John B Keane: real live trotters are a rare sight

THE unusual holds a fascination for everybody but if only we were prepared to reflect we would discover that what we believe to be unusual is quite commonplace and, in fact, deserves no mention at all.

THE unusual holds a fascination for everybody but if only we were prepared to reflect we would discover that what we believe to be unusual is quite commonplace and, in fact, deserves no mention at all.

Take for example those numerous parents who see in their own children the embodiment of all that is unique, beautiful and talented and who see nothing at all in the child next door who may have ten times the talent and ability. Old carpers who are fond of knocking these treatises of mine will ask “what’s he at now?”

Patience, dear readers, and you shall see. It must be plain to all that I will shortly be writing about some thing or body which is unusual, which, in short, is well worthy of the comments I propose to make on said subject.

I was present some months ago at a football game. I was one of the many hundreds who had come to pass away an hour or so watching a sport that is dear to us all.

The teams took the field after the usual delay and after a brief inspection plus a short lecture by the referee the whistle was blown and the game was on.

It started at a cracking pace and there were several minutes of unbroken play which had the crowd on their toes and the majority cheering wildly for one side or the other.

It is at moments like these when all eyes are fixed on the commonplace that mine are drawn away to look for the unusual. It is a good time for people who are somewhat uninhibited and behaviour is never normal.

There was nothing exceptional about the crowd or about the wheeling seagulls overhead. The elements themselves were as normal as they might be for the time of year.

My eyes were about to return to the field of play when they were arrested by a movement at the other side of the field. It was the linesman dashing to and fro. He was never still and was the antithesis of our own linesmen who never left the one position lest his enjoyment of the game be interrupted.

He was one of those experienced and cunning officials who sees the ball go over the line but does absolutely nothing except wait to see how the majority of the players behave.

If the majority move downfield he will indicate with his flag that the free is to be downfield and vice versa if the majority move upfield.

If there is the slightest contention he will throw the ball in himself. Before we begin to despise this type of linesman let us remember that he is in favour of the majority rule although some of the majority may come from sideline support.

But to press on; the linesman at the opposite side was a tireless fellow and extremely conscientious to boot. He was the epitome of vigilance, a quantity incidentally for which sideline men receive more abuse than thanks.

Looking at him stirred my memory and it occurred to me that his behaviour was different from all the other linesmen I had seen over the years.

I could not quite make out what it was that made him different but different he was and there could be no doubt about that. I watched him more closely and ever anxious to improve the mind and add to the store of knowledge I waited ‘till half time when he came across to our side.

It was only then that it dawned on me what he was. It took time but there could be no mistaking that lifting of the leg, that kick of the feet when he made haste and, finally, conclusively that way he held his head in the air.

This man was a trotter.

In stature he was small as almost all trotters are. In addition, his legs were short and if devastating proof were needed, which it isn’t, his posterior was very near the ground.

In short, he had all the classic points of the true trotter. Incidentally, trotters are very rare. The world is full of gallopers and trudgers but the trotter is so rare that one could spend an entire lifetime without meeting one.

After the match he trotted towards the exit. Notice I say he trotted and not walked. Many there were who walked and some there were who ran but only he, of all who were there, was prepared to trot.

When I say he trotted I do not wish to imply that he was in a hurry or that he moved faster than most. He moved at a pace that was a trifle faster than a good walker.

All the time the head was held high and all the time his pace was even. Outside the ground he trotted towards his car and as he opened the door I could almost swear I heard a whinny in the far distance beyond our yesterdays.

I haven’t seen a trotter since but I am always on the look-out for one.

Be on the look out for a man with the points I have noted and one day you, too, may see a real live trotter.