"Home Again Home Again" WhispersWest's Profile
Dia Duit Mo Chairde,
I am actually going "home" at the First of May. My parents decided that the Continental airfare rates were too good to pass up so they booked my flight.
Lest those of you struggling with your first trip over feel alone in your plight, even veteran travelers have issues. I have reworked my itinerary several times in the past two weeks. I think I finally have a workable travel plan
The Faeries, I hope, have settled on a route for me....of course, I well know that there will be deviations and detours as I go along. It is their way after all
May 2 - Arrive Dublin - Head to Keady (Two Nights Lodging - Dundrum House) - this will be a meandering route, as I have certain areas that I need to photograph for a book project.
May 3 - Explore Keady & Armagh -
May 4 - Head to Ardara, Co. Donegal (Two nights Lodging - Inis Failin) via Cullybackey (Family Roots) & Sion Mills (Lunch with friends)
May 5 - Explore Slieve League and points North - possibly meet up with Anchoress
May 6 Head to Westport (Over night - Linden Hall ) via Ballyshannon and a stop at the Five Oaks Ranch for a bit of horseback time
May 7 - Head to Roscommon (Overnight - Gleeson's Townhouse) - Dinner with friends and then the seissun at Doorly's
May 8 - head to Rossaveel to grab the ferry to Inis Mor (Two nights lodging - Man of Aran Cottage) - finally meeting up with Youngka!!! Inis Mor will not be the same after we are done!
May 9 - Explore Inis Mor
May 10 - Head to Bunratty (Two Nights Lodging - Bunratty Lodge) - enroute stopping at Coole Park and Thoor Ballylee
May 11 - Explore Loop Head
May 12 - Depart for Phoenix
Two back to back overnights but they make for a less hectic day in the long run. I will enjoy my time at Five Oaks much more without worrying about the drive to Roscommon afterwards.
My focus this trip is two pronged. My primary focus is in getting the photos necessary to complete my book project. Secondly but certainly of no lesser importance, I am tracing family roots in Keady &, if I can work it in, Fenagh.
My name is Bit Devine. At least that is what I have been called for as long as I can remember. I am sure I have a name that I was given at birth but I don't answer to it any more. I am of that rare species, a Tucson Native over the age of forty. With the exception of 6 months when I lived in Fairfield, California, I have lived in the Tucson valley for my entire life. I see no reason to move elsewhere. I tried that once and felt cut off and adrift.
I am a published author of Western Poetry and Children's books. I travel worldwide performing my Western Poetry and Western Music as part of Cowboy Craic. I am also a designer of jewelry, using stone and sterling silver, as well as antique glass and Irish pewter to create unique necklaces, which I sell online and at craft and trade shows. As if that weren't enough, I still occasionally day job on local ranches and work a 9 to 5 job during the week. I also have two teenage sons who remind me daily that I am old and totally uncool because I am a Cowboy.
When I was young & Bullet proof, I rode bucking horses, bareback and saddle, in high school and college on an amatuer level. I also competed in Country dance competitions winning several major titles from 1979 to 1983. I am now content to watch the Rodeos from the back chutes and dancing is only recreational now.
I love to hike, though I don't have much time for it any more. I am also most happy horseback. I love traveling to Pow Wows, Celtic events, Rodeos and Cowboy Gatherings.
Ireland is my favorite place to visit. If I could find a way to spend the 6 hottest months here over there in Ireland, I would be there in a heart beat. Canada, Ontario Province, is where my Father is from. It is another favorite place of travel.
I help to create itineraries for individuals and groups looking to tour Ireland. It is something I have taken up because I want people to appreciate Ireland and love her, as I do.
It has been said that my Ireland mantra should be "Relax, slow down and give in to spontaneity" , as that is the advice I give to someone who is looking for travel advice.
So many people want to see all of Ireland in Twelve days or less. It can be done but you will see most of it through the windshield of your car. Their thinking is that they will only have one chance to see everything. I thought so, too, my first trip over. It was a whirlwind of different towns until I arrived on Inis Mor. It was then that my traveling companion and I had an ephiphany and started slowing down. I have just finished my fifth year of traveling over. The point is that once you go over once, you will have to return, as your heart won't allow you not to do so.
