Oh Bridget where be ye? And who be ye? A Sheehan, Moran, Sullivan? Do you really expect me to find your gravesite with such slim pickins? No birth certificate, only the date (1849) you arrived on these shores, bound from Inch Bridge in Ireland, perhaps married (to John Moriarty, laborer), ten years your senior.
A wedding certificate indicates you maybe married John in Massachusetts, but your name is oddly smeared on the document. So many Bridgets, so many Johns, how to know which one belongs to you? It’s said you were buried in Aberdeen, South Dakota. I drove there and couldn’t find you on the plains where sheep once roamed. I’ve searched Iowa gravesites too, near where you bought land in Muscatine County, Iowa, lots of graves, but no you; rows and rows of bones, but no you resting beneath slabs embellished with stuffed teddy bears, strange photographs, sagging crosses and angels with missing parts.
Uh oh Bridget, it says here on the yellowing document I unearthed in the Muscatine County courthouse, that you lifted your skirts to neighboring farmer Henry Stoneburner. The document, filed and signed by John Moriarty (with an “X”), points fingers at two October nights, then asks for a divorce AND alimony. The trail petered out, so I’m guessing you refused the divorce, good Catholic be ye. Or were ye?
Okay, the Iowa winters were long and hard and Stoneburner was only a stone’s throw away, plus he must have recognized a good plow when he saw one, but shouldn’t ye have known better? Also, I’m given to wondering just how John knew what you were up to. Apparently he drifted away after he addressing the court (leaving you with two kids), but his name, “Wandering John,” is still legendary in 2009. Could be he fled home to Ireland and drank his days away, but in all fairness, he may have been an okay chap saddled with the wrong woman in the wrong place in the wrong time.
So tell me, how did you manage to get through the Pearly Gates? As a Moran, a Sheehan, a Sullivan, a Moriarty? Things are tough enough up there, what with identity theft and wigs and false noses and plastic surgery, some of it transgender. Unsnarling the heavenly list must be nigh impossible, and whoever was guarding the Gates the day you waltzed through with your skirts held high, was likely snookered grandly. I’m guessing here.
Did you know that one of Wandering John’s ancestors (a Maurice Moriarty by name) chased the Earl of Desmond into the Slieve Mish Mountains where he cut off his head? Yes, the Earl of D. got his dues, though stealing the family bovine and giving over one’s head as punishment seems not quite right. Anyway, Maurice rode off to England with the Earl’s head, and if history is correct, it was left to rot on a pole. The English had their quirks, but then again, history often lies.
We’re in the week of Irish worship, replete with faux shamrocks and stinking cabbage and corned beef hoopla. To my mind, it’s way out of control for what does it have to do with ye, wherever you are? Spare me the Blarney. Tell me no tall tales about blighted potatoes or huddled masses arriving. I don’t give a damn about Irish poets, Irish tunes, lace curtains or wool sweaters knitted into knots by the keepers of peat. I despise Bailey’s Irish Cream, green beer, and the consumption of sheep parts, except maybe burbling pots holding lumps of mutton boiled with potatoes.
Now and then I hear from shirt-tail relatives living on in the blasted Dakotas, enduring all kinds of heaven & hell. My hopes rise when told they may have a clue on your whereabouts, but nothing ever comes of it.
Frankly my dear, as Rhett Butler once said, “I don’t give a damn.”