We've heard it over and over again, that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Being born an O'Dell, I was always proud of my Irish ancestry, and I fell in love with everything Irish when I read my first Irish book back in grade school. I think it was called "Sean O'Day -- a boy of Ireland." I would look longingly at the rugged coastline, the emerald fields of grass with placid sheep grazing, and wish myself there.
After I grew older and was told some of our family history, I was even more intrigued. My Aunt May (O'Dell) Hungerford made a trip to Ireland, where she unearthed some of the facts of our ancestry. She discovered that our line of O'Dells' migrated to England after the potato famine in Ireland. There they lived for around a hundred years, and established a town called "O'Dell, England."
After disagreeing with the King of England over religious matters, they then came to America. (This is the story Aunt May brought back from Ireland.) I realize that most of the residents who can trace their ancestors who settled here three or four generations ago have Scotch-Irish roots also.
A description of these early settlers sound suspiciously like some of the modern residents of Appalachia -- West Virginia included. "As pioneers, the Scotch-Irish were noted for their restless natures; their hardiness as hunters and settlers; their strong Protestant faith. (Our O'Dell ancestors left England because they couldn't support the Church of England.) In spite if their faith, they had a passion for drinking and gambling and were noted for their quick temper and disdain for nobility and titles, and their ferocity toward the Indians.
"They showed little mercy in uprooting others, as they came from an uprooted people. The German immigrants were often better farmers, and their lands surpassed the Scotch-Irish. However, in time of war or when quick action was needed on the frontier, the Scotch-Irish were unmatched. No other ethnic group would be as significant in shaping the culture of West Virginia as did our Scotch-Irish forefathers."
I have read that some of the best marksmen in the Armed Services were the boys from our own West Virginia hills. My cousin Leo, who was in the Marines, was awarded an Expert Marksman medal. From the woods of Clay County, where he killed squirrels with his unerring eye, to the beach on Okinawa, he made his mark. We were so proud of him.
And now the Irish and multitudes of others are honoring the patron saint of Ireland on the anniversary of his death. In many cities in America, folks are hailing the day with parades and festivities. It's great to be Irish!
Here is a traditional Irish blessing, possibly the best known: "May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, May the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand."
Seems as if last week's column stirred up lots of memories, and I have to share a letter from "Cousin" Ray McCune of Fort Wayne, Indiana. He writes, "My Mom said when she was a little girl, she remembered her mother saving and crushing up eggshells to feed back to the chickens. She guessed it supplied lime to the hens so they would make thicker shells on their eggs. She said sometimes the shells would get so thin they would break as soon as they were laid."
(My note -- I remembered my mother doing the same thing, so I tried it with our laying hens last year. In just a few days, a couple of the old hens started eating their eggs. It was then that I remembered that Mom would toast the eggshells nice and brown in the oven, so the chickens wouldn't eat their eggs. Hindsight is 20-20!)
Ray continued, "She also said her Mom put some kind of grain (maybe oats or wheat) in a shallow pan of water and placed it under the old wood-burning kitchen stove. The grain sprouted, and she would feed the green sprouts to the chickens. During the winter, the chickens couldn't get any green stuff outside, and they needed it to make the orange yolks instead of the pale yellow ones they lay in winter.
"I, too, had a pet chicken. The chicken disappeared at the same time we had chicken for Sunday dinner. I put two and two together and never had another pet that we could eat!"
I have gotten many more cards of sympathy on the loss of my dog Chloe. We have never found her, and these cards touch my heart. Those who have lost pets know how to show love and sympathy to one who suffers a loss. From our friend Ross Fortner comes an answer to "Rainbow Bridge" which he composed and sent a friend when they lost their dog.
It reads, "The card with the Rainbow Bridge on the cover has the following inside, "Goodbye hurts so much, but some day you will think of your animal friend with smiles instead of tears, and it will feel as if this little soul has left a rainbow in your heart."
ANSWER FROM THE RAINBOW BRIDGE
"Everything is beautiful here, more beautiful than our farm. There are lots of new friends for me, and I am well. I can see you and Kit and Speck when I look over the rainbow, and I feel your love for me. Thanks for all the happy years of my life.
"The warm bed we shared in winter, the freedom of the farm.
Your friends and family -- I do miss you all, especially Kit.
She was always the best friend, next to you, of course.
When you see the rainbow tomorrow, remember --
I will be looking at you!" -- All my love, Buck
Mary Ellen O'Farrell of Charleston (how Irish can you get?) sent us a prayer that was written by the great humanitarian, Dr. Albert Schweitzer.
It reads like this, "Hear our humble prayer, O God. For our friends, the animals; especially for animals that are suffering -- for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry, and for all those that must be put to sleep.
"We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity, and for those who deal with them, we ask a heart of compassion, and gentle hands, and kindly words. Make us true friends to animals, and so to share the blessings of the Merciful! Amen"