Kicking the Bottle
Like a legion of old, they line up behind their metal totem; an animal swift of foot and fiercely territorial. A fitting tribute to the band of men as they stand and wait for the sound of the horn. As it echoes through the streets, they walk out of their beloved village to the hill rising above.
Others can be seen through the morning mist, making their way from the far side. Those already gathered mark the approach. Bawdy comments from those who have been here before. Nervous jokes from those new to the fold. A great desire to conquer hums in the air.
The interlopers reach the hill. Both sides eye each other, looking for weakness, looking for new means of succeeding. The masses are ready for this special day.
A small group approaches, carrying a large cloth banner. They pick their way to the top of the hill where the men stand waiting. The leader of this group is old and wise. Over the years he has seen many days like this. He knows the risks, he is aware of the consequences. He bids everyone luck and God speed. He cautions them from harm, but is met with wry smiles.
The cloth is lifted up and pieces of pie shower the men. Some grab at them. Others ignore the shower as they ready themselves.
Then with a shout, a small barrel is lifted high and the cries begin.
‘To the river!’
‘To the road!’
Whatever may pass in the hours that follow, one thing remains certain: many an ego will be bruised this day upon the hilly fields of Hallaton.