================================================= HELP KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE STILL AVAILABLE FOR CHRISTMAS DELIVERY Up to 20% discount on our most popular items Limited time offer! Go here: http://www.irishnation.com/familycrestgifts.htm Up to US$15 off Family Crest Flags Go here: http://www.irishnation.com/irelandflag.htm Go here: http://www.irishnation.com ================================================= The Information about Ireland Site Newsletter December 2008 The Newsletter for people interested in Ireland Now received by over 50,000 people worldwide http://www.ireland-information.com http://www.irishnation.com Copyright (C) 2008 ================================================= IN THIS ISSUE === News Snaps from Ireland === New free resources at the site === Irish Christmas Traditions === Ireland House-Swap === 'Christmas Love' by Pat Watson === Edmund Burke - a biography by Joseph E. Anon === 'They are just not biting' by Jim Hayes === Gaelic Phrases of the Month === Shamrock Site of the Month: === Monthly free competition result ================================================= FOREWORD ======== Hello again from Ireland where preparations for Christmas are in full swing, despite the downbeat economic news! The winners of last months competition who will each receive an Irish music CD were: junebrindle @blueyonder.co.uk sinbad40au @yahoo.com.au rayobrien @clear.net.nz grahmbear @aol.com miltonedunn @aol.com On behalf of all of us here at your favourite Ireland newsletter, we hope that you have a great Christmas and a peaceful New Year, Michael Help keep this newsletter alive at www.irishnation.com WE NEED YOUR HELP! PLEASE - send this newsletter on to your friends or relatives who you think are interested in Ireland. By doing this you are helping to keep us 'free'. Got something to say? Don't keep it to yourself! 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If you wish to unsubscribe then go here: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletter.htm ======================= NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND ======================= ECONOMIC WOES CONTINUE The worsening state of the Irish economy has been again illustrated with the announcement by the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, that government cutbacks are imminent. Disappointing tax revenue have left a large shortfall in the planned funding of both day-to-day spending and large scale projects. The balancing act facing the government is stark. If they increase taxes dramatically while simultaneously cutting back on expenditure then they may deepen the recession by removing government as the main stimulator of the economy. Should the government decide to slash personal taxes to try to promote growth there is a fear that the extra cash will either be saved or will be spent on imports and thus flow out of the economy. The reliance that Ireland has on the health of the foreign economies of both the UK and the USA is currently in stark relief. It seems likely that the government will borrow quite heavily although it could tap the substantial pension reserve fund if required. With one eye on the possible recapitalization of the Irish banks in order to promote lending and thus economic activity it seems probable that the government will play the 'raise taxes' game, while it hopes conditions in the broader world economy improve. Cutbacks in its expenditure are inevitable. The hugely expensive Irish public service looks to be in the firing line for a severe trim. UNEMPLOYMENT HIGHEST SINCE 1996 Unemployment has risen sharply to the highest levels seen since 1996. The number of people unemployed has jumped by 66% since last year and now stands at 7.8%. A dramatic jump by any standard. The decimation of the house-building industry is largely to blame for the rise. Commentating economists are divided over the course of action the government should take with some advocating 'tax and cut' while others are promoting 'borrow and spend' policies. The heat is sure to be turned up on the Fianna Fail and Green Party coalition over the next few months as the full scale of the economic contraction becomes apparent. NEW LISBON REFERENDUM LOOKS LIKELY All of the indications are that the Irish government is laying the groundwork for a second attempt at ratifying the rejected Lisbon Treaty. The number of politicians commenting on the matter has increased in recent weeks. A government sub-committee recently announced that Ireland's status within Europe has been diminished by the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty and that there would be economic consequences because of the rejection. A French General meanwhile has commented that conscription of EU citizens to any EU military force would never happen. Conscription was one of the myriad of issues that resulted in the Lisbon Treaty being rejected by the Irish electorate. The Treaty was supported by all of the main political parties in Ireland with the exception of Sinn Fein. Since the negative vote, only the Labour Party have indicated that they might change their original stance and campaign against the Treaty should a second ballot be held. Of course that party may change its position should concessions to Irish concerns be made by the EU, as appears likely. The rejection of the Treaty in June by 53.4% to 46.6% was a disaster for the Irish government under its new leader Brian Cowen. The government campaign was disjointed and unimpressive. On the one hand they claimed that the Treaty merely involved administrative changes to the European Union and would not have any great effect. On the other they warned of the dire political and economic consequences should the Treaty be rejected. If a second referendum is held then the stakes will be huge for Brian Cowen's leadership. A second rejection would surely mark the end of this tenure as Taoiseach. Success in a second poll though would merely alienate that section of Irish society who, despite voting in favour of the Treaty the first time around, would be dismayed at the result of a national referendum being effectively overturned by the political classes. The absolute safest bet for Fianna Fail would be to try to delay any decision on a second vote for a couple of years while the economy hopefully improves. It seems unlikely though, that Brian Cowen's fellow EU leaders are prepared to wait. IRISH BOXER RETAINS HER WORLD CROWN Bray boxer Katie Taylor has retained her World lightweight title at the fifth ABA Women's World Championships in China. The current European Champion won her final bout 13-2 and was later crowned boxer of the tournament. The Irish battler is hoping that women's boxing is added as an event to the Olympics in London in 2012. Voice your opinion on these news issues here: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletterboard/wwwboard.html ============================== NEW FREE RESOURCES AT THE SITE ============================== IRISH HOLIDAY AND TOURIST BOARD Post a question about holidaying in Ireland and we guarantee an answer will be posted on the board. http://www.ireland-information.com/irishholidays-irishtourist/irishtouristboard.html IRELAND HOUSE-SWAP LISTING Our new free service lets you find or list a home for a house-swap: http://www.ireland-information.com/irelandhouseswap.htm NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY: The following 5 coats of arms images and family history details have been added to the Gallery: G: Gilbert K: Keague, Keeley M: Mangan S: Studdert View the Gallery here: http://www.irishsurnames.com/coatsofarms/gm.htm THE PERFECT WEDDING, ANNIVERSARY OR BIRTHDAY GIFT! We now have over 100,000 worldwide names available. Get the Coat of Arms Print, Claddagh Ring, Screensaver, Watch, T-Shirt Transfer or Clock for your name at: http://www.irishnation.com/familycrestgifts.htm ================================================= YOU CAN HELP TO KEEP THIS FREE NEWSLETTER ALIVE! Visit: http://www.irishnation.com where you can get great Irish gifts, prints, claddagh jewellery, engraved glassware and much more. Anne MacDonald ordered a family crest plaque: Hello, Michael, Received my plaque, carefully wrapped, in good order. It is splendid! I am thrilled, and I know that my dad, for whose 81st birthday this was ordered, will love it. I would like to order another one! Everyone who has seen the plaque has been really impressed, even those who, as my daughter says are 'not into ancestor worship!' Again, my hearty thanks for this first-class product. Best wishes for happy holiday season. Sincerely, Anne MacDonald THE PERFECT WEDDING OR ANNIVERSARY GIFT! View family crest plaques here: http://www.irishnation.com/familycrestplaques.htm ========================== IRISH CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS ========================== Ireland, like most countries, has a number of Christmas traditions that are all of its own. Many of these customs have their root in the time when the Gaelic culture and religion of the country were being suppressed and it is perhaps because of this they have survived into modern times. THE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW The placing of a lighted candle in the window of a house on Christmas eve is still practised today. It has a number of purposes but primarily it was a symbol of welcome to Mary and Joseph as they travelled looking for shelter. The candle also indicated a safe place for priests to perform mass as, during Penal Times this was not allowed. A further element of the tradition is that the candle should be lit by the youngest member of the household and only be extinguished by a girl bearing the name 'Mary'. THE LADEN TABLE After evening meal on Christmas eve the kitchen table was again set and on it were placed a loaf of bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins, a pitcher of milk and a large lit candle. The door to the house was left unlatched so that Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveller, could avail of the welcome. THE WREN BOY PROCESSION During Penal Times there was once a plot in a village against the local soldiers. They were surrounded and were about to be ambushed when a group of wrens pecked on their drums and awakened the soldiers. The plot failed and the wren became known as 'The Devil's bird'. On St. Stephens day a procession takes place where a pole with a holly bush is carried from house to house and families dress up in old clothes and with blackened faces.In olden times an actual wren would be killed and placed on top of the pole. This custom has to a large degree disappeared but the tradition of visiting from house to house on St. Stephens Day has survived and is very much part of Christmas. DECORATIONS: The placing of a ring of Holly on doors originated in Ireland as Holly was one of the main plants that flourished at Christmas time and which gave the poor ample means with which to decorate their dwellings. All decorations are traditionally taken down on Little Christmas (January 6th.) and it is considered to be bad luck to take them down beforehand. TRADITIONAL GAELIC SALUTATION The Gaelic greeting for 'Merry Christmas' is: 'Nollaig Shona Duit' ......which is pronounced as 'null-ig hun-a dwit'. HAPPY CHRISTMAS! ================== IRELAND HOUSE-SWAP ================== We had a great response to our article about house-swapping which you can view in a recent newsletter: http://www.ireland-information.com/jul08.htm We are working on the online program to allow you to freely add and view details of other people who are interested in this service. You can add your home-swap details to our new free listing service at: http://www.ireland-information.com/irelandhouseswap.htm ============================ CHRISTMAS LOVE by Pat Watson ============================ He was foot loose and fancy free, he had come home from England this Christmas Eve with enough money to cut a dash with the neighbours. Just for Christmas he would have a ball, then back to the bright lights of London. That's what he told everyone but London could be a cold place, flatland was no Utopia. He had got no sleep on the boat, The Princess Maud, last night but his time was short and he had to make the most of it, he could sleep tonight. Next year he would go to America, but for one last week he would enjoy the craic in Ireland of the nineteen-fifties. Then it happened, she just walked by, was she real? Nobody moved like that. Was she on wheels? No, she moved on the most beautiful legs, sort of glided, as only one with a perfect shape could. 'Don't just stand there, follow her' he told himself. The friends from whom he excused himself looked on in amusement. He has it bad, one of them said. As he followed, a thought struck him, what would he say when he caught up to her? He couldn't ask if she was real. He couldn't just say, 'You are beautiful'. Maybe he would just scare her. He had to think of something. He didn't get the chance. She turned into the Friary Church. He followed her. She joined the queue for confession. He joined the queue for confession beside her. When somebody came behind him it gave him an excuse to move in close to her. Their shoulders touched. Their hips touched, their knees touched. He was glad the queue was long and the priest slow. He could go on like this indefinitely, moving on to sit where she had just sat, feeling her warmth, listening to her breathing and generally feeling comfortable in her aura. All too soon her turn came and she disappeared into the confessional. He listened hard but could hear nothing. As she came out, he stood up to go in. She stood in his way. He moved to the right. She moved to the right. He moved to the left. She moved to the left, nearly like dancing. He looked down at her. She looked up at him, slightly blushing, a hint of a glint, a trace of a Mona Lisa smile, a foursome of freckles on a tiny turned up nose and overall heart stopping beauty. No man should be feeling like this going to confession. Then she spoke with a heavenly husky voice more mature than her teenage body. 