I always advise picking three different areas that you want to spend time exploring and then spending a minimum of three nights in each. If you've the time to spend in one spot, a week long self catering stay in a particular region really helps you to experience Ireland.
I also recommend flying in to Shannon over Dublin. Shannon Airport is much easier to navigate. It is also easier to get in & out of and back on to the motorway.
I have found more off the map, fascinating sites by talking with Locals than I had ever dreamed of finding. That is where the "slow down" comes in to play, as you won't want to stop and chat if you are rushing to get to your next stop.
I have always advocated the "I'm not lost, I just took an unexpected Scenic Detour" philosophy whilst traveling in Ireland. The roads are not always well marked, the maps are not always accurate. However, you can find some really amazing ruins, vistas and local people whilst on those unexpected detours.
Ireland is a small but diverse country, both in her landscape and her people, take the time to really absorb all she has to offer and your experiences will be enriched.
We made our second journey to the Emerald Isle to perform our Music and Poetry, which vividly brings to life the culture and heritage of the American West. From Chicago to Monasterevin, it would seem that we drew attention no matter what we were doing. I sometimes wonder what it is that makes the Cowboy so vibrant to so many different cultures.
In Chicago, as we waited for our flight to Shannon, most conversations started with "I thought there were no more Cowboys." or "Nice hat, can I try it on?" Boarding the Queen of the Arans ferry that would take us to Inis Mor, the Captain and crew all announced, in booming voice, "COWBOYS! They've come back!" Somewhere in Japan, there is a group of people telling their family and friends about the Cowboys who sang for them while they ate lunch, in a small cottage on Inis Mor. No matter the town or village, a stroll down the sidewalk would guarantee us numerous drive-by Yee-haws and Yahoos, as well as queries of "are you from Texas?" and "where did you park your horse?" Any time we ventured into a pub, all conversation would stop for a moment, as the other patrons stopped to size us up. Inevitably, it would be the man with the most pints down who would loudly exclaim "John Wayne!" or "J.R. Ewing!" It would seem that the mythic west is alive and well in celluloid and reruns.
There was the deep connection of music to be celebrated, as well. As we performed and lectured across Ireland, we took notice of the powerful draw that our music and poetry had on people from all nationalities, Irish, Japanese, Polish, Korean, Czech, French, British, Sicilian and a myriad of others that would be impossible to list here. The first of course was the Japanese tour group on Inis Mor, who were quite surprised to find Cowboys sitting in the parlor of Man of Aran Cottage playing a guitar and singing, "Please, to play for us" came the polite request. Fifteen minutes of Cowboy songs and Casey's signature "Hooty" brought delight not only to the Japanese tourists but to us, as we noticed their enthusiasm for the songs and smiled as they all walked out to board the bus "yodeling" the Casey way, "Hooty, Hooty, Hooty, Hooooo." Then there was the small, impromptu session at our rented cottage, Abbeyview, in Ballybrittas, to which we invited our hosts and a "few" of their friends. At ten o'clock on a Wednesday evening, people began arriving and the influx never truly stopped. We had a Bass player, Banjo player, guitarist, keyboard player and a delightful man who brought bongos and a penny whistle, but who also christened my new Bodhran. Did they come to play traditional music? Most assuredly they had and did. However, they were also unabashed in their rendition of such American songs as Kansas City, City of New Orleans and a medley of silver screen era western songs.
Our last night in Monasterevin found us saying our good-byes to the other Gerard Manley Hopkins Summers Session attendees. There were moments to treasure as Casey patiently taught one of the Japanese participants to sing Streets of Laredo. The director, Desmond Egan, sang Bard of Armagh in traditional A Cappella style and Jeff's solo of Green Grow the Rushes became an impromptu harmony of international voices on the final chorus.
However, it was the children and their reactions, which stuck with us as we traveled. From the small girl, who almost fell down the stairs as she was backing up to stare at Jeff & Debra at a coffee shop in Galway, to the small boy, in Roundstone, who walked off a curb while gawking at the cowboys, it was their words and the looks on their faces we quoted and described most often. "Hello Cowboy Man!" the small girl said to Jeff as she noticed him sitting just inside the door. Then, more incredulous, "Oh! Hello Cowboy Woman!" as she realized Debra was sitting there, as well. A tip of the hat to the quick wit of the mother in Roundstone who, as we rushed to assist her child, set him on his feet; dusted him off and said, with a wink, "There now, you're alright! I told you to keep that whiskey bottle out from under your pillow!" God Bless the small four-year old boy, blissfully unaware of the rules of etiquette, in Roscommon, who, weary of hearing poetry, said in a stage whisper "Sing us a song, Cowboy! Please, just sing!"
