Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Wee St. Patty's Day Story

Dear Readers,

While it's still St. Patty's Day, I'd like to share a little blarney about the life of the great St. Patrick.

Before Patrick became a saint, he was a slave.  A slave to a hard-drivin' lord o' the manor who had some pretty rotten teeth (so rotten that when he cried for "Patty"--Patrick's least favorite nickname--it actually sounded like "Paddy").  Now a lad of nearly 16, he'd been a slave on this manor since he was 4.  He'd worked his way up through the various levels of child slavery, from digging potatoes out of the ground and feeding the herds, to shoveling up dung in the road and cutting bricks of peat.

Slavery wasn't a pleasant lifestyle, but it was all Patrick knew.  Being a fairly cheerful boy, he tried to make the most of his dire situation, and that's where he stood out from all the other slaves.  Patrick was a rare breed called a Neatnik.  He loved order and despised chaos, which unfortunately for him, was pretty much par for the course in 399 AD.  Homes were haphazardly built, dirt went everywhere, and the basic organizational system included piling your goods together (if you had a lot of stuff, you separated your household goods into piles and heaps).

Patrick took it upon himself to set his master's manor right.  He washed the buildings.  He got the planting slaves to sow their seeds in nice rows.  He put animals in their own pens and made sure they were groomed.  If something was broken, he either repaired it or purged it.  It was a lot of work for a boy his age, but as he put it, it was better to make a clean sweep of one's possessions than to live in a cluttered manor.

The lord of the manor soon noticed his propensity for tiding things up and said, "Paddy, I'd like ta ged me fields organized so thad tha sheep don'd go astray."

Patrick took a look at the fields, where the flocks of sheep and cows were randomly milling about.  He noticed that his lord's herd was mixed in with other herds, and that come sheering and slaughtering time, there would be one big fight among the animal owners over whose flocks these actually were.  He took on his master's challenge to create a more organized grazing area.

Patrick's first step was to properly mark each one of his master's animals, which he did through a gruesome, medieval variety of ways--some so heinous that they can only be shown in hideous medieval torture museums.

Once this task was over, he set about securing the fields.  Back then, fields were marked off by huge boulders--the bigger, the better.  Landowners could see the boulders from miles away, so they knew how the fields lined up.  Unfortunately, the boulders were well-spaced apart....sometimes markers would be a quarter-mile apart.  Naturally, sheep and cows didn't respect the boundaries, so they just wandered wherever they pleased, creating all kinds of chaos.

Patrick knew he had to make a better barrier, and large boulders weren't going to cut it (let's face it, he could barely move one by himself).  That's when Patrick noticed the abundant supply of smaller rocks and stones all along the property.  He realized if he stacked them up properly, he could create a solid wall that no animal could get through or hop over.

Over the next several months, Patrick created stone fences all along his master's property.  They worked just as he hoped, which pleased his master very much.  Other property owners took notice too and asked to hire Patrick to help him design stone fences for their properties as well.  Patrick's owner gladly hired him out--and even allowed him to keep a portion of his earnings--and Patrick soon had erected his stone fences all over the western part of Ireland.

Patrick's work caused great peace throughout the land.  For the first time, herd owners didn't fight and kill over who owned which animals.  The herds stayed safely behind their own fences, with plenty of room to safely graze.  And Patrick, with his little nest egg, was able to buy his way out of slavery, paving the way for his future work as a snake-rousing priest.

Today when you visit Ireland, you can still see some of the fences St. Patrick built snaking across the country, bringing civilization to an untame land.

Your pal,

p.s.--If you liked that story, let me see what I can whip up for the upcoming holidays.  My "Cinco de Mayo Sisters" is sure to please!

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