|"Little Rascals" Google image.|
Thursday, August 18, 2016
The dog is man’s best friend. Well that’s what we’ve been told. Scruffy. Rover. Lassie. Rin Tin Tin. Snoopy. When you hear names like that you think of sweet little puppies and doggie heroes. To some when they hear the bark of a dog it’s like hearing a voice say, “Hey I’m over here. Let’s play fetch.” A wagging tale means, “Gee, I like you.” To me a barking dog has the same effect as the open jaws of a great white, or the tell-tale rattle of a rattle snake. Why you ask? Well, let me tell you.
Mike’s Field was the place to play when I was little. It was the only piece of grassland in my neighborhood of close 3 story tenements. It had tall grass and the only trees that you could climb in. In order to get to Mike’s you had to walk up Broadway Street. It wasn’t far, but you had to pass the Goons house. I don’t know if anyone knew their real name so we just called them the Goon family. There were 2 boys who were in their 20s and just sat on their porch with their old haggard mother. If they were on the porch, you ran by their house. And if they weren’t, you looked in the windows often to see one of them looking back at you. Like an added incentive to get past the house as quick as you could there was a dog. Not some sweet little pup. Not a fancy looking poodle or a friendly retriever. No the Goons owned the biggest, meanest, most ornery German shepherd you ever met. Its fur was the color of coal. Its paws were big enough to make indents in the ground where it stalked. If you looked in its eyes you became hypnotized like a cobra does with its prey. The one thing that separated us from the Goon dog was a six foot fence that surrounded their property. There was no way for the Goon dog to get out. Or so I thought.
It was July. The locusts were making that sound they make when it gets hot. The sun was high in the sky. We were all playing army. There was Ricky, Johnny, Harold, Ricky’s brother Ronny and FraFra. FraFra was crazy and would eat anything. He once swallowed a quarter and would proudly show it off after it made its way out. Later that summer he ate a live hornet. That’s another story.
As soldiers we were planning our attack on the enemy. We were leading a charge to bomb their headquarters. Between the yells of the attacking forces there was another sound. It was deeper than the rest. The others heard it too. Time stopped. Without turning around I knew it was behind me- the Goon Dog. My friends saw him before I did. I saw fear in their faces. RUN someone commanded. Fear took hold of my feet I couldn’t go anywhere. I felt his breath before I felt the pain. Goon Dog had me on the ground and stood over me. He outweighed me and I lay there like a opossum. The growl came from deep with him. His teeth were bared and drool dangled from his mouth.
The next thing I remembered was the sound of the locusts and staring into the sun. I was still there lying on my back. My friends had deserted me. I looked around and Goon Dog was gone. I looked to my left and there was one of the Goon Boys standing by the 6 foot fence. All I could see was his outline with his hands leaning on the fence but I knew he was looking at me.
Did he unleash the dog on us? Or had he saved me from the beast. I’d never know. But when I hear a barking dog once again I’m a little kid in Mike’s Field with the hot breath of killer beast breathing down my neck.
Friday, August 5, 2016
|Smith's grave at the Lowell Cemetery|
“God save Ireland,” he shouted out to the crowd. “Repeat it!” And they did. Every seat on the floor and in the gallery of Jackson Hall was filled to capacity. The crowds even poured out into the streets. The one who had stood up and shouted out to the crowd causing them to stand in unison was Lowell’s own Joseph Smith. Former Congressman O’Connell and Lowell’s Mayor O’Donnell had just concluded a night of speeches and resolutions calling on Lowell’s Irish-American population to come to Ireland’s defense and aid once the execution of the “rebels” of 1916 had begun.
Lowell, like much of the rest of the world, did not immediately side with what would be called the Easter Rising of 1916. But once the executions began the tide turned. In Lowell mass Indignation Meetings took place beginning in May of 1916. Groups such as Lowell’s branch of the Clan na Gael and the newly formed Padraic H. Pearse branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom held regular meetings to call on the British government to cease the executions and to raise funds to support the people of Dublin who lost homes and livelihoods due to the bombing of the city.
Joseph Smith was already in his 60s when his passion for his native Ireland brought him into the limelight of the world. Born in Dublin he came to America as a young man and immediately enlisted into the U. S. Army. He ended up fighting in the Mexican War, followed by extensive travels in Arizona, New Mexico, and throughout South America. He spent time working at various jobs including the Merrimack Print Works and J C Ayer. He became interested in city politics beginning with the election of William F Courtney as mayor in 1895. Writing was the man’s true vocation and at this time he took it up as his occupation. He wrote articles for many Lowell papers magazines including Life, and was known for his sarcasm and quick wit. Though a Protestant, he came to the immediate defense of the Church when confronted by anti-Catholic writing.
Many groups across the country began collecting funds when they heard of women and children begging for food and fire wood in Dublin. In Lowell, Smith even organized a “tag day” where the ladies Auxiliary of the Ancient Order of Hibernians solicited funds from downtown shoppers. Smith made many passionate speeches on behalf of his native Ireland and spoke words such as. “The men who fought and failed in Dublin have passed beyond the stage of criticism; they are now among the immortals; stars in the firmament of freedom, and their names will be the rallying cries of the lovers of liberty as long as the grass grows and water runs. The epithets and slanders hurled at the men who loved liberty better than life are as harmless and useless as the barking of dogs that bay at the moon; the dead of Dublin have nothing to gain from the verdicts of time and posterity; it is the living of Ireland and America who must keep watch and ward and to have and to hold what we posses of liberty against the English plotter.” One can imagine the white-haired man with the large mustache standing before the crowds rousing everyone with his words. Each speech he gave is filled with the language of a poet. A writer of verse he also wrote,
“There is blood on the stones of Dublin,
There are dead in her ancient streets;
That stare with blind eyes at the ancient skies;
And are deaf to the war drums’ beats.”
As one of the national directors of the Friends of Irish freedom he and Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Hughes Kelly of New York were elected to bring $50,000 collected by the organization and churches. The money was to be given to the Cardinal of Dublin to see that it was used for aid. When their ship arrived in Liverpool, England the group was detained and then refused admittance. For days the newspaper kept the story going. Calls were made to the British embassy and to President Wilson demanding a reason why they were not allowed to continue their journey. The British government’s response was that Americans were free to enter, but a “member” of this group seemed “hostile” and thus they were barred.
Upon his return to the States, Smith attained near celebrity status, even touring with Nora Connolly, the martyred James Connolly’s daughter. In no way did this deter him from his goal. When he returned to Lowell, he continued his speech-making and had the OMI Cadets give out pledge cards asking those in attendance to keep up pressure on the British for a free Ireland.
He soon left Lowell to write for Boston papers and often wrote for Boston’s catholic newspaper, the Pilot where he became friends with John Boyle O’Reilly. Mayor James Michael Curly of Boston hired him to be his “publicity agent,” where he used his writing skills to great advantage.
He and his wife made their home on Beacon Street in Boston where he remained until his death in 1929. His funeral in Boston was attended by many from politics and the newspapers. His wish was to be buried in the Lowell Cemetery alongside his wife and young daughter. Though he had been gone many years the chapel was filled with old acquaintances as the priest from St. Ann’s conducted the committal prayers. A moving inscription in part reads, “The day of death is done. They have gone out beyond the stars… where their souls are united. Where peace and happiness are eternal and the everlasting God abides.” Upon the reading of his will, large donations were made to Lowell General Hospital and Boston College.
In one of his speeches he wrote, “As God lives, these men shall live to inspire generations yet unborn, to dwell in the hearts of men, and the songs of singers for the blood of the martyrs is the seed of liberty.”