ballyshannon, donegal, irish newspapers online, ireland, irish history, irish literature, irish famine - Linking Canada and Ireland - Linking Canada and Ireland

Page 8 of 18
An Asinine Caper

In the early days of the Garda Síochána, members of the force stationed in country towns were the only visible symbols of state authority. Their writ ran large, and how they exercised it depended mainly on prevailing local conditions. In most areas, serious crime was non-existent, and the bulk of a policeman's work was taken up with enforcing various statutes governing agricultural matters. Two of the principal offences were failure to curb the growth of certain weeds, and failure to dispose properly of the carcases of dead animals.

If one were of a cynical bent, nowadays the obnoxious weeds offence would embrace certain varieties of mushrooms and attempts to cultivate cannabis, a far cry from allowing fields to fall prey to an infestation of dandelions and ragwort.

While allowing the spread of weeds was the more frequent of the two offences to appear on a court calendar, the failure to bury dead animals was viewed as a graver offence, was vigorously prosecuted, and a perpetrator more heavily fined. Such a system led one group of local jokers to profit from the plight of one unfortunate farmer, bed-ridden with a ferocious bout of constipation and waiting for a doctor's visit and subsequent relief. That the particular farmer concerned was so mean "he would steal the cross off an ass's back if he could sell it and still keep the animal", may have prompted the measures taken by the smartalecks involved.

The story began innocently enough. It was still in the early days of motor traffic. Some country roads had not yet been traversed by a single automobile, and donkeys which strayed on them simply didn't know enough to move out of the way whenever a car appeared. This farmer's donkey was one of them, and when a car, whose loud engine had already trumpeted its approach, whizzed suddenly around a bend, the inevitable happened.

One dead donkey. One broken headlamp.

"What do we do?"

"Damn him, and damn his donkey too!"

"That's not going to pay for my headlamp!"

"I hear he's confined to the bed."

"I'd confine him to more than his bed, let me tell you. Look at my headlamp! Smashed to smithereens!"

There was no grieving for the poor dead donkey.

"Look, lads, if the Guards come across the donkey lying in the road, sure he'll have to pay a fine. And he won't like that! That'll pay him for letting it loose."

"But it won't pay me for my headlamp!"

"Wait a minute. Supposing we were to remove the donkey, wouldn't that be worth something to him?"

"By gor, you've hit on something there."

Off went two of the car's occupants to inform the farmer of his donkey's fate, killed by one of those newfangled motor cars and left lying in the middle of the road where any patrolling policeman was bound to come across it and issue a summons.

"Holy God, men, what am I going to do? I can't lift a leg out of the bed the way I am. Can you help me? I could make it worth your while!"

"Well, I suppose we could manage to drag it off the road and bury it in your field beside. For a price, of course."

Between hemming and hawing, payment of ten shillings was agreed upon, and the farmer told them where to find the necessary rope and spades. Burial services soon followed. The rope and spades were returned, and a ten bob note--ten shillings in those days was a fair amount of money--was handed over.

End of story? By no means.

Two hours later, two other passengers in the motor car just happened to be out for a stroll past the farmer's field in which reposed the last mortal remains of the donkey so suddenly cut off in the prime of life.

"We'd better tell him," said one.

"It would be the christian thing to do," said the other. "And the poor man confined to his bed!"

Up to the farmhouse they went, and into the bedroom. No doctor had turned up. The farmer's plight was more painful than before.

"I'm sorry to bring you bad news," said the first of the visitors. "It's your ass!"

"Sure and don't I know all about it. Those mad eejits in their motor cars killed me donkey dead and left it lying there. Cost me ten shillings to bury it."

"Oh, 'twas buried all right. But, my poor man, whoever did it buried it on its back, and its four legs and hooves are sticking up out of the ground! Sure a policeman couldn't help but notice them!"

Even at this date I choose to refrain from repeating what the constipated farmer said on hearing this news. There are certain words that still haven't made their way into the vocabulary of even the foulest-mouthed oaf, and I don't intend to put them there. Suffice it to say his outburst, if directed to his swollen gut, would have cured him on the spot.

And that was how, on payment of another ten shillings, the provision of rope and spades, and the expenditure of some muscle power, the donkey was exhumed and reburied, the only ass to have two burials in one day in the recorded annals of our history.

The twenty shillings extracted from the farmer paid for the broken glass in the car's headlamp, and provided one driver and four passengers with a tale they told into old age, laughing fit to burst in the telling.

No names, no pack drill. They and the farmer have long gone to join the donkey beneath the clay.

Come the resurrection on the Last Day, I'm sure they'll still be laughing. But not the farmer, nor his ass.

The Friendly Town Navigation
First Page | Previous Page | Next Page | Last Page


Home | About | Canadian Vindicator | Literature | Gallery | History