Elhanan ben-Avraham is a painter, illustrator, poet and writer living in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
After fishing on the lovely Boyne River until the wee hours of night, then arising very early in the morning to re-capture the Brown Trout I had lost the night before, I was a bit exhausted. That Trout had been much enjoyed for breakfast, and came along with us as Julie and I left the lovely 19th century Irish fishing lodge. We had driven south to visit the haunts of her ancestry in County Wexlow, listening to Tulla Band music all the way. By the time we reached Tipperary that night I was really tired, but not lacking enthusiasm.
There was a big poetry conference going on in Tipperary, and not a Bed & Breakfast in town could be found that wasn’t booked for the event. Perplexed, we drove out of town and stopped at a pub for dinner and a pint. Back then, the pubs loaded the plate high with big slices of lamb and a heap of mashed potatoes for a minimum fee. I figured that the price was so low and the quantity so high was because they didn’t need to feed the sheep, who fed themselves constantly and everywhere on the perpetually green countryside. Or so it seemed.
We finished our delicious pints. Back in Dublin, Julie had originally informed me that she definitely did not like beer, and that was final. But after a little coaxing she had agreed to taste the dark brown Irish Guinness from the tap, if only in the name of being in Ireland. It had been like watching a duck landing on its own pond. I can still see the bright eyes and the bit of foam at the end of her nose. “Oh, that’s good,” she had exclaimed. Each evening thereafter she would say, “Let’s go get a Guinness!”
I asked the pub owner if we might find a B&B somewhere about. “Sure ya can,” he replied cheerily. “Just go up the road here and watch for a sign that says ‘Joseph and Mary’s’. It’s a farm and they let rooms. They’ll have one for ya.” We thanked him, paid, and followed his directions.
It was then about 10 pm, and the lights were still on at Joseph and Mary’s farm. I was ready for bed. I knocked on the door and Mary, with a bright smile, welcomed us with “Ooh!”, as if we were family that she had been expecting. She ushered us in to our room with many questions. “Where ya from? How do ya like Ireland?”
“We love Ireland. Especially the people,” I answered.
“Aren’t the people lovely?” she agreed, “and what else do you like?”
“We like the pubs,” I said. Just then Joseph, a rather dour looking Irish farmer, came in from the fields and knocked the mud off his boots.
“They like the pubs!” Mary said to Joseph.
“Aw, they ain’t seen a real pub,” he proclaimed, waving his hand to emphasize his point. Then he offered that same calloused hand to shake in greeting. “You ain’t been to a real pub yet, friend,” he concluded.
“Where would a real pub be found?” I queried.
Without hesitating he pointed out into the night, “You just get in your car now and drive down this road through the farms. You keep on driving until you think you’ve gone too far, then you’ll see it. That’s a real pub,” he insisted.
I looked at Julie and she was sparkling, and nodding Yes. Personally, I felt we had had quite enough adventure for one day, but there was no denying that sparkle in my wife’s eyes. “Okay,” I said.
We re-started the car and began down the unlit, unpaved farming road. It was now 11 o’clock, and nothing could be seen on either side of the road, except for the hint of fields. I couldn’t imagine anyone being in a pub at this hour, or even imagine a pub existing out here in the middle of nowhere. But, then again, it was Friday night, and Ireland is magical.
I kept driving for what seemed like a long time, not another car on the road. “Maybe we missed it,” I said to Julie, “maybe we’ve gone too far.” Immediately we came over a rise and there was the pub.
Quite suddenly, as if out of nowhere, there appeared an island of light in the complete darkness and empty fields. The building was glowing, and tobacco smoke rose from its open windows. Irish music, as well, drifted from the windows. “How about that,” I said. I parked the car among the tractors and pickup trucks that were crowded around the pub.
We walked over and entered the pub’s small wooden door. Upon entering, I felt suddenly as if I had stepped into a time warp to an earlier century. The pub was absolutely crowded with folk. They wore tweed hats and coats, puffed pipes and cigars, and listened to old men playing traditional Irish music on fiddles and telling jokes in Gaelic, or Irish, as the Irish prefer to call the language.
A pub is not a bar. It is a public house, where families gather for drink and fun and music. There were old farmers dancing with their granddaughters. Everyone of age held a pint of Guinness stout in hand. I nudged my way through the crowd and smoke and finally made it to the bar. There I ordered two pints of the national brew. When the foaming brown pints arrived I took them and turned around to hand one to my wife. She was nowhere to be found.
I looked everywhere in the crowd. Then I saw her, her big blue eyes wide as saucers as she still stood at the front door as if in a trance. From the door she was gazing over the magical scene, as if also transposed into the nineteenth century.
There was no use in calling her over the living music and human noise. Come over! I gestured, until she caught my eye. As if still in the trance she obeyed and made her way to me through the crowd. I handed her the Guinness. “Look at this place!” I said to her, “it’s a real pub.”
We watched as people enjoyed the old fiddle player, everyone joining in with the Irish words of his song. Then he told an apparent joke in Irish, and everybody laughed heartily. There was no TV, and no recorded music. This was the real thing.
We sipped down our pints, which helped us join the magical atmosphere, and the unbroken fabric of the place. Many people stood before us, most of them standing and watching the entertainment. Then one fellow in front of me in the crowd caught my eye. He was also watching the goings-on intently. He was wearing a very odd hat on his head, not like the tweed golf-type hats that most of the farmers wore. He stood about the same height as the rest of the crowd. From the back I noted that he had rather large, and rather pointed, ears. His hair was very red, as was and his pointed beard. Like all, he held a pint of beer in his large and hairy hand. He wore a longish dark green coat that came down to the knee. Then I noticed that he was standing on a chair. The very short fellow stood on a chair to see the events, making him the same height as the others.
I tapped Julie on the shoulder to get her attention, and gestured toward the little man. “Look!” I whispered. She did, and we both then looked back at each other in amazement. I mouthed the word: ‘Leprechaun’. Julie, wide-eyed, nodded in agreement. My wife would not lie.
The next morning we had breakfast with Mary and Joseph. We thanked them for their warm Irish hospitality. Joseph then asked, “How did you like the pub?”
I looked at him and smiled. “We liked it. You’re right- it’s a real pub. Also, your directions were right, we found it just as I thought we had gone too far.”
Joseph looked at me and winked, “I told ya so.”
Then I thought to ask him just one last question. “Are there known,” I cleared my throat, “to be any leprechauns in the area?”
Joseph looked at me for a moment and turned away, shrugged, and said, “Well, I’ve got to go to work. Was a pleasure to know you folks.” Then he stepped out the back door.