'The priest says he is not hearing any more - go to the next confessional'. He turned and did her bidding. By the time he got out she was gone. He searched the church, he searched the bicycle park, he searched outside but all to no avail. She was nowhere to be seen. Was she real or had he been hallucinating? He thought he had reached Nirvana, that they would talk for hours, that she would feel the same as him but now nothing only a cold winter's night. Was he being punished for falling in love in church when he should have being praying? Probably. He would pray at Midnight Mass. He might as well become a monk if he could not find this apparition again. The church was magnificent, full of light, of life, of music and packed with people but no sign of his fantasy girl. The choir was singing 'Adeste Fideles'. There was a sort of magic nostalgia about the whole scene, 'natum videte regem angelorum' but no sign of his fantasy girl. 'Venite adoremus'. It was glorious, 'Dominum'. Had he really seen her or had the lack of sleep addled his mind? Maybe she was pure imagination as nobody could be that beautiful, still no sign of her. With glory, pomp, pageantry and ceremony they finally got through the Mass, now the final hymn. Silent night, holy night, should that be lonely night? The solo singer was enchanting. All is calm, all is bright, too calm and not so bright. As the multitude slowly made their way out he looked all around but she was nowhere to be found. 'Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace'. He certainly needed the sleep but would he ever be at peace again? At last he spotted her outside the church with an older lady. She had been watching him and when their eyes met her face lit up with the most dazzling smile totally eclipsing even the vision in his mind. 'Mammy' she said, 'this is the boy I told you about, may I bring him home for breakfast?' All his Christmases had come together. He never saw London again. 'Christmas Love' is one of sixty lyrical yarns from 'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson, Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland. First published in March 2006. To get your copy email the author here: firstname.lastname@example.org ========================== KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE! Visit: http://www.irishnation.com ========================== ============ EDMUND BURKE By Joseph E. Anon ============ 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' Edmund Burke was one of the most famous political thinkers of the 18th century. Through his speeches and writings, he raised the level of political debate in England, attempting to make moral principles a part of English politics. A champion of Catholic emancipation, Burke wielded his influence to weaken the heinous Penal Laws. He was born on January 12th, 1729, at Arran Quay, Dublin. Burke was the son of a mixed marriage, his mother Catholic and his father Protestant. He would later marry an Irish Catholic woman. Perhaps it was these two factors which led him to advocate a compassionate policy toward Ireland for most of his life. Burke graduated from Trinity College in 1748 and studied law at Middle Temple in London. He failed, however, to secure a call to the bar and instead began a literary career. In 1756, Burke published his first book, 'A Vindication of Natural Society' and an essay titled 'A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful'. In 1757, he married June Nugent, the daughter of a Catholic physician, and in 1759 he became editor of the Annual Register. By 1761, Burke had begun to involve himself with politics. That year, after living in England, he returned to Dublin as secretary to W.G. Hamilton, chief secretary for Ireland. He left that post two years later to become secretary to the new prime minister, Lord Rockingham. In 1765, Earl Verney brought him into the House of Commons as a member for Wendover. His first speeches in the early months of 1766 impressed the members of Parliament. In the space of a few short weeks, Burke rose from obscurity to being recognized as one of the leading figures in the House of Commons. He now began to make his own mark in politics through his writing and public speaking. Burke had come to Parliament just as the controversy over the Stamp Act was beginning. He urged repeal of the act and consistently supported a policy of reconciliation with the American colonies. Burke wrote four well-known pamphlets on the America question from 1770 to 1777: 'Thoughts on the Present Discontents' (1770), 'American Taxation' (1774), 'Conciliation with the Colonies' (1775), and 'A Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol' (1777). Burke's colleagues in Parliament never took his advice on the American colonies, but many since have recognized the wisdom of the policy he advanced. In commenting on Burke's writings on the American question, John Morley, the Liberal politician and writer, said that 'taken together they compose the most perfect manual in our literature, or in any literature, for one who approaches the study of public affairs, whether for knowledge or practice'. After Yorktown, it was Burke and the Whigs who would eventually force King George III to recognize the futility of continuing the war in America. Burke was the leading Parliamentary proponent of civil rights for Catholics in Ireland. Since the late 17th century, Catholics in Ireland had been barred from full citizenship and the vast majority forced into abject poverty by the Penal Laws. During the last part of the 18th century, the threat of French intervention in Ireland and Burke's efforts together forced the passage of several reductions of the severe restrictions of the Penal Laws. The championing of that cause would cost Burke his MP seat in 1780, but he returned to Parliament as the member from Malton and became Paymaster of Forces when a Whig, Lord Rockingham, became prime minister again. When Lord Rockingham died in July 1786, Burke resigned and never held public office again, but he continued his involvement with British politics and writing for the rest of his life. Burke was a constant critic of British colonial policies, and, in the 1780s, his investigation into The East India Company led to the impeachment of Warren Hastings, governor general of India. Although Hastings would eventually be acquitted of all charges, the entire affair led to reforms in England's administration in India and helped bring the inequities of England's colonial system before the public. Burke believed this was the most important political contribution of his career. Burke is often remembered for his vehement opposition to the French Revolution, which he expounded in 1790 in what is, perhaps, his best known work: 'Reflections on the