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Cobra, by Arthur Clark

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Alan Braidwood Alan Braidwood | 14:18 UK time, Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Family Legends is a competition run by BBC Radio Scotland and the Scottish Book Trust. A selection of stories will be published in a Family Legends book and we're publishing one each week here from the final selection. You can read more of the stories on the Scottish Book Trust website.

Cobra
by Arthur Clark

My father was born in Glasgow, grew up in the Great Depression of the 1930's, endured the Blitz, and after the war would come home on a Friday night from his job in the shipyards, change, get out his Raleigh Bicycle and cycle out of the bomb damaged city to breathe the sweet country air of the Trossachs; or he would pedal across to Campbeltown, spending the weekend in a little tent and cooking his meals on a camp fire.

In the winter time his weekend evenings would be spent playing in his accordion band at dances in the town. This was how he met my mother, who was a keen dancer and had a good singing voice.

They got married and as the years passed my mother gave birth in turn to four boys. This meant that my father could no longer spend his weekends in his beloved countryside. Money was tight and he had to sell his bike and camping gear.

Then an opportunity arose to move to the country permanently. An advertisement in the Glasgow Herald by the Forestry Commission offered jobs to fit and healthy men to work in their afforestation programme in the Highlands. He got the job, and we were off. My mother, a Glasgow 'keelie' through and through, was not so keen.

My father, clueless as to the actuality of country living, decided to buy some hens. Through an ad in the 'Exchange and Mart' (the country man's Bible) he ordered twenty 'point of lay' hens, which duly arrived in crates on the back of an Albion lorry and were introduced to their new home.

Time passed and I can remember my mother complaining about the lack of promised eggs. My father assured her that its would not be long now.
'I will increase their corn feed,' he said. 'They will likely be needing more roughage to form the shells.'

Bucket loads of corn later, they had not produced a single egg, although the birds continued to grow with combs of fire engine red contrasting with their snowy white plumage.

The eggless mystery was solved unexpectedly in the dawn of a new summer's day. A cacophony of discordant sound erupted suddenly from the hen house. Twenty lusty thoughts greeted the sunrise as though competing for a prize. Twenty impostors who would not and could not lay an egg supposing they devoured fields of golden corn. Twenty beautiful red combed cockerels proclaimed their new found puberty - and not a hen for miles!

Family Legends is a short story competition run by Scottish Book Trust and BBC Radio Scotland.

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