We drive past Carhenge every time we go to Alliance for groceries or other errands. It’s not an attraction for me, although I’ve trekked through with grandkids from time to time, over the years. It’s interesting to see the amount of traffic they get at the visitor center, especially in summer, and when we travel, and people ask where we live, they usually associate the name of the town with Carhenge.
There’s a more interesting spot just up the road from Carhenge. It doesn’t generate the even close to the same amount of visitors, but there are often people stopped at the roadside taking pictures. I don’t know the name of the folks who keep up the “Rest Stop” but they certainly have a sense of humor. There are several big square bales stacked up to make a platform with a backstop. The homemade sign proclaims a rest stop with free wi-fi. An old recliner sits near the “antenna” and there’s a toilet beside that, often with a visitor sitting on it posing for a picture. They even have a caretaker of sorts, or perhaps he’s meant to be a greeter. In the fall, he’s a scarecrow. About Thanksgiving, he turns into Santa, and lately he’s a leprechaun.
There were some Kilpatricks in my ancestry so a reminder about the wearin’ of the green is a bright spot on the year that signifies the eventual ending of winter. My mother’s people didn’t dwell on the Kilpatrick side so much as the Scotch Banfields and the English Jameses. I got the impression that the Irish were not quite as proper as their descendants would have liked—perhaps inclined to the drink, you know, and certainly full of those silly stories about pots of gold and little green men. But I’ve always been proud of my Irish heritage, small as it is. The Irish have had it about as tough as any ethnic group, over the course of history, but seem more apt to forge ahead with gratitude for whatever progress they made, often celebrating with music and dancing. No wonder they needed leprechauns to liven things up.
My mom was a practical person, who made sure I knew the difference between fairy tales and truth. I never got to believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny, and fairies were just characters in stories like Peter Pan, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the pretend side of things. So when my last batch of grandkids were young, I always liked hearing about what kind of leprechaun tricks happened at their house on St. Paddy’s Day. They got up to furniture upside down, toilet paper strung about, dishes in the wrong cupboards and toys hidden around the house. Just the kind of fun a family needs after a long shut in season.
There seems to be less and less to laugh about in the news lately and people have been shut in with sickness, or trying to avoid it. Take a break, why don’t you? Turn off the news, make some corned beef and cabbage, paste a shamrock on the front door, and listen to a few of those old Irish tunes. Maybe even dance a jig. And if you’ve managed to misplace something blame it on the leprechauns. The rest of the year you’d just think you’re getting forgetful, now you have an excuse.