Revolution in France'. The work was widely published and read all over Europe, and his articulation of what he viewed as the dangers of the Revolution caused a sensation in England. It caused him to break with many of his longtime friends and colleagues in the Whig party and invoked replies from many English writers, the most famous one being Thomas Paine's 'Rights of Man'. In what might seem a contradiction, given his support of the civil rights of Irish Catholics, Burke was opposed to the Volunteer movement in Ireland and to the establishing of Henry Grattan's Irish Parliament. Burke's opposition to these movements may well have been his fear that Grattan's Parliament would not be a government of all the Irish people but merely one that continued, and perhaps even strengthened, the long tradition of Irish Protestant rule and Irish Catholic subservience. Burke was never an advocate of any form of Irish independence, though he supported the emancipation of Irish Catholics within the British Empire. Burke's writings on the Irish question are less known than those of his on the American and the French Revolutions, but he left behind several that would have served the British well, had they ever been heeded. In his 'Speech at the Guildhall' (1780), 'To a Peer of Ireland on the Penal Laws' (1782), and 'To Sir Hercules Langrishe' (1792), he sends them a clear message: Your foolish colonial policies have lost America and your foolish policies will lose Ireland. His counsel was ignored but the correctness of his theme has been proved by history. Burke died in London on July 9, 1797, one year before Ireland erupted in revolution. That revolt might have been avoided if some of Burke's ideas on Catholic emancipation and other legislative reforms had been more fully implemented by the English government. Then, as ever, the country's rulers seemed to suffer from a complete inability to make the compromises that could avoid repeated disasters on that long-suffering island. As Burke once said, in words that should echo down to those debating Ireland's future today: 'All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter'. Burke is not a hero of Irish nationalists, nor should he be, for he never was a proponent of Irish republicanism. But he did help put the corruption of England's colonial system before the English people. Most of all, he started the process that would eventually bring the despised malignancy known as the Penal Laws to an end. For this, he should be well remembered in the land of his birth. === This article has been adapted from an article at the 'Wild Geese Today' Webzine, a leading Irish history and heritage Internet site, established in 1997 with the purpose of sharing 'The Epic History and Heritage of the Irish' with the immense number of individuals of Irish ancestry found worldwide. http://www.thewildgeese.com ========================== KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE! Visit: http://www.irishnation.com ========================== ========================= THEY JUST WERE NOT BITING by James Hayes ========================= They just were not biting. Dave was sitting on the bank with his fishing rod and watching the clear water of the Shannon turn dark as the sunlight faded behind the new Radisson hotel. To him it looked a lot like the Rio-grand did in the films, better known as John Wayne country. As the lights of the hotel started to be turned on he knew it was time to pack up and head for home. This wonderful fishing spot he knew from the days of his youth, was now giving up any fish and was a waste of his good time, but the idea of going home without at least one fish for the tea was not a good one, it never even entered his head. For he had spent a large part of the day before bigheaded telling his friends about what a great fisherman he was, as a mater of a fact he was the best their was and no one could come near him on the amount of fish he had caught over the years on the Shannon. He could hear them now in the Sean's bar, laughing and joking as he talked about the gigantic one that got away, again. Worse, yet, he had no bait left. For the cowboy John Wayne that would be no ammo he said to himself. Well if John Wayne could rustle up grub from an empty desert the he could get some worms from the bank of the Shannon. So he started to use his Bowie knife, well his pocket-knife, to dig around the edge of the bank for worms. But as he did he remembered when they built the Radisson Hotel all the worms seemed to have packed their bags and moved, who knows where he said to himself. God dam it, no ammo. His best course of action he then said to himself was to put all his stuff on his bike who he liked to call Bess and head for home, that little house on the prairie as he called it, or try again. Try again wins as he moved his bike or wagon over to the other side of the Shannon where it was less crowded and a lot less people, and he knew the ground was a lot softer here for up until now no one had tried to build anything on this side. Building, and what a lot of it all over the town, the times when one could walk from one side of the town to the other along the banks of the water are now long gone and never to return, oh how things have changed in a few years, oh well back to the fishing and stop daydreaming he says to himself. On the other side of the river away from the now bright lights of the hotel he unpacked his bags and got ready to set up his fishing gear again, then looking through the thinning rows of trees right beside the bust of the local singer John something or other, he could see a farm field under the iron bridge. There were dried patches of broken-down hay and tall weeds with the plain coffee colour of a cardboard shoebox and the flapping of the Shannon waters against the rocks on the shore line. Dave looked at his gold watch that he won in a darts match a few years back and nothing since, god it's eight thirty he said to himself and the light of the Summers evening is starting to go, but he decided he had just enough time to make one last try to catch a fish, any fish, of any size. He unpacked his gear, his knife and rod as he passed the public toilets, also called the old library now closed all the time. Looking at the boats moored on the hotel side and wishing he had one, maybe he will win the lotto some day and then he will have the biggest one on the Shannon. Walking through the thin row of trees and out into the huge field just after the railway bridge, or iron bridge as it is called locally, for the first time he noticed a very large and odd-looking scarecrow, and around the town of Athlone you don't see many of those, he said to him self. All right they are a few people who look like scarecrows and hang around the pubs, but then one will find them in every town in Ireland. Just beyond the scarecrow, which was a good bit away but through the mist now rising from the waters he could see what appeared to be a small