Everyone is Somebody's Child
Stopping at the Famine Cottages on Slea Head Drive hadn't been planned. But we could see the sign for them when we arrived at Dunbeg Fort and my dad thought they sounded pretty interesting. We were seeing all sorts of Stone Age artifacts, might as well see some history of a more recent variety.
We pulled into the car park for the cottages. Only one other car was there and I could see the people lumbering down the steep hill from the cottages. I could also see a sign on the little port-a-cabin where you bought tickets. It read:
Adults 3 euro
Children 2 euro
Free Bag of Food to Feed Animals included
I was thrilled by this. Visiting petting farms and hand-feeding farm animals is something of a hobby for me. A rare and bizarrely thrilling activity that I usually limit to special occasions, like my birthday.
My dad paid for our admission and then we stood there expectantly, waiting for the bag of food. When no bag was produced, I asked for one and was told "That's for children." I used my best Polite Voice to point out that the sign just said 'Free Bag of Food,' it didn't say anything about limiting it to children. The woman was insistent and her tone implied that I was either retarded or greedy to be demanding to feed the animals.
My mother put on her best Persuasive Smile and said "She is a child. She's my child!" The woman said "She's an awfully big child" in a way that might have had me bursting into tears had I not lost all that weight years ago. At this point, there wasn't much left to say. As my dad said later, it's not like there were 500 kids clamouring to get into the place. It wouldn't have killed her to pass over a small bag of animal feed.
I brushed off the incident, reminding myself in my head that mean also doubles for stingy around here. And she certainly was a bit mean about it. As we climbed up the steep incline to the cottages, we passed a field with a donkey and another with a goat. But it was after we'd been into the first cottage that I really regretted not having the animal food.
The field up behind the cluster of cottages held a miniature horse and its even more miniature foal. The foal was nearly an exact and tiny replica of the mare. I climbed up to the fence and sat on the ground so as not to intimidate them. The foal came running over, stumbling on its impossibly long and skinny legs. The mother moved at more like a dawdling pace. When the foal came up to the fence, I pulled up a fistful of long green grass and offered it. The foal's velvety muzzle tickled my hand and I gave it a little scratch along the line of its mane.
The mare watched this interaction carefully, ready to shepherd her baby away if I proved to be dangerous. Everybody is somebody's child, after all.