When the animals bar my way

by ericavanhorn

2 June Thursday

When the animals bar my way, I turn off the engine and wait.  If I am not in a car but I am walking I hop up on a gate to be out of the way. It is silly to get impatient. Today there was a great waving of arms by the farmer on the road. I was driving so I pulled off a bit to the side and waited. The farmer had a huge smile on his face.  Within minutes I understood his amusement. It was not just the sunny day.  A crowd of very young calves were rushing behind him.  There were about thirty of them. They were sort of high stepping in their eagerness.  One of them would turn its head to look behind him and very soon he had changed direction.  His body had unexpectedly followed his head and he was crashing and bumping into the other calves.  Because one changed direction another one would change direction too. They were all stumbling and bouncing off one another.  It was a thrilling time for them to be themselves. They did not know where they were going and it was obvious that it was the first time they had gone anywhere in a group. They had very thin legs and they were wobbly. As always with very young heifers it is difficult to use the word herd.  Herd suggests a kind of group sense and a comprehension of group movement.  This was just chaotic bumbling exhilaration while running along.  The farmer’s wife came up in the rear flapping her arms up and down and smiling with the same big smile on her face. It was impossible not to smile. The thrill of this small movement from one field to another field in the sunshine was infectious.

1 June Wednesday

Paudie’s brother died four years ago. He remembers the date exactly but he told me that he himself does not actually need to remember the date. He knows that the anniversary of his brother’s death will be marked by his parents in the same way each year. The Mother will be wearing one of The Brother’s hoodies all day. The Father will walk the dog while wearing The Brother’s favorite track suit. No one will say a word about the clothes being worn. Just seeing them will be enough.

Paudie says that the second year was the worst because that was when they lost telephone contact with The Brother. Up until then they had his same phone number and they rang whenever there was something to tell. They reported births and deaths and marriages and new jobs and funny stories and christenings and just any old thing that they knew The Brother would want to know. Everyone in the family rang him. They rang and they heard The Brother’s voice telling them to leave a message so they always left him a message.  His parents and his cousins and his Nana as well as Paudie himself and The Young Fella.  Even some of The Brother’s friends called to let him know when there was to be a big party or when someone had passed their driving test. Everyone left a message. No one wrote a text.

It was a shock on the day when The Mother rang with some bit of something to tell and to leave on the answer phone and she was informed by a recording that the number was no longer in service.  It took them a while to get through to each other and then to the phone people who said that the money in the mobile phone had run out and there was a limit to how long a telephone could still be considered active if it was not active.  The Mother wept and explained that it was indeed active.  She explained that they spoke with The Brother every day or almost every day and she asked how could they take his voice away.  Well, they did and it was too late to connect that same number again and so they lost the voice of The Brother and Paudie said that was the hardest thing after having already lost him once.

31 May Tuesday

Tommie was told to drink more water.  He was told that he needs to hydrate himself.  He needs to hydrate himself on a regular basis but especially now that the days are warm and the sun is high.  Tommie was told that hot sweet milky tea is good but it is not the same as water.  He was told to drink water.  He complained about this to everyone he met. He asked me if I drank water myself.  He said he was too old to start drinking water. He said Why would anyone drink water? It Carries no Flavour.

30 May Monday

The heat continues. No one can believe it.  It goes on and and and it does not rain and everyone is happy although now they are starting to worry for the crops and if it might be getting too hot.  We cannot walk up the Mass Path because it is so overgrown with the cow parsley and other stuff and the only way to walk through all of that is to wear long trousers and long sleeves and since it is too hot for that much clothing we have to do our walking elsewhere.  We decided to meet and go up along the waterfall and then cross the river and cut back on the ridge, over the side of the mountain and then drop down the fields. It was a large loop and maybe a bit hot and exposed for the time of day. Breda had sort of invented this walk and she was eager to do it again.  This would be her fourth time and each time she was refining and varying the route a little bit.  I had done it with her the other day when it was equally hot so I knew I was foolish to do it again in the sun.

Before we set off we saw Michael Kennedy.  Breda called out to him Hello Michael to get his attention because when we had been out the other day we wanted to ask him about the nearby Holy Well.  He came over and I saw that it was not Michael Kennedy but Breda kept talking to him and using his name and he kept answering.  I was sure it was Jimmy Dunne but I could not say anything because I felt like I would be interrupting.  He went down the narrow path with the four of us.  He showed us that there were actually three wells in that place and he said that they were all considered Holy. He said that all the local babies had been dipped into that water no matter how cold it was nor what time of year.  He told us that the small field just beside was called a chapel even though there had never been a building built on it.  It was just a gathering place for any mass held at the holy well so the field got called The Chapel. We walked back to the starting place with the man who was not Michael.  Then we saw Michael himself walk down from his farmyard and Breda recognized her mistake. It was not Michael she had been talking to but his brother Jimmy.  It was not Jimmy Dunne but Jimmy Kennedy.  Jimmy did not mind being mistaken for Michael.  He did not mind being called Michael.  He had simply answered her questions the best he could.

29 May Sunday

I was sitting outside with a book and a cup of tea. It is too warm to do much except to enjoy this weather.  I looked up from the page and saw the fox standing a few feet from my chair. It was the young fox, the one with the bright red shiny coat.  He looked at me and I looked at him.  Neither of us moved. If I had stretched out my leg I could have touched him with my foot.   I went back to my book.  He sat down for a few minutes and then he got up and quietly continued off down the field.

28 May Saturday

David the Egg Man made a visit to the market today.  Everyone was happy to see him. It is maybe two months since he gave up the market.  As always, his leather shoes were well polished.  His eyes were bright. He did not look like someone who had just come out of hospital. He did not look like someone who was almost 85 and just out of hospital.  He explained to each person who greeted him that he had found homes for all of the Laying Hens and he had only kept eight back for himself.  He was wondering if he had been a bit hasty as the eight he had kept did not even lay enough eggs for his own use.  Both of his sons stopped in nearly every day still expecting to find eggs to take home for their families.  Neither of them had adjusted to buying eggs in a shop.

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