cluster of small saplings and large weeds. Then he saw what had once been a fine two-story house standing alone as if waiting for some one or thing to come and live in it again. It looked like what once had been the home of some wealthy family who he never knew and have long gone, but it looked like one of them houses you would see in an old Hammer horror film with the ivy growing all over it and the windows boarded up to keep people out, or something in. Just right for some builder to start another housing development or Marino for the rich. As Dave approached the scarecrow, he was even more taken back by its unusual manifestation, ok dress. It was dressed in a Westmeath GAA hat that was crunched and moth-eaten and leaned a little to one side with its colours faded. The body look like it was constructed of hay, rags, sticks, and undergrowth, and the face was made of some sort of a tea cloth, perhaps even an old Buccaneers rugby shirt, it had the colours of the away team well that is what they looked like. It also had on what was once an expensive jacket and pants; on the inside of the jacket was the label of the local men's wear shop. Its arms were outstretched on a branch of a small bush, and poking out of its sleeves were fingers made of more sticks stuffed into old kid gloves. This story is continued in the online edition of this newsletter: http://www.ireland-information.com/dec08.htm#story
From a distance, the eyes looked like the empty sockets one would see in a skull of the dead, not that Dave had seen many dead people, well not as much as John Wayne. But when Dave stood up close to the scarecrow, he was even more surprised to discover it had a full set of teeth. He smiled as he said to himself; an old sheep head and were white because of time in the sun, then he smiled as the words Mac teeth are whiter teeth as they say on the TV. But those were sheep's teeth, and still in the jawbone, someone with a sick mind had fitted them into the cloth trying to make a face, giving the scarecrow a dog-like expression. Dark feathers from some sort of a bird had somehow been caught between the two front teeth. And this made it life like and fearsome looking.
Now the most peculiar thing of all was what he found at the centre of the scarecrow torn chest. The old worn black jacket hung open as the buttons were long gone and the chest itself had been torn apart by rats, cats, dogs or birds who knew? Who wanted to know, Dave could see right inside this maze of bone and paper. god he was so shocked to realize that the bone was from a rib cage from thing or another, and it was fixed firmly inside with string and stuck to that was a large faded red valentine card in the shape of a heart, even the red ink colour that would have once looked like blood had faded to a brown dried sludge and like conjured blood, shit what sick mind put this together he said to himself. Then as he looked loser he seen a long, thick stick that some one had pointed was rammed straight through that heart as if to kill it, the way one would kill a vampire or the walking dead. There are some sick people in this world he said to him self again as he looked around it some more, their is something about this scarecrow that he just could not put his finger on? what was it about this man made patched up thing that stands here in the middle of a field waiting for something or some one. The ground around and beneath the scarecrow was very soft to the foot, so Dave took a stick and began to dig around it for bait. As he did, he started to feel different. for he felt someone or thing was watching him.
Then from the corner of his eye he felt a slight wind and what looked like a shadow move, it seemed as if the scarecrow had just dropped its head to look down on him. Dam he said to himself, by now John Wayne would have his gun out and be ready for action. Dave looked up and saw that a large crow flying high overhead, that's what made the shadow, he felt relief. The early rising moon had caught its shape and transmitted it on to the ground by way of a shadow. Thank god for that said Dave to himself with a sense of relief, but now he realized that any plans he had to continue fishing were gone. It was much too late, near ten and time for the pub, last orders. Or as they say in the west, the water hole is closing.
Then from no where a grunt of noise right behind him made him to jump up, leaving his digging stick stuck in the soft ground. He grabbed at the first weapon he saw the stick, the one someone had jammed through the heart of scarecrow. He pulled it free and then saw the cause of the noise a big dirty smelly pig. Now Dave did not know the difference between a pig and a boar. But there was a great difference, a pig would squeak and a bore would bite, just now Dave wanted to be somewhere else, anywhere. So when Dave told the story later to his friends it was a big pig, as big as a horse. This was one thing that John Wayne never had to fight.
God it was big and angry-looking, with eyes that caught the moonlight and burnt back at him like the red-hot coals of a fire. The beast's teeth shone like wet stainless steel knives in the moonlight, and Dave knew in his mind that they could rip him apart as easily as he might shred the local newspaper with his hands, for there were times he wanted to with the crap they put in it ever week. Why was he thinking like this with a big pig standing a few feet from him and he did not know what to do. It would do no harm now if John Wayne were here to help.
The pig turned its head slowly from side to side and then snorted as a bull would in a bull fight; it was as if it was taking in the smell of Dave. Dave tried to hold his ground by looking at the eyes of the pig. Come and get me just like they did in the Alamo, when the Mexican fighters out numbered John Wayne. But then the moonlight shifted in the pig's eyes and made them seem to glow brighter than before, as bright as the moon itself. Dave panicked and began running toward the old abandon house jumping over an old fence and any other thing that got in his way, forgetting about his bike Bess. F'ing and bitching all the way. If I only had a horse like John Wayne had in the film pone express gliding over the land like a man with a mission. He could hear the pig grunting and running behind him, like if it was going to catch him at any moment. It sounded strange as it did, I fact no sound came from it at all as it snapped at his heels. In fact it seemed they the pigs feet were not touching the ground at all, yes it was himself who was making all the noise as he continued to run as if his life depended on it. Dave reached the old front door of the house and grabbed what looked like a door handle. In one speedy action he kicked it opened, then jumped inside and pushed it shut, damn this he said to him self with his back to the door. Just then the pig rammed the door with all its force and the house gave out a rattled like dry old bones.
