Thursday, July 29, 2010

John E. O'Beirne 1940-2010

It is when I am in my car that I most miss my brother. I enjoyed calling him on my home from work and we would dissect the ineptitude of the Mets, the vagaries of the stock market, the travesty that is our Federal Gov't... and so on. I usually did most of the listening, he had the facts and just needed a prompt. He was incredibly well informed and up to date on what was happening. From Wall Street to Tulsk, from Broadway shows to the exorbitant taxes in Yorktown, John had the details. We always thought he would have made a great professor, such was his wealth of knowledge but for some reason he had a disdain for teaching in the formal, organized sense.

I learned so much from him on so many different subjects and while my interest in areas we had in common could be superficial, the depth of his knowledge was often incredible. I also benefited greatly from his advice (which sometimes was unsolicited and direct; occasionally subtle), but usually directionally correct.

We have all seem the realtor's photos online of his home in Yorktown and there is something surreal about seeing his comfortable house without himself pottering about. I have great memories of visiting there and I hope the new owners enjoy the house as much as he did, town taxes aside. From the time in 1985 when I fell through the screen when painting the porch, to watching my boys hunting for frogs in the back yard. They loved going to "Unka John's" because as he softened in later years he had a fridge full of soda pop and ice cream.

He is no doubt giving Michéal, Rita, Maureen, Uncle Eamonn and anyone that will listen and earful about Obama, the Rossies chances vs Cork, etc. The message has not changed, only the audience.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Good Omens for Sheep Stealers.

Omen # 1. Every evening this week as I drove up to the house, the Roscommon flag was waving proudly in the Texas breeze. It was not sagging or wrapped around the pole. It was defiant and poised. And so too shall Roscommon be on Sunday, as the Senior Team takes on the Rebel county, giving Cork a taste of what the Magpies got two weeks ago.

A brilliant post from Buckyhoy on
"The Rossie Team should go in heads held high and expect to win. The same tenacity and dogged determination on display against Sligo will be there again in relentless waves on Sunday. Cork will not know what hit them. Controlled aggression and passion for the primrose & blue, from #1 through #15. The Connacht Champs will prevail by winning every loose ball, closing down their man and forcing mistakes, taking advantage of scoring opportunities. A smart, fast passing game that finds the open man. This is about character, optimism, self belief and teamwork. The Rossies have all this in abundance. We will be focused and fight for 70 minutes like a pack of wild underdogs. Another great upset is on the cards. We have something Cork does not, nor never will: Dermot Earley is on our side. That is better than luck."
Wait, didn't I post that?

Omen # 2. My first time to see Roscommon play in Croke Park was 1979. Against who? Cork. And who won? Roscommon.

Omen # 3. Our next door neighbors here in TX are from Sweden. Color of Swedish flag? Primrose and Blue (So what if they don't know yellow as primrose?) Okay, I am s t r e t c h i n g things here... but I am very hopeful Donie Shine & co. will rise to the occasion. And thank goodness for Setanta streaming it live over the Internet.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Oldest child and only daughter today successfully navigated the perils of two of the world's largest airports and arrived safe and sound in NY. She is on her way to Southbury, CT to while away a few days with her friends. We spent five years in Southbury and although the winters were long and dreary, we enjoyed our time there.

Hidden back in the Southbury hills about a half mile from Main Street is the Platt Farm. Situated on Flood Bridge Road, you can find it via South Britain Road, or by turning off Main Street. I always preferred the latter because you get to see what contraptions Chainsaws Unlimited might have for sale out front. On Flood Bridge Road you cross the Pomperaug River and after the summer cottages (now year round homes) you bear left down a one lane gravel road. The Pomperaug is known to flood, hence the road name. After about 400 yards, you emerge from the forest of maples and the approach to the Platt Farm, while not stunning in a Niagara sense, is really surprisingly pretty.

The Platt Farm, Southbury, CT

Two minutes ago you were in a busy town, now a perfect little New England farm scene unfolds from the hills before you. Rolling meadows, green hills, big trees, white rail fences, red barns, a Colonial style house... Check, check, check. Platt Farm has it all.

