The Turf Bank

As I bent down once again creating the stook at the edge of the bank I cursed my absent husband. It was the one place, and the one job that I missed him most, turf. Three hours so far today I had been stooping and placing sods of turf in the intricate design known as a stook, many hours this year I had spent turning and footing the damned stuff. It was his smell that surrounded me, his voice in my ear. Not sweet nothings, it is an extensive rulebook, little stories ran through my mind like the day he came back from the bog berating poor Jerry Pa.

“Girl, a fierce day at the bog, the wind would cut ye in two. Saw young Jerry Pa, what a scoundrel, his daddy would roll over in his grave to see him trat the sods like that. His turf’ll be so wet and heavy he’ll never raise smoke from his fireplace this winter. Took it straight off the ground and threw it into an abstract kind of a stook. Tis no way to treat turf. Treat it right and it’ll warm the coldest of hearts come winter.”

I remember when I first asked in all innocence what a foot was. He laughed heartily “Maybe the villagers are right about ye, a flighty young one from the city, knowing nothing about turf. Lil you’ll be at the bog one day, and I’ll tell ye, all in good time.”

I was from Cork city, a civilised place with gas to heat us in the winter and a coal fire on special occasions. I married Dan when I was twenty two, fresh out of college and full of life, Dan was a fully paid up member of the bachelor club until I arrived this year according to the old men gossiping after Mass, he was forty four.

We had first met when I was sixteen and running away from home because my brother, the sneaky little pup had stolen my diary and read it to the gang of kids we hung out with. Full of teenager-angst he told them all I had a crush on Timmy, the unofficial leader of our pack. My diary no more said those words than if the Pope had a baby, himself. So I was on the train to Mallow, with a bag of clothes, a tenner and a packet of biscuits. Dan, was just the man sitting opposite, nose in a book, he didn’t blip on my radar, owld one. The train had been getting up speed over the viaduct when it made a sudden stop. Dan fell forward over the table and we banged heads.

Through apologies and smiles, I noticed he had wrinkly lines around deep blue eyes. The guard didn’t come down to tell us why we’d stopped and we started to chat pondering on the situation ideas from cow on the track to alien attack, we had great fun laughing at the more preposterous stories. He had a flask of tea and offered me some so I got out my food store and we had a mini picnic. He was great fun for such an old man.

We became friends, he helped me through the tough teenage years by phone and by letter. Dan encouraged me to continue my studies and he began a courtship, old-fashioned courtship of me, during my college years. The day of my last exam, he swept me off to Kerry and proposed in The Square, Listowel. We married months later, no children were to grace our step but he was a good man and I still missed him five years on. Crying softly to myself I bent down and continued the ritual of stooking.

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