A fox and cat and hedgehog story

I have told as many tall stories as the next man, along the barstools in the kind of lively pubs that still flourish here in East Clare.

A fox and cat and hedgehog story

I have told as many tall stories as the next man, along the barstools in the kind of lively pubs that still flourish here in East Clare.

This is not one of them.

When I heard the sharp tongue of a fellow drinker, whom we will call Johnny, to protect his future safety along the Wild Atlantic Way, my first reaction was that he had taken one pint too many, and it was this which had triggered his tirade against all our political masters in Leinster House nowadays.

I was seriously wrong, again.

When I checked the details of the amazing environmental sight that Johnny related to us last week, I was dumbstruck, for once.

I’d been misled, because Johnny began his tirade by referring savagely to the recent discovery of a large, fat rat, in the Members’ Bar in the Dáil.

He has no respect at all for politicians, of all parties and none, you see, and claimed strongly there was nothing unusual about rodents being sighted in the Members’ Bar.

He has a very sharp and sardonic tongue, indeed.

Anyway, for whatever reason, I checked out Johnny’s incredible wildlife story, like the old hack I am.

I quickly discovered that he had told us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Inside 48 hours, at the location he’d identified to us, in East Clare, I myself saw the amazing sight he had vividly described.

There was no rat in sight that evening before my wide-open eyes but, I swear on my oath, I observed a young fox eating a chicken dinner on the doorstep of a suburban house, alongside three domestic cats, and a very happy young hedgehog, the first of that prickly species I’ve seen in years.

Furthermore, as the genuine wildlife sanctuary owner confirmed to me later, the young foxes, who frequently appeared from the hedgerows earlier than the young hedgehog, always ensured that some food would be left over after their meal, for when their prickly colleague would appear for his/her dinner.

Then, in their own good time, the foxes and the hedgehog would return back to their free lifestyle in the wild.

And the domestic cats would go to their indoor beds, in the home of a person voluntarily carrying out more genuinely practical services for wildlife than many organisations we hear about constantly on the airwaves.

Again, I have to preserve the identity of this person, at their request.

The work to fill the plates on the outside doorstep has been going on anonymously and quietly for about 20 years, and currently requires this very special environmental giver to feed the urban foxes and the other animals involved at least four cooked chickens every week.

I deeply regret that I cannot reveal anything further about the person involved in such a remarkable exercise, but I’m sworn to secrecy on the subject, and keep my word without stint, under the circumstances.

And no, despite what our friend Johnny claimed at the bar, the cats on the doorstep of this unique Members’ Bar ensure, with their sharp claws, that there isn’t a rodent within a hundred yards of the place.

On the lighter side of things (as is my custom in this space), Johnny’s sardonic take on the situation was that there should not be such a fuss in the media recently, about the appearance of a fat rat in the bar at Leinster House.

He holds to the view that we ordinary citizens that form the electorate for the politicians have been sending droves of those (which he terms urban foxes) up to the Dail for generations, to adorn their special pub, as they hold forth on the programmes they will be launching shortly to enrich and protect our strained environment and especially to protect our dwindling wildlife species throughout the island.

As they broadcast their plans across the media, claims Johnny, the environment benefits much more, evening after evening, from the voluntary work down the years of folk like the person whose chicken dinners will be served up every evening to the animals on the doorstep whilst the politicians enjoy a long summer recess.

As I said at the outset, I thought our Johnny was telling as tall a barstool yarn to us as I have ever heard, before I checked it out and viewed the sight myself.

I swear again that this is not a tall story but another bright fragment of the pure truth.

And we will leave it there for now, because I’m interested in venturing out again, to sit up on a high barstool, and listen to what Johnny is holding forth on tonight.

And I will never again doubt his veracity on matters like this.

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