It is situated on maybe 120 acres. A good chunk of the property is now managed by the Southbury Land Trust and is open to the public. Hardly anyone goes there - I used to park at the first field gate and walk up to the top of the hill - it is steep and unless super fit, you will have to catch a breather here and there. And what a view there is of the rolling wooded hills and off to the west the Housatonic River and Newtown. I always said to Mrs B. that if we ever win the lottery, we would buy this idyllic little farm. In 1781, Rochambeau's troops while on their way to join forces with Washington, camped in the vicinity. I am no American Revolution history buff, so I will quit this subject while ahead... but note that Chief Pomperaug roamed free and hunted here long before any French, English, Irish or indeed Russian.

Speaking of which, about 1.5 miles west of the Platt Farm is the Russian Village. In the mid-1920's, the son of Leo Tolstoy moved here (from NYC?), apparently to set up an artists community. It probably numbered only a few dozen people at its peak for it covers just a few heavily wooded acres on the hillside. No sign of a village per se, but one of the roads is Kiev Drive. The most intriguing remainder of the village is the tiny Russian Orthodox Church - see pic below. The door was open one day as I went by and of course I had to take a gander inside. As they say "not enough room to swing a cat" within. One room, perhaps 12' x 12'.

The petite Orthodox Church at the Russian Village, Southbury, CT

About another half mile west along River Road is the Housatonic River. Here on a small beach in 1986 was found the remains of Helle Crafts, murdered by her husband who fed her body through a rented wood chipper. Did you think the Coens came up with that scene in Fargo by themselves? Helle's husband Richard was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in jail. The police used the rental receipt found in Richard's house and Helle's dental work to convict him.

Interesting history along about a two mile stretch of Connecticut by-ways.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

How does your garden grow?

The Texas weather must have been perfect for fruit trees this year. I should have taken photos of the back yard about three weeks ago. Back then the apple tree was laden with fruit, its boughs trailing on the grass under the weight of literally hundreds of ripening apples. By now, most have either been picked by the family or have fallen to the ground, gathered up and thrown away. The amount we had to jettison was such that the garbage men have struggled to heave the garbage can into the truck.

The peach tree had hardly any fruit last year but this year has done an admirable job in competing with its apple neighbor. Mrs B. has been busy in the kitchen making apple crisp and peach cobbler, etc., all of which has been delicious.

The crape myrtles are all in full bloom but only a few flowers are left on the magnolia. When the petals fall off a small single seed remains. It is about the size of a grape and falls off after a few days. I have noticed Tex chewing on them under the shade of the magnolia tree. There is no rationalizing what goes on in that Beagles head.

Back Yard Survey - Late July - click to enlarge

Fun facts for you kids playing along at home:
- There are 7,500 different apple varities
- Peaches orginated in China
- The crape myrtle also originated in China and there are over 50 species
- There are about 210 flowering species of magnolia

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thunderbirds Are Go

The 1961 T-Bird was the third generation and the design departed quite a bit from the original Baby Bird (1955-57) and the Square Bird (1958-60). The projectile front and sleek styling earned the '61 model the moniker "Bullet Bird". 73,051 units were sold in 1961, not sure how many are left. I acquired mine locally but I think it originally hailed from Indiana.

For a car that is about to turn 50, it drives and handles remarkably well. No airbags, anti-lock brakes, or stability control here. The 390 purrs but I doubt if it still generates 300 hp. The 3 speed works great, shifts nicely. The A/C blows cold - imperative in Texas. No original radio but a nice working model is hidden in the trunk.

It has a few items I wish newer cars have: (1) the gas cap is in the middle (over the license plate, hidden in the bumper), which makes it easy when pulling in for gas - you never have to worry which side the cap is on (2) side vent windows - great for air circulation, and (3) the swing-away steering - so easy for the driver to get in and out - just move the steering to the right.

The Swing Away Steering in Action

The '61 Bird is my fourth Ford and maybe my favorite. However, the '72 Mustang was great to drive with top down on a crisp Fall day in Connecticut (see pic on left). The 1998 F150 was a reliable workhorse and the 2005 Mercury Montego has all the modern creature comforts.

It is good to see FoMoCo doing well. The only one of the Big Three to not file for bankruptcy, the company has generated significant public goodwill which no doubt has boosted sales. The Fusion, 2010 Taurus and new Super Duty trucks are all great vehicles. The Mustang has given up some ground to the new Camaro, which I have to admit is a great looking car. For the second quarter 2010, Ford had net income of $2.6B on sales of $31B. Corporate America needs more leaders like Alan Mulally.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Screaming Blue Messiahs

This one will be short and to the point - kind of reminiscent of the career of the Screaming Blue Messiahs. If you have not heard their music, do yourself a favor and get acquainted on Youtube, iTunes, whatever it takes... Electric, Bombastic, Driving, Furious. The Messiahs.

