International Horse Show and the Red 12
We were staying in Kilgarvin, 16 miles from Kenmare, County Kerry. We read about the International Jumping Championship in Millstreet which didn't seem far from our cottage on the fringe of Kilgarvin at least when looking at the map. We decided to go. I had been painting horses for a couple years and found them to be very interesting subjects. They are difficult to both draw and paint. I bought several books on horses and was blown away by the many different types of horses around the world. Ireland is well known for its horses. Ireland has several unique breeds of which I became aware. The Connemara Pony and the Tinker's horse are two that come to mind. We had attended the Connemara Pony show in Clifden and the Ballinasloe Horse Fair where many different horses were for sale. We also visited a horse auction where a number of different horses were sold. The idea of attending an international jumping championship was too big of a temptation to resist.
The colors on that late fall afternoon were wonderfully muted but vibrant enough to keep us entertained especially with the juxtaposition of the gold’s, browns, greens and a tint of red here and there. The Irish countryside is a marvelous combination of all things natural with a back drop of a busy sky. Hardly a day goes by when there isn't a cloud formation either overhead or on the horizon. The billowing piles of clouds like a Paul Henry painting highlight a mountain or offset the blue skies or the multi-colored ocean. A woman living at Slea Head told me she didn't have a television since her window looked out on the Blasket Islands and that was more than enough entertainment for her. She said every day she is mesmerized by the changing weather and its many cloud formations. She had become accustomed to the changing formations and what they foretold.
We stopped at an 1825 School house that was in ruins. Much of the structure was still there but it was long past simple repair. The roofing slates lay about the ground in pieces. A few of these pieces of slate went into the trunk for painting surfaces later. There was much to see on the drive including forests that were planted for lumber - something that must exist in the United States but I haven't seen it here. The idea of raising a forest of trees as a crop was a new idea for me. My mind was content to ponder the concept of a "field of trees" for several miles. How long does one wait to harvest and do they clear cut or harvest in certain patterns to reduce the erosion. The idea of profit was difficult to grasp until I hit upon the idea of tax credits and selling shares to reduce the risk. The whole green issue of sustainable products continues to interest me even now.
At last we entered Millstreet and began looking for the Green Glens Arena. The sun was beginning to sink in the west. We didn't have an address. At last we saw a building that was suspect and then we saw the horse trailers in a parking lot. We pulled in and parked, relieved that there were no parking fees and that there appeared to be plenty of room to park. The next obstacle was to find an entrance which proved to be no obstacle at all since a door was wide open and we could see people inside. We stepped inside and found ourselves in the midst of an antique show and sale - mostly smalls. Moving from table to table looking for something that I could appreciate I came to a table with a covered case filled with odds and ends. A watch caught my eye. It had a red 12. I had never seen one like it before. This lady in fact had two both of which were quite old. I struck up a conversation with the woman and she proceeded to tell me the red twelve was considered good luck. I don't remember now but I think she said they were popular in the First World War. The vintage was certainly right. I've done some research lately and can't find out any thing about them. The price was a bit steep and we gave it a pass but you know the old saying - see it - buy it. It was one time that the old adage applied. I mentioned that we came to watch the Jumping contest and she motioned toward a door at the end of the tables. We wandered on down the row of tables and went through the door. The scene changed dramatically as we found ourselves in a hallway leading past a series of large windows. On the other side were a number of horses some of which were jumping over a set of jumps. We stood and watched believing we were watching the championships but that conclusion faded quickly as the rider dismounted and had a chat with the horse. We had seen jumping contests before on television and knew something was amiss - besides where were the fans? After a while a person came out of the room and we asked if this was the jumping arena. The lady looked at us like we were daft and pointed to a door at the end of the hallway. She said "This is the warm up room!" Feeling a bit foolish we proceeded to go through the next door. Wow! What a difference a door makes. There was an announcer and beautiful horses running and jumping - absolutely stunning. We worked our way down to the front row as it was not crowded but there was a lively crowd gasping with each jump. We were there for several hours and I must say it was exhilarating. The horses were so trim and they jumped so effortlessly. They were jumping a few feet in front of us and it was amazing to watch so close at hand. Eventually we tired and knowing we had a long drive opted to get back on the road and head for our rented cottage. It was 300 years old with 3 foot thick walls. The first night we practically froze because no one started up the heat which was a water system similar to radiant heating but in the walls piped from a tank heated by the fire place. We took all the blankets from all six bedrooms and slept in our clothes and still nearly froze to death.
When we left the arena we tried to go back the way we'd come but the door was locked so we followed the signs to exit the building which brought us out the front door and a long way from our parked car. Patricia looked back to get her bearings and noted a sign with the price of admission. It was then that we understood that we somehow had gone in a back door left open to the antique dealers and we had happened upon it when it was open. It was too late to go back and we smiled about our good luck even though we had not bought the Red 12 watch.
The trip through the night back to our cottage was interesting to say the least. Dark as night without lights gave us a vision as to what it was like to live in rural Ireland. The dim lights of a house now and then made us feel remote from the world of lights such as San Francisco or even the Golden Gate Bridge. Although the night itself harbors no evil the mind conjures what it can not see and the night was very dark. I had to concentrate to find my way back in the dark. It was amazing that traveling a reverse trip is not familiar at all. As we neared the cottage we wound our way through the narrow road back to our cottage. Suddenly a man was in our headlights and I narrowly missed him. He was smoking a cigarette and carrying a white plastic bag. The next day I asked the landlord who could that be on the roads so late. He laughed and said “He is trying to quit smoking and goes to the pub to buy a few and smokes them all before he gets home – it is a sad case of addiction”. I was relieved that I didn’t run over him and solve his problem of smoking. I later painted the image of him in our headlights. |
Finally at well past 1 a.m. we found the gate that guarded the little gravel road to our cottage. I got out opening the gate and found myself looking into the eyes of a large dog - the blue eyes of a large dog. I yelled at the dog and it took off to wherever it came from. I closed the gate after moving the car through the gate and then drove down the road a ways to reach the cottage. I think now I should have bought the watch with the red twelve. Yesterday 07/25/09, the last surviving soldier from England of the First World War died - he was 111 and his comments were “remember the Germans” who died as well as the Allies and the war was “worth not one life”. Lost were 75,000 of the troops that fought with him in the trenches. I wonder if he knew of or owned a watch with a red 12. The cottage was warm and not without its charm. In the morning I washed dishes while observing the kaleidoscope of color as the sunbeams swept across the ridges to the south. I was using a lemon scented dish soap and ever since then my mind has been taken back to that moment and that scene every time I do the dishes with a lemon scented dish soap. The cottage was cozy and it was a good adventure. I looked up the Millstreet Horse Show and the Corkman newspaper for Thursday April 30 2009 said "The cancellation of this year's Millstreet Horse Show, held each August, will cost the region millions of euro in lost revenue." What a shame.
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