The Story of Seamus (a Parable)

My ancestors (at least some of them) came from Ireland. I know a few names and places but really don’t know much about them. However, I have read a lot of Irish and American history, and the story I relate to you below is certainly possible. The story is a parable. I hope you enjoy reading it.

In 1855 my great, great grandfather Seamus came to America. He came from a small town in Ireland called Tourmakeady in the County of Mayo and he came to America because he and his family were starving to death. Within a few years of arriving, he volunteered to fight in the Civil War. He enlisted and was assigned to the 69th Irish Brigade (the Fighting 69th). He was there under Sherman at the First Battle of Bull Run, he fought back Pickett’s Charge with his bucky-ball at Gettysburg and finally took a musket ball in the right shoulder at Fredericksburg. When asked why he volunteered to fight in America when he had only been here a few years, he said it was for freedom. He sympathized with the slaves and found written in his diary when he arrived in America where these words, “Free at last. I am not longer a slave of the British.”

After the Civil War he recovered, moved out west and started a small farm and ranch in the foothills of the Rockies, not far from present day Fort Collins Colorado. He married a young Arapahoe woman and together they had three sons and one daughter. Their farm and ranch grew and by the mid-1880s they had just shy of 300 acres under cultivation, with a cattle herd close to 1,000 head.

Then, in the late 1880s something changed. There had always been cattle thieves in Colorado, but usually it was some Indians who stole off with a cow or two, or some settlers crossing the plans who ran out of food and needed something to eat. But in the late 1880s gangs of cattle thieves were roaming the country. First, they would take 10 or 15 cattle, then they began taking 20 or 30 cattle, and in 1889 they came and stole 75 head.

Seamus and his sons chased those bandits and caught up with them at their camp. They were 100 men strong, and Seamus and his sons were only three. The majority won the day and Seamus and his sons returned to the ranch. A few months later the gang was back, taking more cattle. Seamus decided to talk with the cattle thieves, and this time he rode out to their camp alone. When he arrived, he addressed the leader, a guy he said called himself Pete.

“Why are you stealing my cattle?” Seamus asked. “I’ve worked hard to raise these cattle, it’s taken me 20 plus years to build my ranch, and I’m only just beginning to make some money so I can send my kids back East to go to school. These are my cattle, and this is my livelihood.”

Pete answered, “Well, you see Seamus. Me and the boys aren’t as lucky as you. We don’t have acres of land and a herd of cattle. So, as we need what you have, its only right that you share it with us.”

Seamus answered, “Sharing I don’t mind. If you need a cow to keep you from starving to death, just ask. But you can’t expect to live off my efforts and my work. If you want what I have, then head over to Utah. There’s land to be had there, and with the same work as me, you can have a nice farm and a nice herd too in 20 years.”

Pete patted Seamus on the back. “Now Seamus, look at it from our perspective. We need those cows now. We can sell them in Denver and earn enough money to buy new horses, saddles, and guns. Plus, we want to get married and raise us some young’uns. After all, why should we be deprived of the very things you have?”

Pete continued, “Now here’s what were going to do. Every couple of months we’re going to come over to your ranch and take some of your cattle. Oh, we won’t take the whole herd. We’ll just take enough to take care of us.”

Seamus asked, “But Pete. Each time you come back, you take more of my herd. When does it end? When will it be enough? Sooner or later, it won’t even be worth me keeping a herd because you’ll take it all. And if you do have those young’uns, you’ll need even more of my cattle.”

‘Well,” said Pete. “That’s just too bad. There’s more of us than you. Majority rules.”

Seamus was frustrated to say the least. It seemed like robbery to him, but what could he do? There was just him and his three sons, against a huge gang stealing his cattle. So, he gave in to their demands. Each time they came they took more cattle until one time they came and there were no cattle to take. You see that year there was a drought. A lot of cattle died, and because the herd was so depleted, there weren’t enough fertile cows to replenish those that died and those that had been stolen.

Seamus died shortly thereafter. The ranch was broke and the children sold the land for pennies on the dollar to Pete and his gang. A few years later, Pete and his gang abandoned the ranch and went back to stealing cattle.

As I mentioned above this story is a parable. The question you must answer as the reader is today who represents Seamus and his family and who represents Pete and his gang of thieves. Hint: Pete and his gang of thieves spend a lot of time in a place called Washington DC.