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June 27, 2022

An ode to one of the finest holidays of them all

Tis St. Patrick’s Day, the second best holiday of the year
– the first being Ground Hog Day.
Tis St. Patrick’s Day, the second best holiday of the year – the first being Ground Hog Day.

Allow me to put one thing straight at the outset: Patrick did not drive the snakes out of Ireland by cutting out the Old Bushmill.

He was a temperate man and there never were any snakes in Ireland – except the English.

Patrick’s life, circa 385-461, is shrouded in legend. Tis said he responded to a voice and thereafter went among the Irish proclaiming the words of God and giving the Devil hell.

Hard to say, of course, but one source, an old Leprechaun, described him as being 5-foot 10-inches, strong of stature, redheaded and ruddy faced. His scowl was like an impending storm. But when he smiled his entire face smiled with magnetic radiance. With these attributes, he could persuade any crowd to his thinking.

He found that humor was a better adhesive than thunder and used it extensively. That’s why St. Patrick’s Day is one without malice or prejudice, full of smiles and, for some, a touch of holy spirits.

An old story goes that Patrick was taking his evening walk near a cemetery when his thoughts were interrupted by a mournful sound. On entering the hallowed ground, he found a fellow who had fallen into an open grave.

The man looked up at Patrick and said, “Help me. I’m cold.” And Patrick responded, “It’s no wonder. You’ve kicked all the dirt off yourself.” Isn’t that a tragedy?

People of other ethnic origin take pleasure in ribbing the Irish especially around the great holiday. My dad, Larry O’Neill, was behind the counter at Ladd Hardware during the 1930s. He had a shamrock in his lapel and was summing up a tag when Manuel Faria walked in and loudly proclaimed that there is nothing in this world dumber than a dumb Irishman.

My Dad looked up and said:

“Just one thing, Manuel.”

“What could that be?”

“A smart Portugee!”

Mr. Ladd who had heard it all, put his hand over his mouth and went outside.

Clancy’s Dirty Dungeon, a thirst palace, is two steps below street level. Morgan and Ryan rolled up out of there one night, broke and disheveled, and rocked along up the street until they came to a house hosting an Irish wake. They went in and Morgan sat down at the piano.

“I don’t know who the guest of honor is,” he shouted,” “but he sure has a fine set of teeth.”

Well, they got bounced out of there and started walking the railroad tracks. Panting along, Morgan yelled back, “This is the longest flight of stairs I’ve ever seen.”

Gasping for air, Ryan replied, “I don’t mind the distance so much, but these low banisters are getting me down.”

When Patrick made his apostolic sojourns about Ireland, he not only spread Christianity but also taught how thoughtful words could be used to alleviate distress at dreadful moments. It has been several years now since a cook at the Red Lobster was late for work and decided to pass me and three other cars behind me on two-lane Tarpey Road out of Pajaro. He didn’t see my signal for a left turn onto Pini Road. There was a screech of brakes and smoking tires and WHAM! My Buick Regal wasn’t regal anymore.

In no time at all, it seemed, there was a highway patrol car, a sheriff’s car, a fire truck and an ambulance. We – my wife, my sister and brother-in-law and I – were able to get out on the right side and give depositions to the lady officer.

My head was bleeding profusely from a knock against the seatbelt keeper on the door post. A medic wrapped a bandage around my head. Needless to say, I was sad, angry, and discombobulated.

The activity was a sort of montage. Then another CHP officer arrived on a motorcycle. He dismounted and walked from one clipboard to another getting details. Slowly he turned and looked at me. There was a big, grim face under his helmet.

Slowly he waddled over to where I was leaning against my car. He put his big, grim face six inches from mine and said: “Tell me something, Bucko. How fast were you going when you backed into that man?”

I laughed out loud. “You’re Irish, aren’t you?” I said. Only an Irishman would say a thing like that to a guy in my plight. What’s your name?”

“Moonahan,” he said.

I said. “It had to be. Didn’t it?'”

The awful incident gives rise to only ephemeral images now; but the big, grim, helmeted face of Officer Moonahan will be etched in memory forever. He is truly a disciple of St. Patrick.

Well, I must go now. John O’Brien wants to run the Irish flag up the pole in front of City Hall … Conan Knoll is singing “Danny Boy” in the back of the Free Lance (the Lord preserve us!) … People are gathering at the Inns for a taste of green beer.

The sound of MacNamara’s Band is coming down the street. The drums go bang, and the cymbals clang, and the horns they blare away as a tribute to Old Ireland on Saint Patrick’s Day!

May you be three days in Heaven before the Devil knows you’re gone.

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