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Holy Cow

by Bill Diamond


 

The derelict ruins werenít officially haunted. Yet, in the ancient Irish countryside, every historic site looked ghostly and tortured.

Despite a long day, I wanted to squeeze in a visit to another attraction before calling it a night. In the farmland North of Dublin, notable landmarks seemed to be secreted around each bend.

It was edging toward a September dusk when I entered the narrow lane toward Mellifont Abbey. The church was built in the twelfth century as the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. In 1690, William of Orange used the site in County Lough as his headquarters during the bloody Battle of Boyne.  

Like many decrepit venues, Mellifontís appearance changes dramatically throughout the day. In the sun, the tumbled structures convey a sense of village life and routine activities. However, in the overcast twilight, the fallen rocks evoked an eerie ambiance.  

The small car park was empty and the Visitor Center in an old cottage was locked and dark. The low sun cast shadows long and black. No lights or houses were visible from this boggy curve of the River Mattock.

Little remains of the Abbey beyond foundations, stone paths, some Romanesque arches, a chapter house and the lavabo where the monks washed before eating. As I walked on the uneven ground among the broken walls and scattered stones, a chill breeze swept East across the valley. I pulled my light shirt around me for warmth. The monks must have done the very same thing with their thin robes on these paths almost a thousand years ago. It was becoming the type of night, in the type of place, that spawned dark tales. I mused whether disembodied spirits still wandered the abandoned church. Gloom and isolation will creep in and poke the back of your mind with such notions.  

Rounding a bend, a narrow path lead uphill to another collapsed building. The longish trail was lined with thick and tall hedges that joined overhead. I almost didn't enter the drear lane. But, I would only be here once in this life, so I started the climb. In the murk, my gaze was on the ground to keep from stumbling on the rutted walkway.

Halfway up, a loud sound detonated in my left ear. I jumped and impaled myself on the branches of the right hedge. I was eyeball-to-eyeball with a large horned beast. The sonic boom was the largest moo I'd ever heard. A death black steer was eating his way through the hedge and I'd apparently disturbed his evening meal. His warning roar so agitated my heart that I'd almost joined those long ago monks in the Mellifont cemetery. I started to return a cursing shout, but was still out of breath, and, he held the higher ground. As I sidled away up the path, my head was swiveling the rest of the way up the gauntlet. I took a different trail back to the car.

When my heartbeat slowed, I wondered if the beastís ancestors might have startled the monks on that very path centuries ago. And, whether such a fright accelerated the cowís arrival on the communal dinner table.

Who needs one of the ghost tours offered in Ireland, when your imagination will generate your own?


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