Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish Snakes Are Smiling

     I know I just logged a post saying how I wasn't going to be doing much blogging for the time being, because I got a work assignment last week. But it's Sunday, my day of rest, so let me pause to wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day.

     I'm half Irish. Most of my friends don't know that, however, because my name isn't Irish. My father's family hailed from Austria, or so they said, by which they really meant, somewhere in Eastern Europe. When they came to America in late 1800s, Austria ruled half of Europe, so we don't honestly know where they came from, exactly. What I do know is they weren't Polish.

     I still can remember visiting my grandmother when I was a kid, driving up to her old industrial town in New England, where everyone on her street had a name that ended in "ski" or "kov" or "ini," and all the men worked in the local metal factory. My grandmother would sneer at the Poles, spitting and cursing and saying they were no good bums. I, myself, being an American from suburbia, was amazed that she could even tell the difference between a Pole and a Ukrainian or a Hungarian. But she could.

     But that's a subject for another blog post. The Irish side of my family was my mother's clan. She was as Irish, she used to say, as you could get if you came from New Jersey. The names in her family were Callahan, Kiernan, Sullivan and Murphy.

     I won't bore you with the whole family story, as my Uncle Tom used to do, always starting out with, "There were three brothers, Patrick, Frank and Thomas, who lived on a small farm in County Westmeath, along the road to Horseleap, right by the old dangerous bridge . . ."

     My Uncle Tom was a successful lawyer, but also a classic hard-drinking, flush-faced Irishman who loved to tell a story or two. He died at the age of 93, in 1996. So he's long gone now, as are his mostly-made-up stories. But I do miss him.

     Anyway, did you see yesterday's article in the New York Times reporting that Ireland, where St. Patrick drove out all the snakes, now has a problem with snakes slithering through the countryside? Apparently, during the so-called Celtic boom of the 1990s and early 2000s, snakes became popular as pets among the young and newly rich. But when the bust came, these people didn't want to spend the money to feed them and take care of them, so they let them loose into the brush and the heath where they have thrived in the mild wet winters.

     I saw one report that a 16-foot python was found in a garden in Mullingar, the county seat of Westmeath. My Uncle Tom surely could have made a grand story out of that one, he would!

    

9 comments:

Joanne Noragon said...

Six degrees removed, they say. From one half Irishman to another...

DJan said...

Yikes! I didn't know that about Irish snakes and St. Patrick, or pythons... they ARE green, aren't they? :-)

Olga said...

There is a similar problem in Florida Everglades with pythons let loose over the years. They have no natural predators there except humans. Supposedly, pythons have been known to eat small alligators. Anyway, there is a python hunt going on this winter.
Happy St. Patrick's Day. Was St. Patrick even Irish?

Kathleen McCoy said...

I'm nearly 100% Irish (with a lone English great-grandfather on my Mother's side of the family) and I can say that drinking and story telling are in the genes. My father excelled at both. He was also well known for his occasional dramatic "death speeches" when he had the flu or was otherwise under the weather. (They would start off with tearful goodbyes, apologies and expressions of love to the family and progress on to stories of visions of angeles and his sainted mother -- who died of alcoholism before she was 50.) Ironically, he died of a heart attack while yelling at a UPS delivery man, so his real last words were not so lyrical. My Aunt Molly -- my father's sister -- said she never really understood her brother until she went to Ireland and saw him duplicated in pubs across the land! In view of our heritage, my siblings and I abstain from drink, but we love story-telling. Have a very festive St. Patrick's Day, Tom!

Bob Lowry said...

My wife and I have a touch of Irish blood in us, though not enough to enjoy more than one or two bagpipe songs in a row.

Our in-laws, though, have strong Irish ties so we joined them for a traditional dinner this afternoon: corned beef, cabbage, soda bread, and brown-sugar carrots. It was an excellent meal with great company..but I still have a problem with pipe music.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

Sadly or mercifully, I am not Irish in any way shape or form. I once worked with a bunch of Irishmen on Capital Hill (mostly from Tip O'Neal's Office).

What a rowdy bunch they were and St Patrick's Day was pure madness. I was dating an Irishman from New York at the time. A fun group of folks, if not entirely sober at times. Dianne

Galen Pearl said...

I didn't know that about the snakes, either! I'm so glad there are no poisonous snakes in my area, only a few garter snakes in the spring. Loved the family history.

Dick Klade said...

We figured one great-great grandfather should count, even if he was "Scots Irish."

So we went to McGonigals restaurant. Enjoyed the corned beef and cabbage with a bit of Guinness to wash it down. The noise level was up, and so were the numbers of slightly embellished stories.

Nancy said...

Hmmm. Maybe I'll have to leave the Irish countryside off my backpack and rollie travel plans. Or, I'll just stay in town where I'm hoping all of the snakes have departed. Thanks for a great tale. I just discovered your blog. I'll be back for more stories.