Why are you doing this?’ he asked.
‘Because there is fresh green grass growing on the roof and I want my cow to have it,’ she answered.
‘But why not cut the grass and toss it down?’ he continued.
The woman gave one mighty shove and the cow was now standing on the roof.
‘Because,’ she answered.
‘So are you going to stay up on the roof with the cow while she eats the grass?’
‘I’ve got better things to do than watch my cow eat grass,’ she replied, ‘I will be inside doing my chores.’
‘But what if your cow falls off the roof?’ he asked.
‘I’ll stop her,’ she muttered. ‘I’m very attached to my cow and won’t let anything like that happen. I’ve tied a rope around her neck and I’ll feed it down the chimney then when I’m inside the house I’ll tie that rope to my wrist and that way I’ll make sure my cow doesn’t fall,’ she said.
The man shook his head as she climbed down the ladder and went inside.
‘I think that is a silly idea,’ he said and walked away. ‘Now I know there’s at least one sillier woman than my sweetheart.’
That night he was approaching an inn when a fellow carrying a rake ran up to him and said, ‘Have you heard the news about the double death?’
‘No,’ he said.
’Silliest thing,’ said the fellow, ‘ a cow got hung from the roof of a house and her owner got suffocated in the chimney. Folks say she was very attached to that cow.’
The young man shook his head and surveyed the older man in front of him.
‘Tell me sir, where are you off to this night with a rake?’
‘It’s that time of the month again, when the moon falls into the river and we all take rakes and brooms and shovels to try and get it out. You can help,’ he said. ‘Follow me.’
The two hurried to a river where the whole village were roaming up and down the banks dipping their implements into the water and shouting. The young man looked up at the full moon rising and said to his companion, ‘ Look up into the sky man. The moon’s still there. That’s just its reflection in the water.’
A chorus of laughter greeted him.
‘You’re looking at the sun my good fellow,’ said his companion. ‘Don’t be looking up there, look in the water, that’s where the moon is, and we have to try and get it out before it drowns.’
After a few more attempts to persuade the moonrakers to give up their senseless quest, the young traveller returned to the inn and passed the night there. He had found a whole village of people sillier than his prospective in-laws.
The following morning he was awakened by the sound of thumping against the wall and upon investigation saw a man jumping off a cupboard in an attempt to get into his trousers which he had slung over a chair. He decided there and then to show the man a simpler way to put his trousers on. The fellow was very grateful to have been shown this simple trick and thanked the traveller profusely. However as the young man left he heard thumping again, and turned to see that the trouserwearer was attempting to leapfrog into his shoes. He shook his head in dismay and left the inn, determined to return home and marry his sweetheart. The following evening he asked permission to marry her.
‘So we are not the silliest people in the world after all,’ said the young bride to be.
‘Not by a long shot,’ he replied. ‘I have encountered many sorts of silliness,’ he replied. ’The silliness of being too attached to something, the silliness of not looking at a situation from different perspectives and the silliness of replacing bad habits with more bad habits.’
‘And what of my silliness?’ she asked.
‘The silliness of not living in the present can bring much needless grief,’ he said, and reached for his sweetheart’s hand. ‘So let us forget the past and not worry about the future but enjoy living now.’
And so they were married in the Spring and the following year they had a son who grew into a fine young man who was a credit to his parents and his grandparents, and he lived to be a wise old man who told silly stories. And this is one of them.
Photo: The Zealous Axeman by Atlanta Clapton