A Very Strange Saint Patrick’s Day Tale

By Leon O’Chruadhlaoich

In a far-off land, the villagers were lazy, uncouth, and irresponsible as all their needs had been fulfilled by a very generous king. Their vineyards were overcome with weeds, their flower gardens overcome with insects, and their fields lying fallow. Their nutrition was poor, there were no flower decorations on holidays and no holly and mistletoe at Christmas.

They searched far and wide for help and assistance and were fortunate enough to discover a diminutive, apparently homeless man lying under a blanket in the city square one cold, blustery, windy spring day, which happened to be March 17th. He was wearing a cocked hat, a leather apron, and had a cobbler’s hammer laying by his side. He stated that he was an expert horticulturist from an Emerald Kingdom, and when asked his name, he answered “I am nobody.”

He set to, and in no time the grass was cut in the fields, the foliage was removed from the vineyard, and the flower gardens were weeded, exposing the dying flowers to the sun. When the villagers saw (what they perceived to be a rape and pillage of their lands) they dragged the poor unfortunate horticulturist to the Royal Palace and placed him before the King and demanded he be put to the sword. “There are no leaves upon the trees, there are no vines upon the vineyards, and the gardens are naked and barren.”

They accused the horticulturist of being at the forefront of this travesty. The king had an ominous portent about the situation yet agreed that the delightful horticulturist seemed to have done a severe job of decimating the land, the vineyards, and the flower gardens, but he had enough benevolence to at least impose a life sentence upon the poor horticulturist and deliver him to the deepest and most secure dungeon and then throw away the key. His cobbler’s hammer was confiscated, and the King ordered a daily check on the prisoner by his armed guards. Despite the forgiving of a death sentence, the King now felt very uneasy about the whole situation.

Spring turned to Summer, Summer turned to Autumn and Autumn turned into Winter, and the following year the villagers strayed into the fields, through the vineyards and walked the flower gardens, and were amazed at the succulence of the vines, the beautiful display of flowers, and the lush green grass across the meadows. They rejoiced, and agreed to inform the king once again, and, feeling a wave of community guilt, the villagers decided to appeal the life sentence for the horticulturist.

So, a deputation of villagers arrived at the king’s palace. When they entered the throne room, the king was sitting speechless on the throne, having lost his ability to speak. On enquiring to the chief jailer about the horticulturist, they discovered the deep and secure dungeon was empty and the multiple locks were all in the right place, and fully secured. The whereabouts of the horticulturist was unknown.

Now here is the very strange explanation. On the first night of his imprisonment, the prisoner noticed that at the bottom of the dungeon was a construction deficit between the floor and the outside wall of his cell, through which he could see and hear water. He decided that he would have to change back to his former self (as he had lived in the Emerald kingdom), otherwise he would never get through the hole.

He had fortuitously saved some grapes from the vineyard from between the weeds and stinging nettles and had gathered several green pea pods from the vegetable patch, which he secretly contained within his pocket. He then opened a pea pod and then sprinkled his supply of magic dust upon one of the succulent grapes, and then ate it.

No sooner had the grape been swallowed when he reappeared into his true form, as Leo the leprechaun, and was magically able to squeeze through the hole between his cell floor and the outside wall. Once outside his cell, and now magically dressed in his red and green tunic and green, cocked hat; and tying up his leather apron, and carrying a pea pod, he splashed down into the stream using the pea pod as a boat. What a relief it was to breathe sweet fresh air and drink the cool, clear water from the stream.

Luckily some branches brushed the water, and he was able to grab one and heave himself up on the riverbank. He then found himself amongst the very gardens, vineyards, and fields that he had carefully cultivated from his first night of incarceration, but he knew they would need constant care throughout the upcoming seasons and grabbing his suddenly reappearing cobbler’s hammer (which had now magically changed into a combination scythe and pruning fork), he set to work every night when the villagers were sleeping. After continuing his scything and pruning, he would then run back along the riverbank, under the little wooden bridge and there he found (once again) the small hole from which he had escaped.

