Sparky And The Wheezles

The Glen Meadow Chronicles

What is "Benji The Greaser" About?

It sounds ominous, who is Benji and what is a Greaser?

In the 1960s the society of small creatures of the woodlands had evolved into three main classes, not unlike many human cultures.  There was the 'ruling class' that was characterized by the Masters of the different trades and crafts.  Any creature who excelled at their craft to the highest degree of proficiency could eventually rise to become a Master.  There was usually only one Master per trade.  Masters appointed Magistrates and paid them a stipend to govern by hearing disputes and making judgments according to the bylaws written by the Masters.  Thus, the Masters were the highest level of authority in the land, the Magistrates lower down the ladder of authority. 

The remainder the population, from the journeyman level creatures down through the apprentices, constituted the 'working class'.  Since virtually every creature apprenticed in some trade or craft during their youth, all enjoyed the freedoms and rights associated with membership in this class.  In this regard,all creatures of the Glen Meadow Watershed, ruling class and working class lived on fairly level ground.

All except the peasants, were the lowest order of society and were generally reviled. Many were vagabonds, thieves, so-called gypsies, or unskilled laborers.  Very few peasants had friends or associates in the general community and they had no freedoms or rights as citizens. Thus, they were considered by many to be non-citizens.  The youngsters of the time called them 'Greasers,' as opposed to being called 'Frat,' the abbreviated form of 'fraternity,' the brotherhood of citizens.   Nobody in the woodland really remembers where these terms came from, quite possibly from the humans who lived nearby.  One thing was certain, the youth used these terms as epithets for each other as insults, the way youngsters often do.  

Benjamin Redfern, a black-footed ferret, had been apprenticed to the Master MetalCrafter who specialized in silver and copper wares.  This Master was abusive and often beat the young apprentices for the smallest infractions during training.  After one particularly harsh beating left Benji's eye swollen shut and his paw injured so that he couldn't see his work or hold the small tools.  After Benji's work production slowed as a result of his injuries, the Master cut Benji's rations to bread and water and made him sleep in the barn.  Benji ran away from his Master and returned home, much to the chagrin of his mother and father.

To abandon one's apprenticeship was a cardinal sin in this culture and every effort was made by Benji's parents to compel him to return to his training, but to no avail, the child wept bitter tears and pleaded to never go back.  When Benji's father paid a visit to the cruel Master to smooth things over he observed that there were several young apprentices with bruises and wounds that could have only been caused by abuse.  Benji's father relented and welcomed his son home, but with sadness and foreboding, Benji's life would never be easy.  Not only had Benji given up on his training, but he had lost his status as a citizen as well.  His only hope of making a living was to attempt to find any unskilled work available, and there was no guarantee that anybody would hire him or pay him enough to live on.  Nobody wanted to hire a worker who had run away from a Master.

And all his former mates now referred to him as Greaser and not Frat. 

As it turned out, Benji found a niche and became quite successful at making a very good living.  He had considerable skill at making trades and putting together deals with the local sellers of produce.  He built a cart and was able to sell produce to other areas in the woodlands where produce was difficult to get.  He also used some of the metal-working skills he had learned to mend pots, sharpen knives and do small repairs for his regular customers.  He was well liked because of his positive attitude and charm and when he came of age, he fell in love with a beautiful young female, named Margo, who took him as her mate.   

The book I'm writing about Benji begins in 1963, Margo and Benji have seven children and a nice home along a country lane that Benji's parents helped them build.  Despite Benji's success to this point, trouble begins brewing in the villages and Benji seems to be caught in the middle of it and once again, his status as a Greaser is at the center of the conflict. 


Next up...Who is Margo and why would she marry a peasant?

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