Cormac MacConnell: Do not fear call of the wild

It’s a seasonal yarn about the strident call of the wild I have for ye today.

I don’t think I told ye this one before but, even if I did, there are a few of you out there that would have missed it the last time.

And, of course, as always, it is the pure truth.

This one was amongst many that came to me through my late, lovely father-in-law, Mick Conlon from Ennistymon in West Clare.

Mick was a farmer in airy Deerpark, above the town.

We were brother widowers in our later years, because his daughter, my wife, died tragically young.

After the grieving that bonded us even closer, he told me many the great, earthy yarn, from his youth in the ’20s and ’30s of the last century.

What happened was that his father went out to Liscannor on farm business one autumn, and returned home with a Moher goose in a jute bag over his shoulder.

The men from beside the Cliffs of Moher were glad to sell their geese at that time for scarce cash, and this one was destined to be fattened up for the family Christmas dinner.

The formidable granny of the farmhouse told her son to clip the goose’s wings well before releasing her, because anything that came from Moher was wild.

The father duly did clip the wings, and then the Moher goose was released into the gardens and the fields at the front of the farmhouse.

She had free range, and good feeding, and she began to dramatically stack on the weight.

It was about this week of that Christmas season, when the granny suddenly and urgently called young Mick, to run out at once and catch the Moher goose.

The granny had seen a skein of wild geese pass over her, calling out loudly, and the Moher goose was very excited altogether.

Mick ran out at high speed up the hill, but dammit, the “V” of wild geese returned again, lower and slower, calling excitedly, and dammit if the Moher goose, gobbling and gabbling, did not launch herself into the air after them.

But the clipped wings and heavy undercarriage betrayed her and, said Mick, she crashed into a thorn bush, and he was sure he’d catch her.

But the wild geese returned one last time, flying even lower and slower.

The Moher goose that was to be his Christmas dinner launched herself skywards again, just as he came close to her.

He made a running jump to catch her trailing yellow legs, but missed her by about an inch, and his Christmas dinner tucked herself in at the back of the flock and flew away in the direction of the Cliffs of Moher and freedom.

He was in his eighties, was Mick, when he told me that yarn, and the pain of it was still written across his face.

And why would’nt it be?

Another one he told me, and another great regret in his life, was maybe a decade or so later, in his prime, he had just finished mowing a meadow beside the Inagh river with his horse, when there was a swirl in the river beside the meadow, and who did not emerge but the beautiful McNamara girl that later married Dylan Thomas, and who was of the bohemian family that lived in what is now the Falls Hotel.

She was wearing just a white chemise which left little to the imagination, and he was afraid to even look at her, as she boldly asked him if she could borrow his mare for a ride.

Mutely, he swabbed the mare’s back with a wisp of grass.

She lithely swung up on the mare, and it was then he saw she was wearing a gold chain around her ankle.

He was afraid to look any higher than that! This was the 1930s, ye must remember.

Sitting there for a moment, she looked down at him.

He was a fine handsome man all his life.

She boldly enough asked him if he would like to come along for the ride.

The pure truth, yet again.

But the same granny that had first spotted the flight of the Moher goose was looking out through the same farmhouse window, and she was as sharp as a tack.

So Mick just silently shook his head, and away she rode alone into the sunset of Deerpark. And he had regrets about that, too, all his long life, and told me so.

Under other circumstances, the call of the wild might have manifested itself again!

That’s it.

That is all ye are getting from me this year.

As I said last week, make sure and enjoy every second of every minute of the season that is in it and, God willing, we will meet up again when the new calendar is a-hanging like a bright gold chain around the young ankle of another January.

And don’t be too afraid of the call of the wild either.


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