Monday, July 30, 2007

The Mystery of Sheep Bottom

The Connamara coastline is known for its beauty, with rocky shores, sparkling waves, and bright red sheep butts glistening in the sun.

Wait -- why are the sheep painted bright colors? We assume it’s to keep them all sorted out, in case one goes over a fence, but we don’t know for sure.

This morning we leave the castle and make our way to Westport, a famous planned town. The town fathers left a river running through the middle, with a tree-lined mall and a one-way system of streets. It’s nice, but mostly we’re here because of a pub.

Matt Molloy is the flute player in the Chieftains, the Irish band the made Irish music famous around the world. His pub, Molloy’s, is legendary for its sessions featuring the greatest Irish musicians. Music every night, that’s their motto.

We stop in the afternoon to check it out. Hanging in the back are photos of Molloy with some of the greats in music. The Rolling Stones, the Corrs, James Brown, Paul McCartney – you name it. We can’t wait to go back that night.

In the meantime, we meet Pavel at a local pub. Here in Ireland, people like to talk to you, especially when they find out you are American. Pavel says he is from Poland, and he shakes our hands four or five times each. He loves America. He is wearing a Snoop Dogg sweatshirt.

The bartender, Dawn from South Africa, tell us a different story about the sheep. “They are marked by the Ram,” she says. “They paint his underbelly. Then they can tell which ewes he has … kissed.”

It’s a much better story than ours, but Pavel says no, and in fact, tell us he is a vet. His accent is disappears, and, in fact, he now says he is from Dublin. He just does the Polish thing for laughs.

I’m all for a good joke, but this is just weird, so we leave Pavel an Dawn and head for Malloy’s. The crowd is thick with tourists like us, but all we find is one ancient Irish guy with an accordion case at his feet singing a Gaelic tune. Apparently, it’s not a legendary night at Molloy’s.

Luckily, down the street I find a session of fiddles with few tourists. I can tell it’s a real session because they take 15 minutes between songs. I’m tempted to conduct a crowd survey on the sheep butt issue, but I resolve to believe Dawn’s story and tell everyone I meet. Dave says it’s irresponsible to spread the story unless we have proof, but I tell him it will be OK.

As long as it doesn’t get on the internet where people can find it by googling "painted sheep butts," things will be fine.

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