Saturday, May 4, 2013

International Wee Lamb Rescue

In a manner of speaking, we had been in the company of ghosts all day, and were still looking for more.

The rain was falling soft and steady on the green hills of Ireland’s County Meath as we strode up the steep ridged slopes of earth known as the Hill of Tara.  After first touring the 12th century Malahide Castle near Dublin, and then the 5,000 year old Neolithic stone passage tomb known as Newgrange earlier in the day, we were closing out our day’s ramblings steeped in the mythology of ancient Ireland and the Seat of Kings.

I was traveling with my son, Robert, and my daughter-in-law, Hannah, and we had the entire “heritage site” to ourselves now that visiting hours were long over.  The only exception was a flock of sheep that now inhabited the site where kingship rituals had been performed thousands of years earlier.  The Stone of Destiny stood atop one of the two sets of concentric circles that formed the site, and nearby, entirely wreathed by fencing and with a tarp over the entrance, stood a small Neolithic tomb known as the Mound of the Hostages.  The lush, emerald countryside fell away from the hills in all directions, and we breathed in the damp air, conjuring earlier times in our imaginations.  The only sound was the occasional bleating of the sheep, and the smoosh-ing sounds our feet made in the soft, lumpy grass.

Our curiosity finally sated and our clothes quite wet from the rain, we slowly started to make our way back across the fields to where we had parked the car. As we walked by the Mound of the Hostages, we noticed a small lamb, pure white from tip to tail, stranded inside the fence around the mound. His mother hovered nearby, clearly distressed, and both lamb and ewe kept the whole baa baa sheep conversation going. The entire mound was encircled by a high metal fence, and the opening was locked. On the far side of the mound, the bottom of the fence cleared the grass with a few gaps large enough for the lamb to have wriggled inside. However, both “lambkin” and his mother were on the other side of the enclosure.

A couple approached from the far side of the mound, clearly tourists as ourselves. The man was tall, and wore a classic Irish “driving hat.” His female companion was shorter, and carried an umbrella. The pair examined the fence, and the man finally found a spot to pull the fence apart and enter the enclosure. He clearly had his mind set on capturing the lamb and reuniting him with his mother. The lamb, of course, knew nothing of those benign intentions, and scampered away like he had springs for hooves. 

I called to Robert, and suggested that he get in there as well to help. Nice idea…but the lamb was still too quick.  Finally Hannah got in there as well, and with the three of them working in concert, the tall man in the driving hat finally grabbed the lamb from behind and quickly hustled him through the gap in the fence as his companion held it open.

Lamb and ewe fled the scene together, and with a few words of congratulations, we all scattered as well. Judging by our accents, the man in the cap sounded Polish, his lady-friend sounded English, and of course, we were “the Americans.” Really, of the thousands of tourists who must tread across the Hill of Tara, how many can say that they were part of a rescue operation that involved a Pole, a Brit, and three Yanks rescuing an Irish sheep?
The rescue adventure behind us, we turned back toward the car, and pondered on the pressing need of two of us to use a “ladies room” before we set out to drive another couple of hours in the rain back to Galway. We walked past the site’s visitor center—once a charming little church devoted to St. Patrick—but the center was long locked up.  Farther down the hill stood a gift shop/tea room that looked like it was deserted as well. A strand of lights strung from the eaves of the tea room beckoned like the lights of Brigadoon, though, and Hannah and I decided to check the place out anyway. As we approached the tea room, we could see that it was entirely dark.  Slightly daunted…but still somewhat desperate…we walked on a little further. Lo and behold, there were doors to the facilities for ladies and gents! But…they were locked.   With dispirited shrugs, we pressed on to the main door of the shop, from which a little light shone. It STILL looked deserted, but when Hannah pushed on the door, it opened!

Glory Halleluiah! We stepped inside the little gift shop, and a young man finally stepped out from behind the scenes. We sketched out our basic needs, which included a fancy coffee for me.  He explained that we’d have to get our drinks “takeaway,” since there would be no room to seat us.  Could he throw some whipped cream on top of my “mocha” coffee?  Of course, he said.  Could he make a hot chocolate, Hannah asked hopefully.  “Only with marshmallows,” he replied with a smile. Ah, bliss!
We paid for our drinks, and finally left the shop just as the private wedding party that was the cause of the restaurant being open at this hour began to arrive.  Settled back into the car, we turned our attention to the task of finding our way back to Galway, as the lights on the restaurant receded in the rear view mirror.
All in all, it had been an extraordinary day. A medieval castle, prehistoric tombs, a wee lamb rescue, a fortuitous pit stop entirely off its regular schedule, and the most delicious fancy coffee that I had in Ireland. As I drove through the rain and night fell upon us, I couldn’t stop thinking of magic, and ghosts, and luck, and Brigadoon…

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Sounds marvelous and I'm so glad you posted this to give us a little taste of your trip. Such adventures are always the high points of any trip!