Faber: ‘The little green man on his bicycle’
Miles City, Montana
My grandparents came to America from Ireland in the early 1900s. They settled on a ranch in Eastern Montana, near Miles City, where they raised a family of 10 children. Most of that generation made their homes close by, with four of the families living at each of the four corners of the original ranch. My generation was full of very gullible Irish children, and the generation before us had lots of fun with us. Our fathers and mothers kept the Irish traditions alive so, of course, leprechauns ran rampant on our ranch.
A favorite family tale was about the little green man who “lived” in the badlands. My Uncle Henry Haughian and his family lived at Little Sheep Mountain, which was located in higher country. To get to town, they had to go through a short section of badlands; twists and sharp turns always made my cousin Elaine sick to her stomach. Uncle Henry, being a quick-witted father, thought of something that would keep her mind off her queasy stomach: he would make the kids watch out for the elusive Little Green Man on His Bicycle.
At the edge of the badlands was a burning coal mine–that was where the little green man lived. Uncle Henry and the kids would look to see if smoke was rising from the leprechaun’s house. If smoke appeared, they knew he was home, and they wouldn’t bother with him. But if no smoke appeared, they knew the crafty little guy was out on the road; the kids were put on the lookout to spy him, so their dad could chase him. It was great sport to spot him, and off they would go chasing him through the roughs. Elaine remembers a neighbor lady riding with them once, and she just couldn’t see the little green man riding his bicycle. The kids would gleefully point and say, “There he goes!”
My family lived on the lower part of the ranch, near the Yellowstone River. We seldom made it up to see our cousins, so it was an adventure when we did. All nine of us kids would pile in the station wagon for the hour-long trip to the mountain. My dad had another purpose in mind for the resident leprechaun. In those same badlands was a very sharp hairpin curve. The road was dangerously narrow through this section, so a blind corner was a hazard. When we approached the treacherous curve, my father would have us start looking for the little green man on his bicycle; and we would slow down at the curve just in case the leprechaun was coming the other way. To this day, we still slow down for that curve even though the road has since been straightened and widened a little bit.
Our childhood lessons were set in parables such as “The Little Green Man on His Bicycle.” I could fill a book with stories just like this one; most of them followed us into our adult lives, and we are surely passing them on to the next generations.
I dedicate this story to my Uncle Henry—his life was full of Irish fun.