Irish Rain short story

“You must miss the weather,” Irish people say to me when they first hear my accent and identify it as Australian. “How could you leave that lovely sunshine? How do you put up with all this miserable rain?” I could never use the word “miserable” to describe the Irish weather, and for good reason.

Farm Aquisition

After his eighth child was born my father gave up a twenty-year teaching career and bought a farm that he’d had his eye on for years. It was opposite a sizable acreage that his own father had given him on condition he attended a Teacher Training College.

The two pieces of land added together were sufficient to support a large family, provided each member supplied the labour. My father and my mother, who were both brought up on farms, were happy to return to their main interests in life: horses and cattle.

Work in the Farm

We all worked, our tasks suited to our ages. Before and after attending school we milked the seventy cows we knew by name and fed the seventy calves with the skimmed milk, separated by machine from the cream, which was sent on to the Butter Factory in town and provided our main income.

We were proud to do our part. There were lots of laughs and no shirking or complaining. None of my siblings seemed to mind the unpleasant aspects of farming such as branding, ear-marking, castrating, butchering and the removal of young calves from their mothers. I did but kept my squeamishness to myself.

Farm Demographics

Because our farm was 3,000 feet above sea level, the rains came regularly in the form of dramatic thunderstorms or heavy downpours and were the envy of the drier, flatter parts of the country. The cattle grew fat, the milk yield rose and three more babies arrived. The older siblings left home one by one, and the younger ones moved up to fill their places and take on greater responsibilities.

Lack of Rain  Irish Rain short story

The rains stopped seven years after our move to the farm. The grass and crops didn’t grow that summer or the summer after that. Where there used to be grass there was now cracked and dusty earth. We still had water supplied to the house and the animal troughs because we were fortunate to have a spring on the land. The water from it had already been dammed so that it could be pumped into the tanks beside the house.   Irish Rain short story

Cows in the paddocks a distance from the house went to the dam to drink. The dam shrank in volume each day, leaving a width of deep mud around its edges. In the course of one week, five of the cows became bogged in the mud up to their bellies before they could reach the water and didn’t have the strength to lift out their legs.

We brought them buckets of water to drink and tried to save them with the help of an improvised sling made from a tarpaulin, ropes, pulleys and a weakened draught horse, but only one could be pulled out and she died three days later. The other four died where they stood.

My mother had a habit of lying down on a double bed at night to soothe the younger ones until they settled for the night. My place was on the second double bed in the girls” room which I shared with my sister who always fell asleep too soon, just as I was warming up to talk.

One night I heard unfamiliar sounds in the dark coming from the direction of the other bed. My father appeared at the door holding a kerosene lamp. “What”s the matter?” he asked my mother. I stayed rigid in the bed and hoped I wouldn’t cough. My mother took a while to answer. “The bills,” she said, drawing in a hiccuping sob. “How are we going to pay the bills?” My father answered softly, “Don”t worry. It will rain soon.” It didn’t.

Drought

All denominations of churches said public prayers, aborigines enacted special rain dances, and ordinary people looked up into the cloudless skies, some cursing, some crying, some begging. All feeling helpless. Grocery bills weren’t paid. Everything necessary was bought on credit, with the understanding that all bills would be settled after the rains came. Very few farmers could afford to import hay to feed their starving stock.

It was three years before the drought broke. Many farms and businesses never recovered, and friends and neighbours left the district. All the seventy cows that we knew by name, as well as our magnificent old draught horse, died and their carcasses rotted unburied on the parched earth. Irish Rain short story

I have lived in Dublin for over thirty years, and have recently completed my first novel. I look up at intervals while I”m typing to marvel at all that beautiful rain running down the plate glass windows and, further out, soaking into the green parklands. Who could wish for a more perfect day than this? Irish Rain short story

Irish Rain. A short story.

By Rosemary McLoughlin

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