Monday, October 31, 2011

Tribute To A Nag

A ‘Nag’ isn’t always used as a derogatory term. Definitely not when referring to the ‘Galloway Nag’ – an extinct horse breed, once native to Scotland and northern England. It was a well known type of pony, first noted in English literature when Shakespeare referred to ‘Galloway Nags’ in Henry IV part II.
What makes this particular breed of horse worth mentioning? Let me take you back...

~ From the fifteenth to the early seventeenth century on both sides of the border between England and Scotland, a place where the land had been ravaged continually by marauding armies, there existed people who’d suffered greatly, people who adapted to a time of lawlessness and strife, who turned to raiding to survive and made it a way of life.
They are known as the Border Reivers.
Autumn saw the herds brought down, fat and healthy, from the summer pastures to the inbye fields. Autumn also heralded the beginning of the raiding season. Successful raids carried out by the border reivers depended on - knowledge of the land, the competence of those one rode with and the skill with one’s weapon of choice.
BUT, as Alistair Moffat, historian and author of the masterpiece, ‘The Reivers’, wrote: ‘What delivered a party of reivers to their quarry, what indeed made their whole way of life possible was an animal too little remarked upon by historians, the remarkable pony known as the Galloway Nag.’
The Galloway Nag was said to have good looks, a wide deep chest, of a bright bay or brown color, with black legs, small head and neck and stood almost fourteen hands high. Its qualities were its surefootedness - a necessity, considering the mountainous byways and inhospitable valleys they traveled, often by moonlight on rain-swept November nights. Its speed - a blessing when being pursued, or in pursuit. But perhaps its best quality was its stoutness – strong of character, brave, bold, determined, enduring.
Sadly, due to crossbreeding, the Galloway Nag became extinct in the nineteenth century.
If you ever get the chance to visit Scotland, perhaps pop in to Galashiels to see the superb bronze statue of a rearing Galloway Nag carrying a fully armed border reiver outside the old town hall.
Transportation. Worker. Warrior. Friend.
A four-legged Hero.

  Image courtesy Undiscovered Scotland 

Journey Home
Leg throbbing, stained blood-red. Tired. Head hurts. Mind cloudy, shades of gray. “Take me home, lad.” Stretch along sturdy neck, coarse brown mane scratching whiskered cheek. Cold, dirty fingers linked, locked. Blessed rest. Steady rock and sway. Night. Day. Blurred. Steady rock and sway. Night. Dawn’s chill blanket. Body aching. Stillness. Lids heavy. Eyes slowly open. Stone croft. Wife running. Heart sighs. Shiver ripples beneath me. Tighten hold. “Thanks, lad.” Whisper words. Mouth curves. Home…
© Allison Butler

Monday, October 24, 2011

Love Spoons: A Recollection of Love

Dana Scully

Ten years ago my great grandmother, known to everyone as Mother, passed away. It’s fair to say I idolized this woman. She endured hardships that I can only imagine (and pray never happen to me). One being that my lumberjack great grandfather at the ripe old age of 40 (I say this tongue in I am now forty) was crushed by a log roll. Dozens of huge pine trees rolled from the supposedly secure moorings, right on top of him. But my kinsmen are hardy folk. My grandfather survived this, albeit unable to move the lower part of his body.

Image courtesy of Google Images

The lumber company wasn’t required to pay for my grandfather’s injuries. Unable to work, the company simply let him go.

With four hungry children, my grandmother did what any woman would do...she went to work. She spent the days working and the nights looking after my grandfather. An image of my grandmother coming in from the fields, tired and worn, picking my grandfather up (yes, I come from genetically strong women) and carrying him to the dinner table is still etched into my memory. She’d then carry him to the bathroom where she would carefully bathe him, help him relieve himself, and then carry him to bed.

Not once in all the years I can remember did my grandmother complain. Not once.

She loved my grandfather with more love than I’ll ever know. And she loved me too. I know these things. I know just because. But I’m fortunate, I also know because of the gift she left for me...a gift my grandfather gave to her before they were married...a token of his love and commitment...a Welsh love spoon.

When my grandmother passed I didn’t understand the meaning of this small, un-useable spoon. I knew my grandfather was Welsh, but knew little of his past except what I’ve imparted to you today. It wasn’t until a friend of mine, returning from a trip abroad, presented me with another spoon and an informational postcard that I was able to piece together the meaning behind this spoon...and just how sentimentally valuable the gift of it was.

A simple love spoon from The Love Spoon Gallery American Pewter Love Spoons Image courtesy of Google Images

Love spoons, not only from Wales but also from Germany and northern Europe, are indeed tokens of love and commitment, dating back to the early 1600. Originally, these wooden tokens were used as their namesake suggests, as spoons, but over the centuries they have taken on a more decorative purpose, showcasing not only the romance between the couple, but also the skill and mastery of the carver. Each love spoon is distinct with varying symbols depicting the carver’s romantic ideology.

Love Spoon Symbols

Anchor-A settled love Eternal devotion

Bell-Together in harmony; Wedding

Ball In A Cage-Love held safe

Birds-New birth; Love birds


Chain-Together forever; Number of children; Lives intertwined

Comma/s-Great affection; Soul mates

Cross-God’s blessing

Diamond-Good fortune

Double Heart-Steadfast

Double Spoons-Happy, loving couple



Heart-Love; ‘My heart is yours’


Key/s-To one’s heart

Keyhole-‘I shall look after you’

Knot-Together forever

Leaves-Growing love

Lock-Security; Monogomy

Spade-Willingness to work hard

Split Bowl-Sharing

Twisted Stem-Together as one

Wheel-Steer a safe course through life

My mother explained that before my grandmother passed she was instructed to give the pin to me and explain its meaning, but as broken with sadness as we all were, the explanation was lost...until now...

A Welsh immigrant and a half-breed American Indian girl were never supposed to meet, let alone marry, but they did. They loved each other instantly and deeply. After a short courtship, my grandfather presented my grandmother with this spoon to signify his lifelong love and commitment.

At its pinnacle is a small cross atop two key holes surrounded by commas. Prominently displayed next is a single heart surrounded by knotted forget-me-nots. Along a long shaft is another single heart that surmounts the spaded spoon bowl.

By giving this spoon to my grandmother, my grandfather was asking God’s blessing to marry his twin soul and promising to look after her. He offered her his heart and asked that she always remember him, believing that love and a willingness to work hard would see them through their marriage.

How apropos those symbols my grandfather couldn’t have known at the time, but he most certainly did at the end. When he passed just a few years before my grandmother, she was there holding his hand. He looked after her for the first half of their lives and she him at the last. They worked hard, never forgetting their love. They looked after one another always. And I believe God blessed them every day of their lives.

I have a lovely Welsh love spoon from the talented carvers at The Love Spoon Gallery ( ) to give away to one lucky commenter. If you could carve a love spoon for your significant other (or if you’re single, future significant other) what symbols would it depict and why? Please remember to check back on Monday, 31st October here in the comments of this blog to see if you’re the random winner!

To: Mother and Grum’pa

With all my love-always and everywhere.