Down the hill to Paddy Healy’s

The view from inside our gypsy caravan of Danny eating dinner. Photo by David Lansing.

I really don’t know how much longer I can hold the caravan back, I say to Mr. Lynch with a grimace. We’re going down the hill that takes you into Kylebrack and Danny-Boy, sweating something fierce, is trying to keep ahead of the heavy wooden caravan that wants to push him forward and I’m using every muscle in my right leg to brake-and-release, brake-and-release the foot brake on my right to keep the cart from pushing into Danny’s ass.

You wouldn’t think there’d be much work to driving a horse-drawn caravan, I say to Mr. Lynch, but this is like climbing a mountain in the Tour de France. At this point I’m sweating almost as much as Danny and feel just as hard at the bit, but there’s nothing to do about it because if I take my foot off the old mechanical brake for even a second sure we’re going to either run into a ditch or turn the cart over. God help us.

Finally we reach the bottom of the hill. I’m huffing and puffing and so is Danny. It’s been a run. Did Larry say anything about how we were to find Paddy’s farm? I ask Mr. Lynch. Not to me he didn’t, says he. Well, I suppose we’ll find it one way or the other.

And just then we spot an older man walking out from a farmhouse and opening an iron gate from the road. Sure it’s got to be our man. Are you Paddy Healy, I yell out. Aye, aye, he says, coming out to the road and grabbing a hold of the reins. I’ll just bring Danny in since the gate is a little narrow, he says. Fine by me. He swings wide from the road and carefully navigates Danny and the caravan through the gate. Stop for a minute at the wooden gate of a pasture and then we’re through, on to the thick wet green grass. This is your home for the night, says Paddy. Do you need some help getting the gear off or are you fine? I can do it, I tell him, but a bit of help would be welcome.

The two of us work together on opposite sides of Danny to remove the gear, just as Larry showed me. First undoing the shafts and the breech strap and letting Danny walk out from his heavy load, and then passing the reins through the rings on the straddle and the hames and taking off the collar, full of Danny’s sweat and hair, and the bridle and with that, Danny gives a snort and a rip and moves deeper into the pasture where he starts ripping at the thick wet grass, his hard day of work over with. And ours as well.

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