The door had some sort of a bar lock, well it was really a piece of two by two just like the bit he had on his back gate at home, so Dave pushed it and it dropped into place. He leaped back, holding the stick from the scarecrows heart in his hand to use as a weapon; it was times like this he wished he had a gun like John Wayne.
The ramming continued for some time with squeaks that got louder and louder and banging that seems to go on for ever, as the evening grew darker. For Dave it seemed like hours, and then like some one switch off a light everything went quiet, not a sound could be heard. In old Mexican village, why did he think of that?
Dave eased himself near the window and looked out, just for one minute he felt like John Wayne the cowboy, as he gets ready to fight off the Redman of America from his cabin door.
O, dam he said as he could see that the pig was standing at the edge of the field near where he had first seen it. And to make things worse the scarecrow was gone, and in its place all that was left was the post that had held it upright. Scared he asked himself what that cowboy would do. Then he said to himself why am I acting like this? I am scared and I am still thinking about cowboys.
Dave was bewildered and mixed up. How and why had the pig chased him to the house and returned to its original position so quickly? And where did the scarecrows go? Had the pig, thinking the scarecrow was a man, torn it from the post with its teeth? Next thing will be the attack and me with no gun. O, no I am at it again, still with the cowboys. The pig turned and vanished into the woods. Dave decided he was safe in the house so he would give the animal time to get far away He checked his watch, it was getting late, but he would waited a few more minutes before going to the saloon, no home. While he waited, he started to look around the house, he felt like Indiana Jones lost in another world of monsters.
The place was reduced to rubble. There were overturned old chairs, a table. Near the broken fireplace, a rusty hatchet was stuck in a large block of wood; it looks like the last stand of the Alamo he said to himself. O, god here I go again with John Wayne. Everything was coated in filth and spider webs, and the stairs that went up to the second landing were it was unstable and rotten with bits missing. Dave was just about to leave and return to his fishing bag and head for his bike that he called trigger, when he heard some sort of a scraping noise. He turned around slowly for a look. The wind was moving the weeds out side, causing them to scrape against the window. Dave felt like a fool and smiled to himself, but it was a grin of fear. Everything was starting to scare him and no John Wayne to help. Then the weeds seemed to move from view and he discovered they were not weeds at all. In fact, they looked like sticks . . . oh, fingers. Now in his head he could see the beast with one hand, another film. Then like a flash he remembered that the scarecrow had sticks for fingers? Covered with wood lice. That was preposterous. Scarecrows just don't move, they can't, he said to himself and this is no film.
Then again, Dave thought as he looked out the window at the scarecrow's post, where had it gone? Great he was about to say when? The knob on the door turned slowly. The door moved in slightly, but the bar lock held. Dave could feel the hair on the back of his neck bristling. Goose bumps moved along his neck and shoulders. What would John Wayne do if he were here? The knob turned again. Then something pushed hard against the door. This time a lot harder.
Dave dropped the stick and pulled the hatchet from the log at the fire. He felt like John Wayne in the film Davy Crocket, nothing only a Tommie-hawk and the red men knocking down the cabin door. At the bottom of the door was a hole about an inch wide and with the moonlight shining through the windows made it possible for him to see something scuttling there stick like fingers, long and flexible. They poked through the crack at the bottom of the Door, tapped loudly on the floor, and stretched, Stretched, stretched farther into the room. A flat hand made of a glove, hay, and sticks appeared. It began to c limb on the end of a knotty vine of an arm, Wiggling its stick fingers as it rose. It climbed along The door and Dave realized, to his horror and shock, That it was trying to reach the door lock. God I need a Gun he said to himself as he backed away in the Shadows of the room.
Dave stood cold in the shadows, watching the fingers push and free the latch. Dave came unfrozen long enough to jump forward and chop down on the knotty elbow, cutting it in two. The hand flopped to the floor and grabbed so hard at the old floorboards that it scratched large strips of wood out of them. Then it stopped and was still. But Dave had moved too late. The doorknob was turning again. Dave darted for the stairway like John Wayne would have running for his horse. Then he ran up the staircase two steps at the time. Behind him came a scuttling sound. He was almost to the top of the stairs when the step beneath him gave away and broke, his foot went through with a screech of nails and a crash of rotten timber. Dave let out a scream as something grabbed hold of the back of his coat. He pulled free, tearing his jacket and losing the old hatchet in the process. He then pulled his foot free and crawled rapidly on hands and knees to the top of the stairs. Dam and a few other words came out of his mouth as he looks back at the dark stairs.
He then struggled to his feet and raced down the dark corridor like a snake looking for a place to hide. Moonlight s hone through a hall window and projected his shadow and that of his wood like pursuer onto the wall. Then the creature jumped onto Dave's back, sending both of them tumbling to the dirty floor They rolled and twisted all over the hallway just like John Wayne did in all his bar fights. Dave howled and clutched at the strong limb wrapped around his throat. As he turned over onto his back, he heard the crunching of sticks under him. The limb loosened its grip, and Dave was able to free himself again. He scuttled along the floor like a cockroach, regained his balance, then dart through an open door and slammed it closed behind him. Once again he asked himself? What would John Wayne do now?
