Tag Archives: horse

Homeless Horseman – A Real Life Alastar Connolly

Horse-Keeper (CCBY20 BRAYDAWG on Flickr)

In the story, An Irish Miracle, Alastar Connolly’s horses were not only his companions, they were his best friends. Friends that always listened. Friends that never judged. (Well, almost never.) During dark times, Alastar’s horses were his only family, and he often slept in their stalls, burrowed deep in the fresh hay.

A real-life Alastar Connolly made the local news recently. A state fire marshal inspection on the backstretch of the Cal Expo Harness Racing Track near Sacramento ousted farrier Johnny Walker, and many other grooms, from the barn tack rooms where many of them had been living for years, near the horses they cared for and loved.

From the report in The Sacramento Bee:

Farrier Johnny Walker, who has owned and trained horses at Cal Expo
for 20 years, has been sleeping on a cot outside the stall of his
only horse, The Goose.

"He's my family," said Walker, 64. "I've had him since he was a baby.
I just love him."

"As long as we're racing and keep making money, that keeps me going,"
Walker said. "But if I couldn't keep (my horse), that scares me."

Hopefully, after renovations ordered by the fire marshal are completed, Johnny Walker and his fellow farriers and grooms will be reunited with their living quarters, and their horses, at least in the short term. Tack rooms were never meant to be permanent places of residence.

Alastar Connolly would have empathized with Johnny’s physical and emotional plight. As a boy, being separated from his beloved Molly and Wilbur started Alastar on a journey that took him half way around the world. Fortunately, looking back on his life in Ireland, Alastar wrote:

"I lived a life filled with horses that I loved as friends and
friends that I loved as family."

You can read the story of the real Johnny Walker (not the pipe-smoking gentleman in the picture above) and his horse, The Goose, in the article Cal Expo racetrack workers scramble to find housing during renovations, on The Sacramento Bee website.

My editor, Robin Martin of Two Songbirds Press, brought Johnny Walker’s story to my attention. Having an editor who expertly helps me polish my words, and who watches out for me between manuscripts, is truly a blessing. Thanks, Robin!

All the best,

A View From Maree by Eoin Gardiner

The Irish countryside tugs at my heartstrings, and the beauty of western Ireland is simply enchanting. I am so pleased that Eoin Gardiner’s photograph, “A View From Maree”, graces the cover of An Irish Miracle. Maree is in County Galway in western Ireland, where a large part of the story takes place.

I only recently made Eoin’s acquaintance through his photographs on Flickr. I already know he has a keen eye, an engaging sense of humor, and a generous heart. Through Eoin’s photographs, you might catch a glimpse of what Alastar and Dillon Connolly experienced as they each searched for their own places in the world.

Click on each photograph below to see the originals on Flickr, or visit Eoin’s photostream, check out all of his beautiful photographs, and take your own wee bit of a trip to the Emerald Isle!

Watertower Rainbow by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – This water tower might look a lot like the ancient, stone watchtower Dillon explored during his first day in Ireland. 

Road Through the Burren by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – At the Shepherd’s Inn, Mara suggested that Dillon explore a bit of the Burren on his way to Ballybrit. She told him, “It’s said that the Burren ‘. . . is a country where there’s not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him and yet their cattle are very fat.’” 

Burren View Photomerge by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – Wildflowers growing among the clints (slabs) and grykes (fissures) of the natural limestone formations paving much of the Burren. 

Sunrise at Ashford Castle by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – The Irish countryside is dotted with many ancient, stone ruins begging to be pondered . . . and explored. 

Clarinbridge by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – As Alastar walked from Shannon toward Ballybrit, on his first real adventure, he may have encountered many scenes like this one, in search of a kind farmer with a hayloft he could spend the night in, and maybe a kind farmer’s wife who would give him breakfast after the next morning’s chores. 

Headford Road by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – Once he was more confident about driving on the left, Dillon may have taken a national secondary a lot like this one, on his way to Ballybrit. 

Fog Over the Fields of Athenry by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – “Bert came into the bedroom and waited quietly. Alastar glowered at him through sunken eyes when he corked the bottle on the dresser. His face was the color of the kind of fog that swallows sheep whole.” 

Grey Mare by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – This sweet, little mare’s name could very well be Molly. If we could see into the paddock behind her, we might find Wilbur, as well. 

Baling the Silage by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – Family farms in Ireland — and in Ohio — were often handed down from father to eldest son, and through each succeeding generation, the ties to the land grew even stronger. 

Go Ahead, Eat My Lawn by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – Tom and Mike’s herding dogs would never have let this baby sheep stray far from their flock, but if she did, they would have rounded her up straight away. 

A View From Maree by Eoin Gardiner (CC BY 2.0) – And, or course, A View From Maree, less than fifteen kilometers from Ballybrit. Thanks again, Eoin, for your kind generosity in allowing your photo to grace the cover of An Irish Miracle

If you happen to read and enjoy An Irish Miracle, please take a moment to help spread the word to family and friends.

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In any case, definitely visit Eoin Gardiner’s photostream on Flickr, enjoy his keen eye and sense of humor, and help me thank him for his generosity!