by Mike McHugh
St. Patrick’s Day is upon us again—the one day we set aside each year to celebrate everything Irish. For many people on this side of the pond, “everything Irish” means nothing more than getting hammered on green beer. Now that I’ve been to Ireland, I realize that there is a lot more to the Irish culture than just that.
Ireland is teeming with monuments that attest to the richness of its culture, much like Louisiana roadways teem with hides that attest to the utter stupidity of the armadillo.
One such monument that we visited was Blarney Castle—home of the famous Blarney Stone. Its legend is one that could only have come down from a people for whom barley malt is considered a major food group.
In fact, it sounds just like the kind of legend that a bunch of Irishmen would have cooked up after a long night in the pub, as a joke on the country’s tourists.
“Hey,” I could imagine them saying, “let’s put out the word that if you climb to the top of Blarney Castle and risk your life by dangling yourself over a 150-foot high precipice and kissing a stone, that it would give you the gift of gab.”
“Oh, come on,” one might have asked. “Who would be fool enough to do something like that just so he can become a sweet-talker?”
“I’d say American politicians, for one,” another would answer.
“Great! Let’s do it!”
And so was born the legend of the Blarney Stone. I didn’t put much credence in it myself, but still, the others in our party were bent on going through the ritual, and so off we went.
Getting to Blarney Castle was half the battle, as we had to drive for two hours on Ireland’s excuse for roads. Originally no more than foot paths, they hadn’t been widened since St. Patrick’s time, probably because it would have cut into the acreage available for barley cultivation. Then, once at the castle, you have to ascend a steep, winding, rocky stair through a narrow passage. That in itself wouldn’t have been so bad, except that in the process, I had to hear my brother-in-law go on again about how short people were in those days. He said this at every castle we visited, pointing out how anyone alive today would have been considered a giant back then, with the possible exception of Danny DeVito.
The castle did have an assistant there to hold onto you while did the deed, and it’s recommended that you tip him generously—in advance. Afterwards, you can purchase an official certificate, complete with photo, to prove that you have actually kissed the stone. I didn’t see much point in that. After all, if the stone did bestow upon its kisser the powers to which it’s ascribed, he wouldn’t need a certificate to be able to prove it.
Now that I have kissed the Blarney Stone, I don’t notice any improvement in my power of persuasion. For instance, I’ve yet to convince my wife when she asks me that she doesn’t look fat in a given dress. I’m sure that husbands everywhere hold out hope that, somplace in this world, there is a stone that can bestow that kind of eloquence.
I’m guessing that Edwin Edwards has one in his house.