Out in the hall at the other side of the door he could hear it moving. Sticks crackled. Hay swished. The thing was still trying to get to him. How long would the door hold, he asked himself. He looked quickly around over his shoulder, trying to find something to jam against the door, or some place to hide. He saw another doorway and sprinted for that. It led to another hall, and down its length were a chain of doors. Dave quickly entered the room at the far end and closed the door silently. He fumbled for a lock, but there was none. He saw a bed and rolled under it, sliding in and up against the wall where it was darkest. Once again he knew in his heart that John Wayne would not get under a bed, but then again John Wayne never had to run from a scarecrow. The moon was rising, and its light was inching under the bed. Dust particles swim in the moonlight like orbs. The ancient bed smelled like mildewed and was damp. Outside in the hall, Dave could hear the thing scooting along as if it were sweeping the floor. Scooting closer. Just like the red men did in the films.
A door opened. Then banged closed. A little later another bang, when another door opened and closed. Then another, it just went on and on until he could hear it in the room next to his. He knew he should try to escape, but to where? He was trapped. If he tried to rush out the door, he was certain to run right into it. Shaking like a frightened kitten, he pushed himself farther up against the wall, as close as possible. If he could have got in to a crack in the wall he would have. God what would John Wayne do? The bedroom door creaked open. The scarecrow shuffled into the room. Dave could hear it moving from one side to the other, pulling things from shelves, tossing them onto the floor, smashing glass, trying to find his hiding place. Please, please, thought Dave, for god sake don't look under the bed. Dave heard it brushing toward the door, and then he heard the door open. It's going to leave, thought Dave. It's going to leave! Thank god. Just for one minute he knew that John Wane had won again. But it stopped. Then slowly turned and walked to the bed. Dave could see the scarecrow's straw-filled pants legs, no boots, and its shapeless straw feet. Bits of hay dropped down from the scarecrow, flew under the bed and lay in the moonlight, just inches away from his nose. John, he said things are starting to go bad again and I need help.
Slowly the scarecrow bent down for a look. The shadow of its Westmeath hat poked beneath the bed before its actual face. Dave couldn't stand to look. He felt as if he was going to scream. The beating of his heart seemed as loud as thunder; he felt it could waken the dead. It was now looking under the bed right at him. Dave, eyes closed, waited for it to grab him, he needed to get out. Seconds ticked by and nothing happened, not even a sound, and then. Dave snapped his eyes open to the sound of the door slamming. Thank god it hadn't seen him. Now he could see himself and John Wayne riding away into the west, with the sun coming up in front of them. The thick shadows closest to the wall had protected him. If it had been a few minutes later, the rising moonlight would have expanded under the bed and exposed him, what luck. Dave lay there, trying to decide what would John Wayne do? Strangely enough, he felt sleepy. He couldn't imagine how that could be, but finally he decided that a mind could only take so much terror before it needed relief even if it was false relief. He closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep and dreamed about the great fights John Wayne had in all his films. When he awoke, he realized by the light in the room that it was near sunrise. He had slept for hours. He wondered if the scarecrow was still in the house, searching. Getting up the nerve, Dave crawled from under the bed. He stretched his back and turned to look around the room. He was startled to see a skeleton dressed in rotting clothes and sitting in a chair at an old desk that was falling apart. God this is one thing John Wayne never woke up to. Last night he had rolled beneath the bed so quickly that he hadn't even seen the skeleton. Dave noticed a bundle of yellow papers lying on the desk in front of it. He picked up the papers, carried them to the window, and held them to the dawn's growing light. It was a kind of diary. Dave scanned the contents and was amazed.
The skeleton had been a man named Jim Ryan. When Ryan had died, he was sixty-five years old. At one time he had been a successful solicitor in Athlone. But when his wife died, he grew lonely so lonely that he decided to create a friend. Ryan built it of cloth and hay and sticks. Made the mouth from the jawbone of a dog. The rib cage he unearthed in one of the fields. He couldn't tell if the bones were human or animal. He'd never seen anything like them. He decided it was just the thing for his new friend. He even decided to give it a heart one of the old valentine hearts his beloved wife had made for him. He fastened the heart to the rib cage, closed up the chest with hay and sticks, dressed the scarecrow in his old evening clothes, and pinned an old Westmeath football hat to its head. He kept the scarecrow in the house, placed it in chairs, set a plate before it at meal times, even talked to it. And then one night it moved. At first Ryan was surprised and frightened, but in time he was delighted. Something about the combination of ingredients, the strange bones from the field, the dogs jaw, the valentine heart, perhaps his own desires, had given it life. The scarecrow never ate or slept, but it kept him company. It listened while he talked or read aloud. It sat with him at the dinner table. But come daylight, it ceased to move. It would find a place in the shadows a dark layer or the inside of a wardrobe. There it would wait until the day faded and the night came. In time, Ryan became afraid. The scarecrow was a creature of the night, and it lost interest in his company. Once, when he asked it to sit down and listen to him read, it slapped the book from his hand and tossed him against the kitchen wall, knocking him unconscious. A thing made of straw and bones, cloth and paper, Ryan realized, was never meant to live, because it had no soul and with out a soul it had no god. One day, while the scarecrow hid from daylight, Ryan dragged it from its hiding place and pulled it outside.
