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Stopping in Montana

We run out of fuel, and crash-land in Montana. We consider our options, to help our considerations, we break open the Glenlivet Private Reserve, which we keep for such occasions. After much consideration, and Glenlivet, we decide that, although walking across America is always a lot of fun, if you are in a desperate hurry, as we are, and unable to walk very far without falling over, finding another aeroplane and flying over America is a much more sensible idea, so we decide to find an airfield, to borrow another aeroplane.

Fatty says that he hasn't had a decent meal for several hours, so he has to have a quick snack, to sustain himself. Juan tells Fatty that this is hunting country, so it will be easy to hunt something to eat. Rory says that this area is also known for several mysterious creatures, including something that looks like a porcupine, but with very few quills, and an ape-like creature called a 'bigfoot' because, Rory explains, unnecessarily, it has big feet, and, as we are here, Rory declares, we should find one.

Rory is a cryptoid hunter which, as far as anyone can understand, involves hunting for creatures that do not exist. I remind Rory of the urgency of our mission and tell him that, considering that we just reduced our aircraft into small pieces of burnt wood and twisted metal, that we are in the wrong country, heading in the wrong direction, and vakandishly behind schedule, so, even though hunting would provide us with something to eat, like a duck or goose, creatures which really do exist, it would still be stupidly irresponsible, but hunting a bigfoot, which does not really exist, would be utterly futile. Fatty says that it might not be futile, stewed bigfoot might be very tasty. Rory tells Fatty that we can't eat a bigfoot, it isn't anything like a duck or a goose. I point out that, compared to many other birds, ducks and geese have big feet, so Rory's mythical bigfoot is probably just a duck.

Rory, losing his temper for no reason at all, shouts that bigfoot isn't a duck, and it isn't a goose, or any other kind of bird, a bigfoot, he informs us, is a savage, hairy, stinking, half human, half ape sort of animal, and it doesn't have feathers or quills. George says that, if Rory needs a quill, he should definitely find a duck or a goose, because duck and geese feather make very good quills. Rory yells that we should try and understand that he doesn't want a duck or a goose, he doesn't want any feathers and he doesn't need a quill, and we should stop talking about them.

Albert tells Rory that he should not underestimate quills, they are very useful, for a example, a sofa or a chair can be stuffed with goose quills, so Rory should collect lots of them. This is good advice and I tell Rory that, when the great soft furniture designer, Sir Arthur Quiller-Ouch, discovered that, rather than the porcupine quills he had been using as sofa and seat-stuffing, which, as well as being needle-sharp, were leaping with fleas and stank like rotting cat, customers preferred fresh, clean, goose feathers, which made a soft, harmless, stuffing. Acting upon this discovery, Arthur incorporated goose quill stuffing into his range of soft furniture, and Arthur’s new, 'soft', sofas and chairs were such a great success that he changed his name to Quiller-Couch, to mark the occasion. George tells Rory to ignore everything I say, because it's rubbish.

Rory shouts that he knows that it's rubbish, and he doesn't care, he is only interested in the bigfoot, and the bigfeet species do not have quills or feathers. I tell Rory that he is getting his feet confused, he doesn't mean 'bigfeet species', he means 'Blackfeet People', but the Blackfoot People do have feathers, at least, they have feathers in their hats, so Rory is wrong. Rory starts banging his fists on the ground and yelling that, obviously, he knows the difference between a bigfoot and Blackfoot; a member of the Blackfoot People is a human being, the bigfoot is a savage, hairy, stinking,wild, half-human, half-ape creature, with no quills or feathers.

George says that Rory should not dismiss feathers so lightly, if Rory catches a bigfoot, he will the first person to catch a bigfoot, and, in the world of bigfoot hunters, that will be a big feather in his cap. I think this is funny, but Rory bangs his fists on the ground and shouts that he doesn't want a big feather in his hat.