Started in 1983 in London. An EP and three raucous albums later, they were good & gone. Comet-like, last seen in 1990.

One of the best live shows I ever have seen, Gaga fans. The old Ritz, NYC 1988. Lips and Marsboy will testify as to the greatness.

SBM Lineup:
Bill Carter - phenomenal guitar player, with a fixation on Americana
Chris Thompson - pounding bass
Kenny Harris - ferocious drums, kept everything in sync

A "twofer" live encounter:

For more, see:

Lieutenant-General Dermot Earley (1948-2010)

It brought a tear to my eye when I read he died. To be honest, more than a tear. I think it will be one of those JFK or 9/11 moments. I was at work, perusing the StolenSheep site (for all things Rossie GAA related) when I read his name in the Book of Condolences section. At first I thought it was a mistake. I had not heard he was unwell. But the shock really sank in after a Google news search and link after link to the reports on his funeral came up. He was gone.

I knew he had risen to a high post in the Irish Army (Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces) but my memories of Dermot will always be from the football field, where he was hands down the best player I have ever seen wear the Primrose & Blue. What Sheepstealer alive back then can forget the Ros team that won the Connacht title four times in row in the late 70's and 1980? Dermot was the driving force. Late 70's it seemed every house had the Ros flag flying outside; the support was tremendous. Some went so far as to rig makeshift flags out of blue and yellow fertilizer bags and nail them to the electricity poles (Cousin Eddie). I remember going with father to games in the Hyde and having to park out near Mullymucks (an exaggeration but not much) the crowds were so great.

Dermot on the right watching John "Jigger" O'Connor with ball. Jigger was a gifted player and on his day, unstoppable. He had this great evasive move: in full flight soloing up the field, he would suddenly cut inside his marker and give him a slight push in the back as he went by, thus creating space for a pass or shot.

The Rossie jerseys of this era were cool. Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and wore something similar as an away strip. And Jigger could be Kempes-esque.

My first trip to Croke Park was in 1979 to see the Rossies take on a favored Cork team in the League Final. Corcaigh had Jimmy Barry Murphy, a dual star of football and hurling. I do not recall how Dermot played that day but Ros prevailed by 0-15 to 1-3 and I am sure he drove the team forward. His fielding, solo's, ball handling, distribution and free taking were beyond doubt.

(UPDATE: I found that "Dermot gave a Man Of The Match display from midfield scoring 7 points of Ros' total... it was one of his finest hours." )

The names of the Roscommon team that faced powerful Kerry in the All Ireland Final in 1980 still roll off my tongue. Sheerin, Lindsay, Keegan, Connellan etc. But it was always Dermot's team.

My favorite thing about Dermot as a player was when he scored, he just turned, put his head down and ran back to midfield, ready to contest the kickout. No high fiving or arrogance. A footballers footballer.

On summer evenings, as a Primary School boy and bringing in the cows for milking, I would kick a plastic football (O'Neills was too expensive) as high as I could in the air. If I caught it cleanly (which was seldom), I would take off on a solo run between the thistles adding my own Michael O'Hehir commentary "And it's Dermot Earley with the ball, racing up the field... And what a score for Roscommon!". It was easy to score when there were no goal posts and the opposing backs were maudlin Friesans...

One last memory is that of going to see Roscommon in the late 70's and the Primrose & Blue banners proudly declaring "Earley to Rise". Simple but special.

There is so little video footage of Dermot on the web, it is a shame. Here, however, is a gem scored against the Herring Chokers. Note how he dashes back after the goal.

(1981 League Final; the Rossies lost...)

Often described as the greatest Gaelic Footballer never to win an All Ireland. That he never got an All Ireland Medal does not diminish Dermot one jot in my eyes. A hero to so many, not only in Roscommon but around Ireland and indeed the world.

Finally, we could all do worse than live by the Five Principles that Dermot laid out for himself:

A.Enjoy the time with my family
B.Give the best to my work
C.Give back to my community
D.Spend my leisure time well
E.Make time for God in my life

May he rest in peace.

Slán agus beannacht leat.