The Second Rainbow

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By Robert Whelan

To set the scene for the Skibootch stories requires a vision of a 1930’s saloon in the mythical town of Snowsville, NY. Snowsville is my name for the town of Oswego, NY, where a whole lot of my Irish relatives dwelled since their arrival from Ireland around 1849. They arrived in a desperation brought about by being starved and persecuted by powerful forces beyond their ability to counteract.

The saloon belonged by my grandfather’s brother and was flourishing at a time when saloons were prohibited in this land of freedom. Irish being lovers of freedom, found their ways of maintaining their culture. Saloons were (and still are) an essential part of Irish culture. They were both refuge and reward, from and for the toils of life. It is my belief that Snowsville was so far off the desired path and so climatically hostile, that sane people ignored it. That, in my mind, paved the way for the tonic environment of the Irish saloon to flourish in a time of prohibition. Snowsville was mainly invisible to the atmosphere of prohibitionists and the Irish saloon was allowed to flourish in its rightful place.

The characters who frequented that saloon were my imaginary versions of those whom I remember frequenting that saloon, included my grandfather, his family, and all of the Irish in the neighborhood where they dwelled. Admittedly my memories of specific circumstance are mostly vague and to a large degree fantasized. But I stand by my understandings of attitudes and feelings that were such an important part of that environment. Many of my Skibootch stories had their inspiration in the various snippets of events I witnessed way back then. Most, however, are of my own romantic visions of those memories and their influences on me.

The hypothetical saloon in which the Skibootch stories are originated is run by a managing character named McGuinty (whose name is deliberately misspelled) with a proprietary nature and the same crude characteristics as his clientele. In all, the message is to portray reality in its basic permutations. To emphasize that life is not always pretty and proper, but is rather an attained equilibrium between what is good and what is bad. Probably best expressed by the phrase: “Shit happens.”

To complete the narrative introductions, I have employed two mythical, but talking, dogs. One a male Black “Labrador-inclined” named Shaggy, and the other a female Collie named Mollie. The scenes are mostly set in the saloon, but, on occasion, the dogs do have the freedom to wander. The following story occurs in McGuinty’s saloon.

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“Hey Mollie, Guess what the mailman just brought? McGuinty just got the first of Skibootch’s Pots of Gold stories. He’s right now posting it by the dart board.“

“OK, let’s mosey on over and take it in.”

“Yeah, here it is, I’ll read it to you…”

“It has always been my view that poetry resides in Ireland. That view was manifested into my visual comprehension the first day I visited Cork. I saw a double rainbow appear over the city. It put me in mind of seeing a city through two lenses. A view, similar in content, but involving different words and their placements.

I had never been to Ireland before. I just heard about it from my Irish ancestors and took from them its moods and flavors. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had a vision of saloons, music, and conversation. Of humor and dissention. Of sentiment and varied expressions of whimsical love. All these background visions were indistinct, but somehow, beckoning.

To absolve myself from my perceived lifetime of unpaid debts I could no longer contain my desire to verify my Irish vision of life, It was then I joined a tour of lovers of music and song and made my first visit to Ireland. A visit in search, not of ancestral records, but of becoming more acquainted with those characteristics of humanity just described, and how could I go about making repayment for all the gifts I had been given.

The double rainbow set the scene. It showed me (get this: “showed”) there was more than one view. In this case: two. The first, the physical components. The second, their poetic counterparts. It is my belief that my Irish genes supplied me with a generous increment of poetic, or at the least, metaphoric, abilities.

My Irish view is one segment of two forms of the same scenes. The first being the actual stories of what I have experienced. The second, my Irish view of the same scene. A kind of crude poetic series of stories involving a buffoon-like character named Skibootch. A character, who with benefit of assistance from valued companions and exemplified circumstance, becomes transformed into a more balanced being. His name gradually becomes less buffoonish and more normal. A process that takes it from being Skibootch to becoming Buddy. All of his lifetime experiences factor into this meaningful name change, but his Irish visit gives him the formula for seeing life in this particular poetic vision.

The Monks of early Christian orders spent entire lives translating and preserving cherished words to be passed on to all ages. They dwelled in Ireland. The atmosphere in which they toiled was in an island of relative security and distance from a world of utter chaos. There is something about that same atmosphere today that I, too, found inspiring. Hopefully, my double image reflections will add something to all the beautiful permutations of words that have been written in that wonderful island, all the way back to St. Patrick.”

“So Mollie, whaddya make of all that?”

“I don’t know Shaggy, but it sure sounds like Ireland made a big impression on Skibootch. I am beginning to think that maybe he did find the Little People and that they’re giving him treasure even better than Pots of Gold. Maybe, we should keep checking his postings.”