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Until recently, the growing Monahan family would congregate at the family home to celebrate

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I remember fondly my mother's Irish stories.

Hilarity, sometimes tears, but usually laughter characterized these tales. Following are stories of two Irish brothers, born 18 months apart in the 1930s. They are my beloved cousins.

As small children, Mike and Dom grew up "like topsy," Mom would say; free to roam and play with the ranch animals, crawling up fences to ride a favorite pony before they could walk.

On hot summer nights their mother would pull an iron bed outside where they would sleep with their favorite chickens. The stories of their antics are many. Once when the Catholic bishop arrived to bless their home, these young lads stood on the upstairs porch, urinating over the side, baptizing that bishop.

When Mike was 6 and ready for school, he was not ready for the nuns at Pendleton Academy. In those days Catholic ranch families would send their children to board weekdays at this school.

Mike missed his freedom and, even more, his younger brother. There were train tracks close to his ranch home. His escape plan got him as far as the Pendleton train depot. A taxi driver offered a ride and Mike was returned to school. Later his wish to return home was granted. Mike contracted scarlet fever. His recovery time at the ranch placed him in the class with Dom for the remainder of their school days.

Growing up in eastern Oregon, Mike loved the outdoors and its wildlife. He was known to skip school during hunting season. Dom was not as keen on hunting, loving his studies.

One fine autumn morning they went separate ways. Driving toward the mountains, Mike noted a patrol officer parked on the roadside. At a favorite glen he spotted an elk with a huge antler rack, peering over a hedge. Quite a distance away, Mike took a chance, firing his gun. The antlers disappeared. Cautiously approaching, Mike was startled when the antlers arose again. He fired. Antlers disappeared. Surely the elk was now dead.

Imagine Mike's surprise when he peered over the hedge. Two elk lay in the grass! What to do? He only had one elk tag. The patrol officer awaited. While he dressed both elk, Mike formulated a plan. He loaded one elk into his pickup, drove it home, then continued to Heppner High School where, in bloody costume, he approached Dom's history class.

There was a family emergency, the teacher was told. Excused, Dom joined Mike in the pickup. On their way out of town, they stopped at the hardware store to purchase a deer tag for Dom.

Mike also liked to fish. One Saturday, he enticed Dom to a favorite stream. There was a local fishing tournament occurring. Almost immediately Mike caught several fish. Meanwhile, Dom was having no luck but suddenly had a nibble, and eventually reeled in a huge fish. The problem was that Dom had no fishing license. So it was that Mike's picture appeared with that fish in the Heppner Gazette.

Whenever Dom tells this story one can still hear brotherly disgruntlement; though he caught the fish, it was Mike who received the acclaim.

Morrow County is known for its large Irish population. In recent decades, Heppner has become a popular place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with its music, parade and shamrock banners.

Until recently, the growing Monahan family would congregate at the family home to celebrate. The home has a large yard, once surrounded by a white picket fence where, on parade night, a huge bonfire would be lit. Sitting on Cemetery Hill the fire could be seen for miles. Early on, the roaring blaze would bring the fire department. As time passed they'd say, "Oh, it's just the Monahans!"

One bonfire left Mike shaking his head in disgust. It was late into the celebration; the fire was low. Most revelers had retired for the night. A somewhat inebriated Dom noted he was growing cold. What to do? Ah, there was that picket fence ...

This St Patrick's Day, there was no bonfire. The house had been sold and the fence-burner was grieving the loss of his beloved brother, though still telling stories.

Josie Seymour is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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