Peek-a-boo! Life on the farm of Seamus Mc Kiernan, Belturbet.Photo: Siobhan O’Connor

Take time to listen to the sounds of summer

Fr Jason Murphy has another beautiful reflection for us in his popular column 'Let the Busy World be Hushed'...

Cows being driven home of mid summer’s evening; the slow moving sounds of summer; the clop of hooves on tarmac as people step aside to give way to the ladies in procession as they meander along, one hoof in front of the other, leaving in their wake the long trail of cow pads to be shovelled into barrows for the cabbage plots they pass. The warmth of the evening sun caressing their dark faces, chewing on their cud as they loll along, without a care in the world, their long tassel tails swishing left and right to shoo away the persistent flies.

They follow a path they have trodden twice daily carrying to the milking parlour their morning and evening offerings, day on day, year on year. Familiar faces with familiar patterns, undisturbed by the screeches of the low flying swallows as, in and out of the ruins of an old stone barn, they swoop, old friends to him that follows. He gently cajoles with nothing more than a gentle prod of an ashplant to move them along as they gaze o’er the hedge at the neatly dug rows of Paddy Tallon’s ridges, the rhythmic sound of his boot in step with theirs, pausing behind the procession, unbeknownst to them, to converse with Big Johnnie White who sits in sentry at the door of his blue caravan along the road from morning ‘til evening to greet the passers-by.

Only to stop again a few steps along the way with the old lady Mary Ellen who leans against the continuous garden wall interspersed with the iron gates of street houses that he passes. Mrs Mackeson who stands at the door with her stick in hand to listen to the lone cuckoo below in the bog, wondering about the dark clouds that loom o’er Sligh Lae mountain in the way beyonds, will they or wont they… though it’s given not to rain.

The loud slap of the ash plant against the side of his wellington boot drives on the wayward Freisens at the end of the line who have stopped to graze on the long acre of golden buttercups and dandelion, young wans that’d chance their arm but for the ashplant, as children call a halt to their game of hopscotch or kick–the-can to allow the familiar procession of ladies to pass on their way, homeward bound. Little children who, in their short trousers and summer frocks, have come to know these ladies by the distinguishable patterned markings across their broad backs, as sometimes they while their days pretending that these are their cattle and they are cowboys and cowgirls on horseback who roam these untraversed plains and the cows, swilling actors in this world of let’s pretend, knowing that these familiar faces will drive them from well-chawed fields to pastures new, much to the dismay of the farmer.

This herd of cows of several generations has become as familiar in the midst of the ordinary and the everyday of those who live along this street from the lower meadows and the Red Bog at the far end of the row of houses along the Railway line to farmyard on the corner of the road at the other end. A fragment in the familiar of each day that passes in the life of an ordinary street of houses where washings of white nappies blow in the breeze and women in aprons aclad lean across the walls of gardens to converse on the same things they talked on the evening before, gathering for the evening procession as they Francie Naan sway from side to side, dodging betwixt and between the line of cows who know to step aside for him as he walks home after a hard day spent at the counter of Twinny’s Select Bar.

There are evenings too that in their chawing they nudge him from his slumbers when along the way he lies down on their green grassy bank to sleep, too long the journey home. But soon the silhouette of the ladies pass the old boys school undisturbed by the shouts of an evening soccer game, to turn, without prompting, in through the red galvanised gate onto the street of the farm yard as they gather each in their turn, twixt hens and geese, to enter the small whitewashed stone milking parlour, as one scrambles through the attic of the mind and remembers a time that was when cows were driven home and one had time to stop and listen to the sounds of summer.


Memories of my First Communion suit