It began to thrash about and fight him, but the scarecrow was too weak during the day to do him damage. The sunlight made it smoke and crackle with flame. Ryan hauled it to the centre of the field, raised it on a post, and secured it there by ramming a long stick through its chest and paper heart. It ceased to twitch, smoke, or burn. The thing he created was now at rest. It was nothing more than a scarecrow. The pages told Dave that even with the scarecrow controlled; Ryan found he could not sleep at night. He let the house go to ruin, became sad and miserable, even thought of freeing the scarecrow so that once again he might have a friend. But he didn't, and in time, sitting right here at his desk, perhaps after writing his diary, he died. It could have been fear, or loneliness that killed him. Astonished, Dave dropped the pages on the floor. The scarecrow had been imprisoned on that post for no telling how long. From the condition of the house, and Ryan's body, Dave decided it had most likely been years. Then I came along with John Wayne, he thought, and removed the staff from its heart and freed it. Daylight, thought Dave. In daylight the scarecrow would have to give up. It would have to hide. It would be weak now. By gum John Wayne and I are out of here. Dave glanced out the window. The thin rays of morning were growing longer and redder, and through the trees he could see the red ball of the sun lifting over the horizon and shining on the Shannon. Less than five minutes from now he would be safe. A sense of comfort flooded over him. He was going to beat this thing. He leaned against the glass, watching the sunrise and thinking about the great fights of the Duke. A pane fell from the window and crashed onto the roof outside. Uh-oh, thought Dave, looking toward the door. He waited. Nothing happened. There were no sounds. The scarecrow had not heard. Dave sighed and turned to look out the window again. Suddenly, the door burst open and slammed against the wall. As Dave wheeled around he saw a figure charging toward him, flapping its arms like the wings of a big crow taking flight. It pounced on him, smashed him against the window, breaking the remaining glass. Both went hurtling through the splintering window frame and fell onto the roof. They rolled together down the slope of the roof and onto the grassy ground. It was a long drop twelve feet or so. Dave fell on top of the scarecrow. It cushioned his fall, but he still landed hard enough to have the breath knocked out of him.
The scarecrow rolled him over, straddled him, and pushed its hand tightly over Dave's face. He could smell the rotting hay and decaying sticks, feel the wooden fingers thrusting into his flesh. Its grip was growing tighter and tighter. He heard the scarecrows dog teeth snapping eagerly as it lowered its face to his. Suddenly, there was a bone-chilling scream. At first Dave thought he was screaming, and then he realized it was the scarecrow. It leaped up and dashed away. Dave lifted his head for a look and saw a trail of smoke whispering around the house.
Dave found a heavy rock for a weapon, and forced himself to follow. The scarecrow was not in sight, but the side door of the house was partially open. Dave looked through a window. The scarecrow was violently flapping from one end of the room to the other, looking for shadows to hide in. But as the sun rose, its light melted the shadows away as fast as the scarecrow could find them. Dave jerked the door open wide and let the sunlight in. He got a glimpse of the scarecrow as it snatched an old thick curtain from a window, wrapped itself in it, and fell to the floor. Dave spied a thick stick on the floor it was the same one he had pulled from the scarecrow. He tossed aside the rock and picked up the stick. He used it to flip the curtain aside, exposing the thing to sunlight. The scarecrow bellowed so loudly that Dave felt as if his bones and muscles would turn to jelly. It sprang from the floor, darted past him and out the door.
Feeling braver now that it was daylight and the scarecrow was weak, Dave chased after it. Ahead of him, the weeds in the field were parting and swishing like cards being shuffled. Floating above the weeds were thick twists of green and yellow smoke? Dave found the scarecrow on its knees, hugging its support post like a drowning man clinging to a floating log. Smoke coiled up from around the Scarecrow's Westmeath hat and boiled out from under Its coat sleeves and pants legs. Dave poked the scarecrow with the stick. It fell on its back, and its arms flopped wide. Dave rammed the stick through its open chest, and through the valentine heart. He lifted it from the ground easily with the stick. It weighed very little. He lifted it until its arms draped over the cross on the post. When it hung there, Dave made sure the stick was firmly through its chest and heart. Then he ran for his bike like John Wayne running for his horse to get out of town.
Sometimes even now, a year later, Dave thinks of his fishing gear and his bag. But more often he thinks of the scarecrow. He wonders if it is still on its post. He wonders what would have happened if he had left it alone in the sunlight. Would that have been better? Would it have burned to ashes? He wonders if another inquisitive fisherman has been out there and removed the stick from its chest. He hopes not.
He wonders as he lay in his bed, if the scarecrow has a brain and a memory. He knew it had tried to get Ryan, but Ryan some how had beaten it, and Dave had beaten it too. But what if someone else unchained it and let it loose and then scarecrow got him? Would it then come after Dave too? Would it want to finish what it had started? Or had it something else on it mind.
Was it really possible, by some kind of supernatural? Instinct, the scarecrow would be able to track him down? Could it travel by night in darkness? Sleep in ditches and old houses and sheds, burying itself deep under dehydrated leaves and branches to hide from the sun?
Could it at minute be on its way to his home while he? trued to sleep? He often dreamed of it coming. In his dreams, Dave could see it gliding with the shadows, shuffling along, inching nearer and nearer And what about those sounds he'd heard earlier tonight, outside his bedroom window? Were they really what he had concluded dogs in the wheelie bin?
Had that shape he'd glimpsed at his window been the fleeting shadow of a flying owl, or had it beenDave rose from bed, checked all the locks on the doors and windows, listened to the wind blow around the house, and decided not to go outside for a look. What would John Wayne do now?
(C) Copyright James Hayes, 2008
James Hayes is the author of several books that are available in print or by download.