It was hard work but at last he would manage to get back into the dungeon. After re-entering his cell, he removed the pea pods and the grapes from his pocket, chose another succulent grape and again sprinkled it with his magic dust, and changed back into his former self.

With his magical scythe and pruning fork having magically disappeared again, he then covertly hid the remainder of his peapods and grapes within the cracks, creases, and crevices between the decaying brickwork of his cell. Being magically changed back to his former non-descript self, the daily visit by the King’s armed guards passed by without alarm or incident.

Initially, on one of his earlier nightly trips to the village, he saw how sad, hungry, and disillusioned the villagers were. So, he hid amongst the flowers quite easily, with his red and green clothes being unseen amongst the colorful petals of the flowers. Every night, after the villagers had gone to bed, he would tend the meadows, vineyards, and flower beds. This happened regularly throughout the seasons, except in the wintertime, when Leo would lay his leather apron on the ground, and kneel on it, while tending to the most fragile of the winter pansies and violas.

In addition, he planted some magic shamrocks in the palace gardens which only bloomed annually on every Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th. When the villagers got used to this rare, but annual recurrence, they noticed that the shamrocks gave off a gorgeous bouquet of real Irish whisky, the smell of cooking bacon and cabbage and the aroma of freshly baked soda bread (which they had never experienced before and had no idea from whence it came).

This delightful treat to the senses, which, borne on the spring breezes, passed all over the villages throughout the kingdom. And every Saint Patrick’s Day, out of nowhere, there was always a great display of magical shamrocks in great abundance. They also noticed a most pleasing and delightful intoxication of their character, and instead of being lazy, uncouth, and irresponsible, they became delightfully sociable and took to revelry, dancing, and storytelling of a most delightful nature.

The musicians spent the whole time playing Irish jigs and reels (without knowing what they were or where they came from), and would lapse into an unknown Gaelic dialect, which they did not understand, but somehow could communicate quite easily with one another.

The King in the palace suddenly noticed that his speech returned once a year every March 17th, so he was able to conduct his palatial affairs without hindrance, and on an annual basis. It also reminded him not to make hasty judgements without taking the time to review the many requests he received, without making hasty decisions based on the frenetic demands of an angry populace.

When planting in the springtime, Leo would wear his leather apron and shoes to ward off the thorny branches of the vegetation which had not yet come to full fruition; in the summertime, Leo would shelter his head under his green cocked hat, which was the same color as the grass-green meadows, while attending to the tender vineyards;  in the autumn, his red-colored beard blended beautifully with the russet-colored leaves on the surrounding flower gardens; and in winter, having just finished polishing the newly dropping snow off his protective little black shoes, he was able to catch a glimpse of his bright red, rosy-colored cheeks reflecting off the surface of the silver buckles of his shoes, aided by the light of a silvery moon which seemed to follow him about like a magical balloon.

It turned out that the villagers so looked forward every year to March 17th, that they somehow associated this strange and unknown once-a-year occurrence with the fact that the gardens, vineyards and fields were so luxurious throughout the year, that they changed their ways and now assumed the daily upkeep themselves, as they were afraid if they didn’t, the intoxicating experience of the annual March 17th would go away, so now they were all conscious of the part everyone had to play in the pastoral upkeep of the Kingdom. With his work completed, Leo the leprechaun hitched a ride on the next rainbow, and travelled all the way back to the Emerald Kingdom without the King, his jailers and the villagers any the wiser.

No one in the village knew what happened to the diminutive, homeless horticulturist, and had no idea who has initially looked after their village gardens, vineyards, and fields, because leprechauns were never ever seen, as they were reputed to be invisible to normal human beings. Leo chuckled to himself every time he saw the looks of astonishment on their faces throughout the seasons, and especially on the 17th of March. It was a sight to see.

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