Saturday, September 05, 2009


We have made our way across Ireland from Shannon to Sleahead on the Dingle Peninsula. We are seven days into the Emerald Isle. Here at Sleahead, these dramatic geological formations behind the GT had inspired David Lean to make the film, " RYAN'S DAUGHTER ". On the beach below this point, Irish partisans in the film had caused a merchant vessel to wreck on the treacherous rocks after which they gathered arms and ammunition from that wreckage for their cause.

The " struggle " is never far beneath any historical account or late night pub tirade in Ireland. It is as ever-present and abiding as the rocky coast itself. Rugged is the very history of Ireland itself. Never ending are feelings engendered in conflict and passed down ahead of all other traditions, save the Cross. Fatalistic are these people in their curious blend of resistance to their enemy and their grudging surrender to an inequitable fate. They have dug such holes that we dare not look down upon them lest we tumble in after them. The fall is easier than one might imagine. We come to this and not as strangers.

We are in fact four old boys, sons of the South, making our way through this oddly beautiful land. Today in our wandering through the town of Killarney we saw all of the usual tourist traps, the grizzled old boys just a few steps behind the next pint, a juggling fool looking for coins and a tiny boy playing a discordant tune on an accordion, but with neither hope nor container for money. Sometimes we want to spit on the able young deadbeats who shake us down for fun money, but often those who take our hearts in honest ways give us no way to save them. This is an Irish norm.

By and by we ran into " Mustang Sally's " seen in the second photo. There is a fair representation of an early GT in the sign, but the more recognizable ensign is the "Stars and Bars", that not genuine flag of the Confederacy, the victim of every redneck misappropriation from Klan rallies to stock car racing. We would ignore this, but for the fact that it is clear that this version of the Flag is all they know of our "struggle". In sadder study it becomes clear that they feel a kinship perhaps in rebellion, but mostly to the " Lost Cause ". In many foreign countries, young people use the Confederate Flag as an in-your-face revolt against cultural norms, that is, they hate their parents and use this to make the point. In Ireland, however, it's more the kinship to that " Lost Cause " which makes the link.

Few tablets read as truly as the Irishman's face. During a minor cattle stampede yesterday, we spoke to the cattleman as one of our numbers holds cattle back home. When the cattleman found out that we were not English, but citizens of the southern US, his smile was broad and welcoming. He took time out to talk of his cattle, ask after ours, and tell us all about his trips to the US. Some of the men we meet know a bit of Charleston, the seat of Rebellion, and when we tell them that the Mayor of our town is The Honorable Joseph Patrick Riley, Jr., they smile with a pride there is no mistaking.

This evening, our last in the current digs, we had a large table for the evening meal. For the first time in our visit a lady was playing an upright piano, mostly well known show tunes from a printed music book. After a few pops, you know what our boys so often wish to hear which we may not hear back home. It's that very song, that forbidden one. Your humble correspondent took up the dare and went over to the lady who had never asked for requests. When the request was made, she turned with blazing eyes and asked, "'re rebels, are you now ? " to which the only honest answer was " Yes, Ma'am, that we are !"

When you're more than a few sheets to the wind and ever so far from home and a dear old gal plays " DIXIE " on the piano slowly and develops the tune progressively, it's no shame to shed a few tears in land which loves the " Lost Cause " as much if not more the we.


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