In the end, the one thing that really defines our trip to Ireland -- more than castles, ancient druid sites, pubs, or sheep -- is hunting leprechauns. When she was around four, Gigi used to construct elaborate leprechaun traps at our house in the States. Now she's old enough to laugh at the futility of that, and seven-year old Pippa joins in since she sees the humor in trying to trap leprechauns in San Francisco. Now that we're in Ireland, though, all bets are off, and throughout most of the trip Pippa is convinced she will capture one.
Our first close encounter with a leprechaun is on our hike in Connemara. On the road, Pippa is convinced she sees a flash of a tiny white leprechaun shirt as we drive quickly by. Then, on the hike, we see off in the distance the tip of a hat running away from us. I see the tip of the hat, too, and it does look extra tiny because the child wearing it is on a sunken path. I say child, but could it be a leprechaun? Pippa is convinced that's what we've seen, and she checks out all the likely secret hiding spots for one of their homes. She is a detective, hunting for clues: the inside of this bush looks recently disturbed. They've been here and run away when they heard us coming!
Between hunting for leprechauns and a strange "Gangnam Style" dancing game that Anthony invented, the girls are cracking up for most of the hike.
It's hard not to believe in leprechauns when we see something like 15 rainbows over the course of our trip (literally, we stopped counting).
One day we see the most glorious rainbow and can't help but chase after it. We pull off the road, into a private drive, where we see the end of the rainbow clearly landing in the middle of a farmer's cow field. Admit it: You see it, too, and you know the pot of gold is just behind the ridge. So we do what any sane American leprechaun hunters would do, and we climb over the fence and chase after it.
But of course where this is a rainbow there has been, recently, rain. And where there is a cow field, there has been, recently, a herd of cows. Together that makes for some very squelchy, squishy, mucky walking. We just can't get to the end of the rainbow, especially since that pesky end just keeps moving further and further into the field the closer we get.
After we begrudgingly admit we can slog no further, Pippa bursts into tears, and we have to console her. Uh-oh. Perhaps we've gone too far. We have to start on a new campaign of talking about how much leprechauns hate being found. They're hard to catch, those wily, tricky, mischevious leprechauns! According to Pippa, that means we may just be the most successful leprechaun hunters around -- having seen their home and hat and all. According to me, we already found the pot of gold: It's the memory of trespassing in this farmer's field, chasing through the mud and muck after the end of the rainbow on an impromptu family adventure while the cows look on, bemused.
This is important enough to us that we make a pilgrimage to the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin where we learn interesting factoids, like that leprechauns are originally Scottish. And that they used to wear brown coats and red hats, and the point was to steal the hat in order to get the pot of gold. Credit for the current image of the leprechaun -- with green clothes and red beard, slightly mischevious but not downright nasty, guarding his pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow -- goes to...... Lucky Charms and Disney. Yes, really. They are magically delicious! The king of the leprechauns in Walt Disney's film, Darby O'Gill and the Little People set the standard in America for their current look, and it was the film and Lucky Charms that brought that image back to Ireland.
And so we say good-bye to Ireland. Pippa writes a song about the trip, with a little help from me and her guitar teacher, that pretty much sums it up perfectly (Her spelling in italics. Translation follows):
We sreached for lepercon's on the maintins. In the wilooold's of Kanamra.
We searched for leprechauns on the mountains, in the wilds of Connemara.
We sreached for lepercon's in the cow feld's at the end of the ranbo.
We searched for leprechauns in the cow fields at the end of the rainbow.
We hunted hi and low. We hunted high and low.
Wer did they all go? Where did they all go?
I gost d'ont no. I just don't know.
We sreached for lepercons by the clear strem's in the would's of Klarni.
We searched for leprechauns by the clear streams in the woods of Killarney.
We sreached in the fairy glades and gardin's at the castole of blarni.
We searched in the fairy glades and gardens at the castle of Blarney.
We hunted hot and cold We hunted hot and cold
For that pot of gold. For that pot of gold.
We hunted hi and low, We hunted high and low,
Wer did they all go? Where did they all go?
I gost d'ont no. I just don't know...