…And then there was (God- Bless-Him everyone) sickly (well, he never gained an ounce) Little Sprout. He appealed to the sympathetic passer-byes as they offered their money and food to the poor, seemingly crippled Sprout (he could fight with his crutch in a most devilish way). Always the optimistic little waif, he helped the Beane family through their hard times with his boundless optimism.

(At a family meal….)

Sprout: “This body may be rotten, and full of maggots, but we’re going to eat the most delicious maggot-ridden-rotten corpse in all of Scotland this Christmas day!”

“ Hooray!”

“It was only business…”

During its infancy, the family business was simple, but time consuming: stalk, ambush, rob, kill, and hide all evidence. The children were always too busy to go to school or hang out with boring teenage ‘villagies’ who could be seen on any given day, cruising the inn listening to their loud bagpipe music while loitering around the Seven Elfin Market. Every once in a while, one would see them slip behind the market to blow on some kid’s bagpipe bong.

The Beane kids all worked too hard for such idle play. Well before sunrise (depending on the tides), seven days a week, the fourteen Beane children would arise, dress, eat a meager breakfast of cold gruel and travel for over an hour, uphill, by foot, horse and cart, and crooked crutch through the cold fog and rain, to their work site (Locals called the Sawney’s trail near Galloway “Ambush Gardens”). From sunrise to sunset (depending on the tides again) the entire family would be busy stalking, ambushing, robbing and murdering (Dad said of these ‘fishing expeditions’ that “no witnesses should be left alive”). Then there was the “clean-up in which all bodies and evidence would be brought back to the cave, treasures would be cataloged, and evidence would be stockpiled or destroyed. If the bodies began to “stack up” they were buried under rocks on the beach or dried for later use as kindling. Next, the children, returned from school, would sit down to their meager supper of recooled gruel. Prayers were then said to Urtha the Fish God before they went to bed.

As you can imagine, all of this heck-raising pretty much filled up the ambitious Beane family’s busy day.

Since most of the wary travelers often didn’t carry cash, the ever growing Sawney clan rarely had enough money for store bought food. One magical snowy Christmas Eve, as Sprout sang the ancient Scottish tune: “Sawney”(You won’t see me no moor, when I get to that Sawney shooooorre !”) the family sat with cups of stale cold gruel in front of the fireplace. Their mittens warming over the roasty toasty body of victim #43 (Mr. Yule), cracklin’ over a small pile of burning evidence. Father Sawney, with his corncob pipe in hand, looked into the warm glow of the fire and offhandedly suggested that they “begin to eat the robbery  victims.” Immediate gasps of phony surprise and disgust were followed by gales of laughter. They blamed the comment on dad’s drinking. Dear old dad was just talking nonsense again.

Pop always talked crazy after drinking liquor flasks stolen from the wayward travelers. After drinking too much, dad’s blue eyes were often set ablaze by fire water, the belt usually came off, and…. .

On this cold Galloway night, deep within the Beane clan’s seaside cave, it was not going to be all talk. Father Sawney’s loving family realized that dad was dead serious. “We can’t afford to buy meager portions of cold gruel any more, children,” he slurred. “Not if I’m gonna keep drinkin. You Scot-nosed bastards will either have to go to work, or we must start eating all of these piple, I mean peebles…I mean…. (snore)”

Sawney fell into a deep dream of sugar-plum fairies before he could finish his sentence.

Little sprout, the little pink cherub, chimed in with his choirboy voice, and an optimistic “ Aye! Why eat gruel, when we can have fresh meat nearly every night?”

Slowly they developed their unique culinary style. There were no cookbooks in Scotland at this time. Besides, the Beane family couldn’t read. It was often trial (guilty: execution!) and error. Eccy was born a natural chef who understood the cosmic secret of tenderizing.”

“True tenderizing,” my children, often requires multiple beatings with heavy clubs and the trampling of horses.”