1. About Men
Everyone knew there were Troubles away down south, and even if they didn't want to know the details, they could still be persuaded to slip a bun or two to a hungry Man who spoke fair. At least some folk could.
And truth be told, some of the poor wretches who crossed Sarn Ford and found themselves at the Bounds were grateful enough and might do a strong day's work in return for a good meal, and then make their way further on, looking for a bit of land away from the Trouble.
And some of the Men were Trouble.
No one really saw at first how much trouble.
I went for Shirriff for the walking and the visiting - a way to see folks and stretch my legs and find good inns. You couldn't say I was lollygagging if I was doing my job, and that job happened to mean strolling about and drinking ale from time to time. At least I hoped you couldn't say that. And a bit of news is a good thing for folks to hear, but duty for a Shirriff, I'd say.
It was a good life I had, and I counted myself lucky.
But the Men… a few bad 'uns prowled around in the winter, winter of 1419 that was. They were turned back by the Bounders, rare shots with a bow some of 'em were. But those Beating the Bounds worried, said just shooting an arrow past Outsiders wasn't enough any more, the arrow had to really hit to drive the strangers off. No one much liked that round here.
It took a while to understand how different these Men were.
Some of 'em came to build things for Lotho, and no one paid much mind - knew they were rough-spoken of course, and we'd be glad to see their backs, but that's as far as it went.
Till some of 'em didn't leave.
They built a big shed, and I tell you lots of folks hereabout puzzled what Lotho would want a thing like that for; but then we saw the Men were living there.
It was too late by then. 'Always harder to get the weed out once it's taken root,' the Gaffer said over a pint, and I had to agree. And they had taken root in a big way. They didn't act like workmen no more, but like they owned the Shire. And they were rough about it, too.
Taking what they wanted - there was plenty for them - with no thought of what other folks needed to live. Hard enough it was to have no smoke and no beer, and lots of us grumbled. But when it came to gathering up all the food and giving us only the leavings, well you've got to feed your child something! We took what was left because we had to eat, but hobbitlings grew thin and parents grew worried.
We wished we were all Tooks then, at least they could keep the ruffians off, what with their hills and deep smials. But we couldn't, not in our part of the Shire. And it fair made me sick that I had any part of it as a Shirriff. After what happened to Folco Chubb when he told the Chief he quit, I wasn't going to do the same. Not and leave your mother alone. It was scariest for the womenfolk after all, them big Men had none of their own women here, and they weren't beyond such a thing. Take anything that wasn't theirs; we all saw that.
It was a bad time, I tell you. Maybe the worst was that there were hobbits as did spy-work for the Men, so that a body didn't know who to trust. Not that most Shire-folk would do such a thing, but you never knew which ones would. Some extra taters or a brace of coneys as reward made some do as they shouldn't have, but if a Dad sees the little ones hungry - well it's hard to stay right when your children are crying about empty bellies. I felt that too when I looked at you in your cradle. A bad time.
It was the Travellers coming back as saved us. It could've been a lot worse - why, the stories from Bree'd freeze your heart to hear 'em. They up and killed some Bree-folk, Big and Little alike! Who knows what it would've come to here; losing Shire-folk in the Battle was bad enough. Least we didn't lose anyone else but Lotho Pimple, and good riddance I say.
But the Travellers. I didn't know then that was our luck, four hobbits on ponies. Well everyone knows the Tale now, of course, but that day they rode up we didn't expect anything good to come of it. Thought they'd toss 'em right in the Lockholes. A treat it was, to see hobbits stand up like that. Made us all a bit braver, it did. When the Shire-folk got stirred up the Shirriffs were told off to go stop it, but I walked over and I just couldn't stop grinning, I was so glad to see something starting. Took off my feather right away, and even stomped it into the ground a time or two.
It was hard for a bit after to get used to the idea. Not that they were gone; we weren't too busy eating our fill and tasting good ale again not to see that. It's the other part we had to get used to.
Don't know as I believe it all, but the Travellers tell us of a King way down south, and they say he's our King too. First lots of folks didn't like that, thinking we were trading one set of ruffians for another. Then he put out a proclamation that no Man could set foot in the Shire. Not even the King himself!
Guess it'll be all right with that kind of a Man as King.
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