Young or old, Cowboy or Sailor, Irish born or simply Irish raised, or a visitor from far distant lands, it was the common thread found in music and poem that bound us to one another. No matter the language in which it was sung or spoken, Irish, Sicilian, Japanese, French, English, a picture was painted so vivid and real that you needed no translation. That is what we do with our Music and our Poems, we paint a picture of tradition, honor and life as a Cowboy. We carry them from the campfires and hard trails to the Rodeos, Honky Tonks and travails of the modern Cowboy. In doing so, we forge another bond of friendship and familiarity that transcends cultures and makes strangers into a room full of family so diverse that the heart sings. So we shall take to heart the advice of a small Roscommon boy and continue to paint pictures with our songs, "Sing us a song, Cowboy! Please, just sing!"
In the most unlikely places, connections can be found linking two cultures, two worlds and two vastly different centuries. Such was the case in a small, village in County Laois, Ireland.
At the edge of Ballybritas, on the back road to Vicarstown, sits the dairy farm of Michael and Brigid Dempsey. It is a quiet, unassuming place which probably wouldn't even garner a passing glance were it not for the thatched cottage sitting on its western edge. Abbeyview Cottage epitomizes everything Irish. Its walled front garden, thatched roof and brightly painted door seem to beckon you in to sit a while and enjoy a cup of tea. Built twenty-four years before Columbus discovered America, Abbeyview Cottage is the oldest, continuously inhabited home in Ireland.
This was the cottage we were to call home for a week at the end of July. This was, by luck or fate, where we found a connection that closed the circle between what it is to be Cowboy and what it was to be Irish. The roots began to intertwine with my first knock upon the Dempseys' front door. "Oh my goodness, Cowboys are you?" queried Brigid Dempsey, her eyes twinkling with delight, as she took in the sight of six road weary Cowboys at her stoop. As she unlocked the door to the cottage, she commented that Jack would have been tickled to know that Cowboys were walking upon his lands. Jack, as we would soon discover, was Jack Adair, who, along with Charles Goodnight, established the JA ranch in the Texas Panhandle, nearly one hundred and thirty years ago.
"What brings you to Ballybritas?" Brigid asked as she showed us the layout of the cottage. When told that we were performers of Western Music and Poetry, she expressed a desire to hear some of our work. We offered to play for them one of the evenings while we were there, which helped to lay the groundwork for a most memorable occurrence.
To the Dempseys' amazement, their cottage guests were up at seven to help bring in the herd for milking. Their new pup, Maxie, was benefiting from the patient training she was receiving on what her job was as a cow dog. B.J. was there at the evening milking, not to observe, but to participate. A friendship grew and once again the roots were being woven tighter.
Wednesday evening found us bringing in the dairy cows, once again. As we walked along with Brigid, B.J and I quickly learned that the "small bit" of music and poetry we were planning to do for the Dempsey family had evolved into a small Jamboree. "I've some eggs put aside for your breakfast tomorrow morning, in case we eat up all your food", commented Brigid, creating a moment of panic, as BJ & I suddenly realized that we were expected to provide more than tea & coffee. However, Cowboys are a resourceful bunch. While the rest of us prepared for a concert we were attending that evening prior to entertaining the Dempseys and a few of their neighbors, BJ took stock of what we had in the fridge and cupboards. When it comes to making hors d'oeuvres from leftovers and the odd can of tuna and salmon, BJ has now been crowned the Cowboy Martha Stewart! With fifteen minutes before the Jamboree was to begin, BJ whipped up salmon salad on crackers, cucumber sandwiches, cheese slices, cookie plates and enough tea & coffee to feed more than what we assumed were coming.
