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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sometimes St. Patrick's Day Sucks

Go ahead. Think of whatever St. Patrick's Day images you can come up with. Leprechauns? Shamrocks? A pot of gold? Maybe even few drunken sots?

So, how about arson?

I grew up on a dairy farm in a little town just north of New York City. That picture you see above is what my back yard looked like on St. Patrick's Day* when I was a wee little girl. I know what you're thinking - What drunken idiot accidentally set that poor girl's barn on fire?

It wasn't a drunken idiot. And it wasn't an accident.

My family is very Irish, so getting ready for the Big Day meant the kitchen refrigerator was decorated with school-project shamrocks and loaves of soda bread sat round and crisscrossed on the windowsill. We enjoyed a simple and secure life. We had enough and we shared what we could. My parents and grandparents worked hard and did well enough to employ a few folks, too. Life was pretty good.

Until it wasn't.

For reasons known only to him, one of the men hired by my father took exception to our family. Whatever we had, he didn't, and that festered in him somehow to the point where he wanted to destroy it. I don't know what his thoughts were, but he waited until milking time when the cows were locked in their stanchions, lit a match and threw it into the hayloft. The gasoline was waiting.

The Irish are known for counting their blessings. Here are mine. No cows died. My father, who repeatedly entered the barn to release the cows, did not get one scratch on him. No one else did that day either. See those flames? They are blowing to the east. If they blew to the west or north, my home and my neighbor's home would have burned, too. The casseroles, cakes and cookies that filled our home over the next few weeks were enough to feed a small army, which we did. The small battalion of people who came to help us transport cows, clear debris, hold my mom's hand and help carry my dad's load were royally fed. I don't remember any tears after that first horrible day. I only remember the love and laughter as we all worked together.

It took a while, but we got to our feet again.

So, go ahead and smile and laugh at the St. Patrick's Day* revelers. It might be for different reasons, but I'll be smiling right along with you.

*Ah, geez. Since that post, the cobwebs have come off and the wheels of memory started to churn. The fire actually occured several days before St. Patty's. Thank the advent of weekly newspapers for blurring recollections. Soda bread, as well as corned beef and cabbage, were served a lot in my house and the refrigerator held lots of shamrocks - as well as St. Christopher's metals. My apologies to St. Patty for besmirching his good day.