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Blarney Stoned

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Bridget died in 525. Ireland mourned as they had never mourned for any…with the possible exception of Patrick. Time was when I believed Castlemaine was the grandest place on God’s green earth, but as I lay here in 2005 in an unmarked grave uncomfortably close to a four lane U.S. highway, I’m thinking maybe the whole Irish blather isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Lord knows (and I trust), those who are seeking my resting place will never ever find me, despite giving it their all. It’s thought I’m buried on the old homestead near Mina where I breathed my last near my only daughter, Mary. For the uninitiated, Mina is the very site where golfer Payne Stewart’s plane plowed into the sod a few years back. That said, myth also says I was planted in Aberdeen, S. Dak. In 1894. What Blarney! But these truths I can tell… It was 1848, when strapping dark-haired John and I arrived on these shores, seeking shelter from the potato blight. He made an honest woman of me on August 15 of that same year, at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield, Mass. I, one Bridget Sheehy (or was it Sullivan or Sheehan?), the ink is smeared on the document), and he, a Moriarty, fifteen years my junior. Soon, we hit the road to Clinton, Iowa with our wee daughter Mary. You can forget about “The Luck 0′ the Irish” thing. I envy St. Bridget, who, entombed in distant Dun next to a Saint named Patrick, fared far better. It was my lot in life to make ends meet ’til I met my end. Truth tell, John and I were illiterate, but I, by far the smarter, was willing to exist on peelings in order to save monies enough to buy two parcels of land along the Cedar River when we left Clinton for Muscatine County, Iowa. I am eternally proud of my “X” at the bottom of a land sale document stashed in their County court house. Along the way, I hoed some mighty tough rows, not the least of which were winters spent in our homestead. By now I’d birthed Maurice and put up with John and his barleycorn, for he was a sawyer of wood (or so goes the census data) and a man as hard as the oak he battled daily. Ours was not a marriage made in Heaven. His leg was as hollow as his head. It’s shocking to admit (even down here), that my ancestors actually uncovered a petition for divorce, brought by John and yes, signed with his “X. I blush to think that in those yellowing documents are allegations that a neighboring farmer, Henry Stoneburner, lifted my skirts on at least two October nights, though I recall far more than two. Worse yet, in his petition John requested monies I’d scrimped and saved. Black was his heart..as black as the hair on his head. Thanks be, he never made off with my savings, but simply wandered away, leaving me to raise Mary and Maurice. It caused a gossipy flap in Muscatine County. Though wretched at times, life outside of this pine box was satisfying enough. Maurice (named after an ancestor, Maurice Moriarty, who chased the Earl of Desmond into the Slieve Mish mountains where he cut off his head and returned it to rot on a pole in England), became a lawyer and writer. Mary married, like all good Irish girls should. The seeds of her labors still wander the vales and valleys of Iowa’s river country. Ten times over was I a grandmother blessed, thanks be to St. Bridget and Maurice, who blessedly never let a devil’s drop touch his lips. He erred only in marrying a Wisconsin German, but that I can forgive. Never, however, will I forgive Mr. Choo Wu, who on a fateful day in ’35, while speeding west to an Iowa-U football game, struck my Maurice son down to an early grave. Last year my ancestors came mighty close to finding me when they were poking around searching for Moriarty bones in Aberdeen. Happily, they came up empty-handed, and well, I do prefer my privacy, but am not, as you might imagine, entirely alone. O’Toole (one row to the south) has loaned me his crumbling copy of The History of the Irish Race, in which author McManus claims “God and Bridget blessed the name of Woman and the Irish Race.” So long. See you where the grass is always green.
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