Competition: In search of the next Myles
Curl. By Barry McKinley
THESE DAYS they call it bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE for short, but back in the old days, we called it “character”, and a cow without character was rarely invited into the house. The farm I grew up on was full of mad cows, but we never called them that. To us they were “fun cows”, always full of hi-jinks and playful pranks. My own particular favourite was a sweet Jersey known as Curl.
She was the life and soul of the milking parlour. I remember, she had this little routine she used to do with my father. He would open The Irish Times at the financial page, and Curl would study the numbers; after thoughtful consideration, she would moo enthusiastically. Father always said the same thing.
“Well. It looks like Curl is predicting a bull market again.”
Indeed, father, stand up comedy’s loss was farming’s gain.
Living as we did in a remote part of Co Carlow, we had to supply our own entertainment. We did this in the form of musical sketches and impromptu theatrical pieces from the great masters. Curl often showed up with a few other members of the herd, Daisy and Mabel and Ingrid and Maggie. Sometimes, especially during the more emotional scenes in A Doll’s House or Hedda Gabler, they would muscle their way onto the improvised stage (My brother Jarlath once remarked, “Cows love Ibsen because there’s loads of parts for women”). Their acting brought tears to our eyes, with standing ovations all round. Some nights I was so moved, I didn’t even mind hosing off the stage after curtain.
In the spring of 1975, things were bad in Ireland. Late one night, when I was fast asleep, Curl was taken away in the back of a truck, never to be seen again. I sobbed for all the following day, and then I did what all Irishmen do when confronted with the loss of a sacred cow: I wrote a ballad.
I put it in an envelope and I mailed it to a man I knew would understand: Bruce Springsteen. You’ll often hear it on the radio; it goes something like this:
“I’m in love with a Jersey, Curl . . .Singin’ Sha la la la la la la
Sha la la la la la la la la
Sha la la la la la la”