Owed to Billy Joe

By Frank McChord

Oor Billy, ma brither – or to gie him his full name William Joseph Lappin McChord – wis aye contrary. Fur instance, he hid convinced me tae support the Rangers. An me at the tender age ae nine tae. Despite being offert bribes in the form ae Celtic merchandise by ma auntie as a representative ae the rest ae the family, Billy ensured I held firm to ma new allegiance. Probably he wantit to git noticed, and he wis needin a few acolytes.  Luckily, I was turnt back in time tae enjoy watchin Celtic winnin the European Cup and Quizball oan the telly.  


Take the time we hid gone to the States fur oor first visit – kindly paid by ma Uncle Jim McStay. It wis July 1969, Brian Jones hid left the Stones and hid jist droont in the swimmin pool, and the astronauts were getting ready tae set aff tae land oan the moon. Billy, at only four fit four, fresh faced and comin oan nineteen, wantit to make sure he was aye in oan the act. Our uncle hidnae long goat us back fae the airport tae his place and packt us aff tae the local park wi a few dollars in oor poakits and a baw fur a game of shootie-in. The problem wis, it wis a baskit baw.


Anywey, we goat there, goat the jerseys doon and startit. Aboot five minutes in, oor feet were gettin sair – baskit baws being notoriously awkwart tae kick. We noticed jist a wee bit up the green, this corpulent character wis pitchin the basebaw to his ower-weight waen. A wis thinkin tae masel, they must hiv hid been dunkin far too many donuts. Although, tae be fair, the wee cratur wis skudding it a fair distance. Portly paw set aff tae fetch the baw. Trauchlin, bendin doon, pickin the baw up, trauchlin back and pitchin. Again and again. Exhaustit, droonin in sweat, he lookt acroass and saw we hid goat less interestit in oor game.


Breathin through his erse, he decidit tae take emergency action and we wid come tae his rescue. Thinkin it best tae pick oan the wee yin he made his move 


"Hey kid, you want to run for our ball?"


Billy, no a person to gie up a chance of exploitin a situation asked, “Whits it worth tae mi?”


“What are you sayin, kid?” Replied the bemused Bostonian. 


Billy, forcin hisel tae use his best RP, said “I mean, what will you pay me?”


“A dime.” Said the massive Massachusite.  


Billy, quickly chanced his erm and queried “a dime a time?”


“No way, kid. Just a dime” was the stern reply. 


Billy put one hand to his heid – think Colombo contemplatin a criminal – then swiftly sent his ither hand intae his poakit. He drew oot a dollar bill, like Wyatt Earp drawin a six gun.  Offerin it tae the man, he hit im wi,


“Here, you run fur oor baw.”   


The New Englanders pride themselves in bein smerter than maist, bit oor Billy ‘the wee Raploch sniper’ nailed that yin, thone day.  Sayin that, the big fella wisnae much ae a movin target.  


scots abroad, childhood rebellion, baw games