For my last day on the farm, Gerard decided to give me a special treat, dehorning calves. The squeamish may not wish to read this paragraph. The calf is placed in a metal restraint which holds its neck in place. Its snout is then forced into a ring holder and a rusty irony bar is secured over its head. The farmer then proceeds to burn its horn stubs off with a superheaded iron. The smell is sort of a cross between burning barber hair and overdone roast beef. The whole procedure takes about a minute, during which the calf if probably bellowing itself sick. If the horn stubs start to bleed (remember, horn is bone, which is living tissue) the farmer reapplies the iron to cauterize the wound. The calf is usually so shaken from the ordeal that it is unable to stand, and has to be forcefully shoved out by the farmer.
This procedure is done in compliance with Irish law, which forbids keeping cattle with horns as they are a danger to themselves and to all humans they come in contact with. Gerard assures me that it's much better to do it when they're young since the adult horns must be sawn off. Still, I must say it turned my stomach just a little. It seems we go through a lot to get dairy products. Today, I got a knot of artisan goat cheese from the English Market in Cork. It was delicious, but I couldn't look at it the same as before.
Cork is a lovely little city with lots of street musicians and cafes. It's quite hilly here, so the city sets a nice profile. I met some more Americans last night in the hostel and we hit the pubs for a bit. We managed to find a session going on at this one old sausage pub where two of the American lads were accosted by a 60-year-old drunken Irish woman who insisted on getting a kiss from each of them before she left the pub. After a couple pints of Murphy's, I worked up the courage to ask the uillean piper if I could borrow one of her whistles. I played "The Road to Lisdoonvarna" with the session, and I must say, I didn't do too poorly for a Yank.
Today, I've been walking about Cork hobnobing with the buskers and beat poets. I found one chap who had a full upright piano. Talk about dedication. He played "Moonlight Sonata" and a Chopin Etude. I made some music of my own on the world-famous Bells of Shandon, which are availiable for public use for a small fee. I treated the city of Cork to my redition of "Ode to Joy" and "Amazing Grace" which are the two songs I always play when I pick up a new instrument.
St. Anne's of Shandon also houses the largest working clock in Europe, known as the "Four-Faced Liar" since each face tells a slightly different time. The clock bears the following inscription:
Passenger measure your time
For time is the measure of your being
Something to think about. Dublin tomorrow.