On the school run each morning there are a number of routes I can take, but I usually opt for one tiny back road that not only cuts about a mile off the journey, but offers me dual advantages of no traffic and very little cow poo. I realise that your average person wouldn't likely take cow poo into consideration when calculating the most efficient route to school, but this is Ireland, remember, and I live down a warren of back roads lined with dairy farms. Cow poo is something I consider frequently.
This morning, like every other, Caoilte and I set off to school, laughing along the way at a small bird that seemed about to flap itself to death trying to outrun our car. This happens a lot, actually. We very often find ourselves chasing some poor bird or rabbit that seems hell bent on leading us down the road rather than moving out of the way.
When we arrived at the school I let Caoilte out and dutifully watched him go into the building, then I headed back to the house. Up the Carricknamana road I went, turned left at the top of the hill, and was engaging fairly heavily in some serious coffee fantasy when I pulled up short behind a load of dairy cows breakfasting on either side of the road. This wouldn't be an unusual sight anywhere else up here, but on this little rarely-used road it was quite a surprise. In all the time I've lived here, I've never seen cows on this tiny stretch of potholed blacktop.
There's not a lot to do when you wind up trapped behind a cow parade other than crawl along behind, so that's what I did. The two in the back seemed a bit put out by my lurking and increased their pace to a slow jog until they caught up to the others, then we all just settled in for the ride. Seconds later a HUGE green tractor came screeching up behind me, blaring its horn like it was late to a fire. I thought perhaps he wanted to pass me, but the narrowness of the road left me nowhere to go. The only options I had were to continue on behind the cows or pull off the road and into the ditch. Really, I wasn't about to take the ditch. I was already so close to the cows' hindquarters I could have told you if one had farted. I stopped, peering curiously into the rear view mirror.
Out of the tractor hopped a little old man, hat barely on his head, stick in hand, screaming as he hopped down the road, "Did yis not hear me blowing the feckin' horn?! Jesus, I was blowin' the feckin' horn! Did yis not hear me blowin' the feckin' horn?!" I didn't have a chance to answer as he ran down the road, waving his stick, screaming "ye bastards!!" at the top of his lungs. I realised that the cows weren't being led into a field down the lane, as I had assumed, but had gotten away from this guy at some point and he was now having to chase them down to get them back. By following them I had inadvertently pushed them further down the lane. Oops! I backed up and looked for a place to turn around, but I couldn't get past the tractor, which was taking up nearly all the lane. There was nothing I could do but sit and wait for the cows to come back up, followed by the angry old farmer.
The cows came up, one by one, and squeezed by my car like lipids navigating a clogged artery; I am prepared neither to confirm nor deny the sucking up of a seat cushion or two as these huge things passed close enough to jostle my mirror. The farmer finally came into view, following up the herd, still yelling "ye bastards" at them between swishes of his stick, hat clinging precariously to his head as he cursed and spat and stomped his little wellies. When he reached my car I put the window down and apologised for what I now realised was partially my fault. I explained that I had thought they were being led into a field down the lane, and that if I'd known they were loose I wouldn't have followed them. "Ach," he said (he was missing some teeth), "ahm te auld to be running after these wee bastards! They shoulda' gone in the gate, ah was TWO MINUTES behin' 'em, the bastards -- GET UP ye bastards!! -- ahm too aul' for this, the feckin' bastards..." It was all I could do not to laugh as I put the car in first and drove on down the lane toward home.
Later, over tea in Lucy's kitchen, I related my story. "Ah," said Larry, "that could be nobody else but Reid. Aye, he'll give ye a touch, now!" Lucy laughed and nodded.
I love living here.