I tell Rory that he might be right because putting a feather in your cap might make you look plucky, but it can make also make you look silly; in fact, I recall, this happened to Kicker, Manuel's horse, Manuel is one of our top agents and, one day, he had to to write an urgent message, but he didn't have a pen so he stole a feather to make a quill. After he had written the message, he put the quill into his hat and rode away on Kicker. But the ink he used for the quill dripped down over Manuel's face and into his eyes, this caused temporary blindness. When Kicker suddenly stopped at the edge of a cliff, Manuel, taken by surprise, swayed forward, tumbled head-over-heels over the Kicker's head, and fell off the cliff. All that remained was the feather and the hat, which, during Manuel's somersault, had fallen off Manuel's head and landed, neatly, on to Kicker's head. Rory stares at me, blankly. I think it's an amusing tale, Kicker did look silly, but, I realise, you probably had to be there.

Juan solemnly pronounces: “Mata,” ars' Iain, “cha do bhean mise do rud sam bith ach do dh' aon ite: agus rinn mi peann d' i; agus 's e sin a rinn an gnothuch so mar tha e.” Albert wants to know what Juan is saying. I tell Albert that Juan isn't saying anything interesting or unusual, its just a Scotsman complaining. Juan is reciting part of a story about a man called Iain; Iain came to America and, like Manuel, he also stole a feather to make a quill, but terrible things happened because of this theft and the story consists of Iain incessantly complaining about everything, to anyone who will listen to him. It is known to be the most boring story ever told, but it does act as a warning to Rory that, even if he insists on hunting a duck or goose, he shouldn't steal a feather, it's unlucky.

Rory, looking glazed, says that he can't understand why we don't get it, he wants to hunt a bigfoot, and that's all he wants to do, has no intention of hunting a duck or a goose, he does not need a quill and he is not going to steal a feather for his hat, in fact, he says, wearing a feather in your hat is vulgar. I tell Rory that no less a person than Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu said “Things homely and vulgar are sometimes more useful than the elegant, and the feathers of a goose may be better adapted to some occasions than the plumes of the phoenix.”

Rory, rather stonily, says that he doesn't want a phoenix, he wants a bigfoot. I have to point out that Rory doesn't have to go on a hunt to find a mythological creature, like a phoenix or a bigfoot, a standard goose will do, and he can find one in a farm, but, if he does insist on looking for a wild, stinking, savage, half-human, half-ape sort of animal, he only has to look at Juan. George says that, perhaps, the bigfoot that Rory is talking about is of a species that is something between a human and monkey. Albert says that there is no such thing as an in-between species, something has to be one thing or another. I tell Albert that, when it comes to creatures that don't exist, these rules do not apply.

George says that he isn't sure about this, and he shows us his latest painting. I tell George that it's a very nice duck. Juan says it looks like a badly drawn goose. Fatty says that it looks like a very tasty goose, Juan says that it looks like a badly painted duck. Albert suggests that, like the phoenix, it is a fictional bird, a mythological bird that George invented, something between a duck and a goose, so, Albert advises Rory, if Rory finds such a creature, he should definitely take a feather, because finding a feather from a mythological bird would, as George said, certainly be a big feather in Rory's cap, and probably worth its weight in gold. I tell Rory that he still might be disappointed, because, even if they are big, feathers don't weigh very much. Rory screeches he is not interested quills and he doesn't want a big feather in his hat.

Juan says that we have a lot of Blackfoot friends in Montana and, as Rory is so interested in the subject, he should meet Roselle Long Time Bad, who can do wonderful things with a feather. I tell Rory that he shouldn't meet Roselle, or her over-protective brother, Jim Kills Fast; it would be much better, I suggest, if I introduced Rory to Maggie Chief Top Feathers and her husband, Chief Big Feather in Hat. Maggie and her family are expert quillworkers, I tell Rory, they make wonderful quill leggings from the quills they pluck from porcupines, which accounts for all the bald porcupines in the area.

Fatty says that this is a good idea, also, they might have something to eat and they can tell us where the nearest airfield is, which will save a lot of time. Rory doesn't seem able to speak, but everybody else thinks this is a wonderful idea and, to celebrate, we break open our flasks of Vintage Jura, Speyburn, Springbank, and Craigellachie Special Reserve. After offering toast after toast to the great state of Montana, with its wonderful wide-open skies, shining mountains and big feet, saluting the spirit of the hunt and, drinking to the health and longevity of all mythological creatures, we stagger around in hopeless confusion, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink's Diary