Irish folk are punctual, this we learned as the first knock on the door sounded precisely at half past ten that night. The first of a "few" neighbors and friends passed through the door and on back to the patio carrying an upright Bass, a guitar case, a banjo case, bongo drums and a tin whistle. It was then we realized that we were in for a night of seriously good Craic (fun, for those who don't speak Irish}! Edward, who had stopped by the previous evening, showed up soon after bringing his electric keyboard. As the musicians set up, Michael began bringing in straw bales for seating. As I watched the bales increase in number from five to fifteen, I began to understand that "few" was a relative term.
What a night it was! The musical gamut was run from Traditional Irish music, some older than time and some written by the musicians themselves, to Silver Screen & Honky Tonk Western music. There was Poetry, as well, both Cowboy and Irish. If you ever want an insight into the "Troubles", you only have to hear or read "The Papist and The Prod", whose author is unknown, and which was artfully recited by Edward. Jeff was well received, both with his harmonica and his Poems. Debra, after she was brought from behind her camera, delighted our guests with her story of "Snakes in the Décolletage" and a few of her own Poetry pieces. BJ, not to be out done, told wickedly, delightful stories about the oddities in her freezer. Casey & I sang out, raising up the trail songs and a few new pieces we had written. As the night progressed and the music encouraged, there was dancing, Cowboy and Irish. Through out it all, there was laughter and a sense of those who had lived before also joining in the gaiety.
"Auld Triangle" to "Old Paint", "Place in the Choir" to "Kansas City", the courtyard reverberated with the sounds of roots intertwining, friendships being built and a ghostly chorus reaching forward to sing the past. We sang every song that we could recall, were surprised by the repertoire of American songs that the local musicians brought to be sung and, when it came time to say goodnight, marveled at how quickly the hours had flown past. As the last of our guests left, I felt sadness and a sense of fullness. I couldn’t help wondering just how many other Jamborees had been held within these walls. Did they throw an American Wake for Jack Adair or was it a celebration of his leaving? How different the landscape of Palo Duro and the Panhandle must have been to a native son of Ireland. As the circle of roots intertwined and closed, I said a prayer for the soul of Jack Adair and asked for blessings on the Cowboys who now ride his trail. Fate or luck, We will never know for sure. From Ireland to Texas and back again, the Circle is now complete.
On the West Coast of Ireland, in the picture perfect village of Doolin, there is a Bodhran player with a passion for something other than his music. Though the passion for his traditional Bodhran playing is plainly evident, it is his passion for one of America's iconic Cowboys that brought Lester, Chris, Casey & I together at McGann's Pub on a rainy Saturday July evening.
"Are ya real Cowboys?" was his first question. Without waiting for an answer, he fired off his second "Did you know Roy Rogers?" He set his Bodhran aside and came to join us. He was eager to talk with us about his childhood hero. "I sent him a letter when I was eight to tell him how much he meant to me but I never heard back." he stated. "So I sent another letter when I was eighteen, telling him that I was a better man because of what he had taught, again with no reply", he said with a chuckle. He talked about watching Roy on the television set in his small parlor, ran off an amazing litany of facts concerning Roy Rogers and was not the least bit ashamed to admit that he knew little about Dale Evans. "She was a pretty colleen, but Roy was my focus", he said "after all, I wanted to grow up to be just like him."
His break over, he got up to return to playing but before he left he asked us to take one more letter to his hero. "I know he has passed, but maybe it would mean something to his relations." he said solemnly. Casey agreed to hand carry the letter to Cheryl Rogers Burnett, much to Lester's delight. After the next set, he came back holding a letter he had written on the back of his grocery list and wearing the look of a child awakening on Christmas morn to find his fondest wish had been delivered. Lester named his dog, Roy and his car Trigger. I would like to think Roy would find pleasure in that tidbit.
As the three of us headed for the door, the musicians broke into Happy Trails and Lester blew me a kiss. We walked back to our lodgings talking about an Irish Bodhran player, his 58 years of loyalty and his tenacity of spirit. The note was tucked safely in Casey's shirt pocket. He will deliver it to Cheryl Rogers Barnett and once again close the circle between an Irishman and his Silver screen hero. For us, it once again proves that "Cowboy" is known and revered in some of the most extraordinary, unexpected places we travel. Some where tonight there is another "Cowboy" tucking away his Bodhran, finishing his pint and heading down the trail with "Roy" trotting at his side.
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