Present day

The Horse Shoe pub, the quietest, dingiest pub in the arsehole of nowhere, Darvel. Every Saturday, the team met up to watch the football on the live – illegally streamed – television that sat in the top corner of the front bar.

The pub was always quiet – and for good reason – but the customers were always met with a friendly face at the bar, and the pints were the cheapest in the area – again, for good reason, the pints were flatter than the Netherlands.

Stu, Jamie, Ross and Ryan sat around the usual table in view of the television, each with a pint, bag of nuts and a bookies coupon slip the length of their forearm.

“Ave got a gid feelin’ about my 16-fold the day boys”, said Stu, eyeing up his selections.

“Lets see it then, and I’ll compare it tae mine”, said Jamie.

Jamie sat his and Stu’s coupon next to one another and scanned down both the lists.

Jamie gave his expert opinion, “Looks good up until the last three draws you’ve picked, absolute nae chance ser”

“Away ye go Jeff Sterling, you’ll be askin’ for a hawn oot when this wan comes in”, said Stu.

The boys sank half a dozen more pints each and it was coming close to the five-thirty kick off games, and of course, none of the boys struck gold with their coupons.

On the television, a promotional advert came on for the pay per view event between the Scottish Shotgun and the English Teabag. The fight was taking place that evening at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock.

“Oh fuck, I forgot all about that the night”, said Ross.

“We should aw chip in and get it watched, either that or we head into Killie and see if anyone is puntin’ tickets outside the stadium?”, said Ryan.

“Fuck it, lets dae it, worst case we can just head to a pub in Killie to watch it”, said Stu.

“Class, sounds like a plan”, said Jamie, and all the boys drank from their pint glass.

“Dae yous remember the punchin’ tree up Lanfine?”, asked Jamie.

10 years ago

The four young boys were inseparable, Stu, Jamie, Ross and Ryan. They spent every possible minute together at the weekends by climbing trees, exploring the woods up Lanfine, playing the Playstation and whatever else you’d expect young boys to do.

One weekend, the four boys jumped on their bikes and went a cycle up Lanfine when they noticed a group of older boys laughing around a big tree.

“Awrite wee chaps, huv ye ever punched the punchin’ tree”, said one of the boys.

“Naw, why is it called the punchin’ tree?”, asked Stu.

“Because it’s soft enough for ye tae punch it, watch”, and the older boy threw a punch at the tree and the connection made a cushioned thud.

Stu, Jamie, Ross and Ryan stood there speechless.

“That’s minted man. Can we have a shot?”, asked Ross.

“Course ye can wee man, it’s no ma tree”, the older boys all laughed together.

Ross got off his bike and walked over to the tree.

“Have ye ever thrown a punch before wee man?”, asked the older boy.

“Aye, I batter ma cousin aw the time”, said Ross confidently.

Ross pulled his clenched right fist back, his face was all screwed up, and he threw his fist forward and landed as hard a punch as he could against the tree.

“That’s mental, I never even felt that”, Ross declared.

“I told you, it’s a punchin’ tree, aw the local boxers practise on it and then do laps of Lanfine to get in shape. Anyway wee guys, we’re offski, enjoy punchin’ the tree”, and the group of older boys disappeared up the country road, each carrying a blue carrier bag that clinked as they walked away.

The four boys spent their afternoon just punching the tree.

Present Day

It was the morning after the day of football, pints and boxing, and all the boys were rougher than Newmilns main street.

They all agreed to meet at The Horse Shoe for a hair of the dog, some darts and Sunday football.

“It’s some day out there by the way, dae yous no fancy a wee walk for some fresh air?”, asked Ryan.

“Aye I’m rough as fuck, I’d be up for some fresh air”, said Jamie.

“Want tae go a walk roon Lanfine and have a shot at the punchin’ tree like the good old days?”, asked Ross.

“That actually sounds decent, lets dae it”, said Jamie.

After an hour of walking from the pub to the tree up Lanfine, the boys all queued up for a shot at punching the tree.

They all gave it a good few hits each, and they all began to sweat a little, the booze from the previous day was starting to glaze on their foreheads.

“Right man, think we’ve had our fair share, lets get back tae the pub for the fitba kickin’ aff”, said Stu.

“Good shout mate, I’m cunted”, said Jamie.

The group started to walk away, and then they heard a lot of branches being snapped.

They turned around curious to see where the noise was coming from, but when they faced the direction of the noise, the sound stopped.

“That was weird”, said Jamie.

They started off again and the sound of branches being snapped started again. When they turned, the sound stopped again.

“We canny aw be trippin’ here, whit the fuck is that”, said Stu.

“Dae ye hink it’s Stumpy?”, asked Ryan.

“Aw shut up mate, that awl ghost story is a load of shite”, said Stu.

Ross walked back towards the punching tree to see if he could see anything. He got five yards away from the tree when out of nowhere, the loud snapping sound came again, and a tree branch swung at his torso and threw him nearly twenty yards backwards.

He hit the ground winded. The other three boys stood there with their eyes wide open in shock staring at the tree.

“No sa fuckin’ funny noo is it! Punch me again and it will be yer last!”, came a bounding guttural voice.

They stood there in complete shock.

“That tree just fuckin’ spoke, nae chance man”, said Stu.

And they never punched the tree again.