'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, July 06, 2005


I went to the very back of the garden and looked out over the fields. I once saw someone on horseback chasing a man on a hang glider, but the fields are rarely as exciting as that.

My cousin June’s kids, Daisy and Graham, learnt how to play the piano, and most people thought Graham had a gift for it, even though he normally just played the same note over and over again. Daisy didn’t like the idea of her brother being better than her, so she took up the violin, and she was very good at that. Graham didn’t like his sister to do better than him either, but not enough to learn how to play the violin. He started ringing a bell instead. When visitors came to the house, Daisy would play the violin for them and Graham would ring a bell. My cousin Mike called around one day with his wife, Louise, and their son, Scott. Daisy played her violin and Graham rang the bell. Scott was starting to feel left out, so he held up an apple. The kids went out into the back garden, and there were some cows in the field just beyond the fence. As Daisy played the violin for the cows, Graham rang the bell and Scott held up an apple. The cows just stared back at them. Daisy said, “That means they like it,” and Graham said, “When is silence a sign that someone likes something?” Daisy said, “Well if they objected to anything, it would have been the way ye were ringing that bell and holding the apple.” Graham suggested that she ring the bell and he play the violin, so they tried that, with Scott still holding the apple, and this time one of the cows mooed. Graham said, “Now that’s a sign that they like it.” Daisy said, “It all sounds the same to them. When she mooed she was saying, ‘Why is he holding the violin like an idiot?’” Graham suggested that if they blindfolded the cow, she’d moo again when he plays the violin, and she’d be trying to say ‘more’. So Daisy put a blindfold on the cow, but before they even had a chance to play, the cow walked away. The other cows looked at Scott when he held up the apple, and he smiled at them. My uncle Ben has been playing polo for a few years. He started the team with some friends of his, but they only have one other team to play against. Neither team are very good at the sport. When they first started playing, they sometimes went whole matches without hitting the ball, but then one day a dog ran onto the field and started pushing the ball around for them. This was much easier than actually trying to hit it. The dog was the only one capable of scoring goals too, and they let him score as much as he wanted, but they pretended they were doing it themselves. The outcome of the game was a matter of chance, and this situation seemed much better than accepting that they couldn’t play polo. Some weeks Ben’s team would lose, and they’d congratulate their opponents at the end and tell them they played a great game. Some weeks they’d win and their opponents would congratulate them. The dog got better as the years went by, and they pretended that they were getting better. But then the family who owned the dog moved away, and the polo teams had to find a replacement. This proved to be extremely difficult. Some dogs they tried were frightened of the horses, others frightened the horses, some just sat there and did nothing, some were too quick and would score goals at one end while all the players were at the other end of the field, and a good few just ran away. They were considering giving up polo because of the difficulty in finding a replacement dog. On one July day, my cousin Hugh went for a picnic in the country with his fiancée, Annabel. They sat on a rug in the shade of a tree and listened to the radio. They heard the voice of a man describing his surroundings as he walked in the hills. He said, “That’s a funny looking dog,” and this was followed shortly afterwards by the sound of him screaming and running away. This made Hugh slightly nervous. He looked all around him, and he kept looking around as they walked back towards the car. He stopped when he thought he heard a noise. He stood still and listened, but he couldn’t hear anything. Then he turned around and saw a very funny looking dog. He ran away as fast as he could, but after a while he realised that it wasn’t a funny looking dog at all - it was a very ordinary looking sheep. He stopped and turned around. The sheep was standing next to Annabel, and he went back to them. It was then that he thought of how to replace the dog in Uncle Ben’s polo games. They could use the sheep instead of the ball, and the players could move around the pitch after the sheep, herding it towards the goals. Hugh was glad to be able to help his uncle, but the real reason he came up with the idea was because he saw a way of making money from it. He could bet on the game, and the outcome could be guaranteed by using a sheepdog to herd the ‘ball’. When he told Annabel about using the sheep, she suspected what he was up to. They had an argument about it in the field. A blindfolded cow came along and stopped when he heard the voices. He looked back and forth between Annabel and Hugh as they argued, and then he walked on again. Ben and his fellow polo players agreed to use the sheep as a ball, and it was a very enjoyable game for the first few minutes, as they trotted around the pitch after the sheep. But then a sheepdog ran onto the pitch. The dog was owned by one of Hugh’s friends, and the owner was there with Hugh on the sidelines, telling the dog what to do. The dog herded the sheep into the goal, but none of the players noticed what was going on because they had spent years ignoring the dog that used to push the ball around for them. None of them suspected that their new ball was being herded by a sheepdog. Ben only started to think that something was wrong at the end, after his team had lost ten nil. Neither team had ever lost by more than three goals before. And then he saw someone paying Hugh money. He suggested to his nephew that he’d rigged the game, and Hugh pretended to be very upset by this. Ben saw through the pretence, but he still had no idea how the game was rigged. When he was on his holidays, he went to a small casino with his wife. He went to the roulette table, but the croupier and the other players were just standing there, doing nothing. Ben asked what they were waiting for and the croupier said, “A mouse ate the ball. We’ll just have to wait until he comes back.” Ben placed a bet on black and waited. Twenty minutes later, the mouse appeared on the table and walked around the wheel. It stopped for a while and then it turned back the other way before finally coming to rest, and the croupier said that the ball was on black because that’s where the mouse’s nose was pointing. Ben went for red the next time, but the mouse pointed at a black number again. So Ben stuck with black after that, and so did the mouse. Everyone there saw the pattern too, and the mouse made them a fortune because of his preference for black. That’s when Ben got the idea that Hugh must be controlling the sheep using colours. He had no idea how this would work, but he was convinced that it was all done using colours. And shortly afterwards he had a brilliant idea of his own. The opposing team wore red, so if he got a bull to replace the sheep, he’d frighten off all of the opposition. Hugh had bet a large amount of money on the next match, and he was going to make sure that Ben’s team won this one, but he changed his mind after Ben accused him of rigging the last game. About fifty spectators came to watch it because they’d all heard of what Hugh was up to, and they all bet on the team that Hugh was betting on. There was complete silence when the bull arrived on the field. Everyone just stared at him. The sheep was the first to run away, closely followed by the dog. Then all of the players wearing red slowly backed away. And then the bull ran away too. No one said anything for a while, as they tried to figure out what to do next. Then someone brought out an actual ball, and they tried to figure out what to do with that. Eventually they came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to play polo, or try anyway. None of them had hit a ball in years, and it looked as if it would take another few years the way they were swinging and missing. It was the biggest crowd they’d ever playing in front of too, and that was making them nervous. But twenty minutes into the game, one of Ben’s team mates finally hit the ball and it was heading straight for the goals, but it stopped just short. One of the players tried to hit it in, but missed completely. There was just a minute left till the break, and they all thought they hadn’t a hope of scoring in that time, but then a blindfolded cow walked onto the pitch, and went straight towards the goals. The ball was right in its path, and the crowd watched in horror as the cow hit the ball forward a few feet, into the goal. The cow kept on moving in the direction the bull went, and Ben’s team cheered. The rest of the match was a bit of an anti-climax after this. No one hit the ball again, let alone a blindfolded cow. The only one who made any money from it was Ben because he placed a bet with Hugh.

The moose’s head over the fireplace seems to be ignoring the dog ever since the dog got his head stuck in the back of a chair. I think the moose must have thought that the dog was mocking him, but it was an accident. At least I’m fairly sure it was an accident. You never know with that dog.