FOGRA: The below was the first non-GAA related piece I ever sent to the late Liam Cahill for his much loved and sadly missed website http://www.anfearrua.com Never for a minute thinking he would print it. But he did, and not only did it open up a whole new avenue of writing for me, it stands as a shining example of the simple yet special ways in which he helped and encouraged people. Nobody more than myself. Rest easy my mentor and friend. Though you’re probably working on another book already.
Everybody needs time out, ‘chill time’, no matter what walk of life they’re in.
For some, it’s a game of golf, others might fancy going out for dinner or whatever. Whenever yours truly wants to get away from it all, sport included, I do something which bewilders most people but which I wouldn’t change for the world.
The farmers of my locality have, at this stage, got very used to the sight of the wheelchair appearing in through a gap in a field and parking on the headlands and not moving until they were ready to pull out, regardless of what time of day or night it happens to be. I’ve been asked so many times over the years why I do it or how I could find watching men at work any way interesting.
Simply because I was reared around farming. How, I hear you saying, given my situation? But bear with me. When I was younger my brother worked for a local farmer named Pat Clarke for years, so I was surrounded by farm machinery and livestock and fell in love with it.
I could, and still can, hear a tractor or a combine coming a mile off and can tell what make of machine it is long before it comes into view because I know the different tunes of the different makes of machinery. Mind you, due to modern technology, machines seem to have become a lot quieter than they used be and they tend to get a lot closer now before I cop them!
Anyway, my brother Paul left Clarke’s when I was about twelve and after that I didn’t see any farming ‘action’ for a few years, despite the fact that I had got a powered chair which left me in a better position than ever to get around.
Thankfully, that changed last year when I got in contact with the Clarkes again when they made a bit of hay on our own farm. From there, we have kept in contact and whenever they are working anywhere I can get into they do be expecting to see the chair appear in the field! People are still bemused and I still get the questions but I wouldn’t change it for a thing, especially this time of year when the harvest is in full swing.
Recently, I went as near as practically can to taking a ‘holiday’, giving GAA affairs a miss as much as possible. Firstly because of the Galway races, some of the time, but, believe it or not, even they played second fiddle to the farming! Once I got the word that the lads were within my driving range, the mobile was turned off and I was away!
Out across the fields of gold to while away the day watching the gold being removed and, if I’m honest, keeping the lads chatting for a while. Not too long though, because I know with the harvest timing is of the utmost importance, in some cases for more reasons than might the eye.
It was only while out miles away from everything that it dawned on me the amount of places that used to be farmed in our locality that are now housing developments.
Thankfully, from my point of view there are still a few escape routes left for me but the number is sadly dwindling all the time, either due to places being overgrown and simply because the land isn’t farmed anymore.
In recent years, with the amount of houses that are now in the area, it hasn’t been uncommon for quite an audience to assemble where the farmers are hard at it. Now, in one way there’s not a lot wrong with it, but people must realise that farming has been a way of life around these parts for generations. For the farmers themselves it is, of course, their livelihood and for me and quite a few like me it is a very important part of life that wouldn’t be changed for the world. My viewing points may be getting scarce, but thankfully there are still enough left to keep happy and occupied.
All I hope is that the importance of farming will never be forgotten and that the fields of gold will be a place for me to indulge in a peaceful getaway for many years to come.