This is the fourth and final part of the story of the time I spent as a cowherd on a dysfunctional farm in western Ireland in 1998. The first part is here, the second, "In which Dutch conquers the Irish countryside riding on the shoulders of a gentleman who has just consumed 23 pints of Guinness" is here, and the third part, In which Saint Patrick causes Dutch to betray his own countryman for twenty quid, is here.

My days living among the Irish farmers were waning,
and this filled me with incredible relief. I was growing tired of sharing the barn with Christopher the Bull and the 15-year-old Swiss kid who you might remember couldn't stop pestering me about "the pussy, it is good, yes?" while at the same time pandering to our Catholic overloads by promising to spend his life protecting the Pope. One afternoon I stumbled upon him masturbating vigorously to his dog-eared porno and he tried to play it off like he was practicing karate chops, but he knew that I knew he was lying so we just kind of stood there uncomfortably for a second before I grabbed what I needed and left. Eventually he put a framed picture of the Pope next to his framed photo of Bruce Lee and later added a small sticker of Padre Pio to the shrine. Tessie had been giving us an earful about the many miracles of Padre Pio for weeks. Trying to have a conversation with all these intensely-Catholic chronic masturbators with their Swiss/German-cum-bog-Irish accents was like plodding through a particularly impenetrable passage of Joyce. It was just too much damn work for what little satisfaction it actually provided.

One day I coasted on the old Raleigh down to Fisherstreet in Doolin to catch a ferry bound for the Aran Islands. I just needed to get away from these people for a few hours. The Aran Islands are creepy, desolate juts of rock in the Atlantic Ocean inhabited by a few hundred aging hobbits who wear piss-colored cable-knit jumpers and have skin like rhinoceros hides. While I was there a German fell off the wall of a ruined castle and they had to helicopter him back to the mainland. The island people were so excited by all of this you'd have thought the reanimated corpse of John F. Kennedy had just walked across the sea to announce the winner of the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest as well as Britain's hasty departure from The North. I ordered a cheese sandwich and a beer in the one pub on the island, but afterwards quickly grabbed the boat back before the locals could finish hatching their plot to lure me into that giant wicker statue out by the cliffs to burn it while listening to really bad techno music made with bodhrans and uilleann pipes.

On the way back to the farm, I stopped at the big field by the sea to count all eighty of Aideen's heifers and bullocks. When I got there, I saw that the bastards had knocked over part of a wall and some had strayed into the neighboring field so I knew I wasn't getting back to the farmhouse any time soon. It started raining heavily as I herded them back and began repairing the wall. When I finally did get back home, Aideen laughed and Tessie hobbled over to me from the stove, splashing me with holy water to prevent me from dying of consumption and then ordered Aideen to get me "some spirits." She then whispered in my ear, "Now ordinarily you know I don't approve of whiskey, Jimmy, but it can be a mighty elixir when you're as wet and cold as you are now." Aideen reached into her mighty chiffarobe of whiskey and poured me three shots' worth of Tullamore Dew, pouring herself about four. Tessie shook her head and stirred at her vat of cabbage.

We were nearly drunk when Davey O'Dwyer showed up for dinner. Aideen told him I was at Aran that morning. "Did you fall in love with an Aran woman?" he asked me, and I told him most of the Aran women I saw looked just like him. He grabbed for the bottle of whiskey and poured what remained into a pint glass for his apertif. I took another sip of my own. I've never held much stock in the wisdom of the Irish, but that whiskey did put a fire in me that warmed me to the core.

Davey knew I'd hoped to help birth a calf before I returned to the states. I'd been up in Belfast when the last one was born. He told me he'd been out to see Aideen's pregnant cows that day and promised that so long as I didn't head back to Dublin before the next full moon, I'd get to see one born. I had lived among these farmers for a few months, and never had I known a people so insistent that the moon plays a role in our everyday lives, that it pulls on the water in our bodies like it pulls on the water in the sea. The moon was always the scapegoat for any monthly aberrations or some violence down in the spa. These people could sit around and talk about the lunar calendar and the intricacies of the weather for hours. In this community, Davey was more popular than the veterinarian when it came to birthing livestock. Instead of money, you could give him a few chickens or half a salmon that you caught last winter from your freezer, and he'd come over and help you birth a calf. He insisted that cows always gave birth by the moon, and planned his social life accordingly. When the moon was thin he’d go off to Liscannor or the spa to drink himself into oblivion. When the moon was full and heavy he would wait at his house for the phone calls.

Over the next few days, Aideen had me bring the two pregnant cows in from the fields to the barnyard, and I warily moved Christopher the Bull to a small nearby field. A few days later, when the moon was full, she relieved me of my other duties and had me stay by them to wait for any signs: the rupturing of the placenta, the fracture of some bone she said I would feel massaging their haunches. It was early evening on the second night of the full moon and I was wrapped up in a blanket when I checked on them and saw an enormous wet spot behind one of the cows. Aideen wasn't home, so I told Tessie and jumped on the bike and rode up to Davey's place, a dirt-floored shack with lots of pictures of the virgin hanging on walls covered in ancient floral wallpaper. His daughter, Clare, was sitting lazily on a lumpy old recliner when I opened the door to her half-hearted come in. With adidas track pants, dirty runners, and bleached-blond hair, she had a look of trouble about her. Davey was sitting on the couch, his feet under three inches of water in one of those plastic foot-soaker tubs.

"The old gal’s giving birth, is she?" he said, without turning his eyes away from the episode of Friends they were watching on the small color television. At the commercial break, he let out a long slow whistle. "Let me change into my birthing clothes." He left me alone with Clare, the foot massager emitting a constant sorrowful moan.

"Yer from America, are ya?" Clare asked, and I nodded. "I want to go to New York and meet a black fella. I think black fellas are brilliant." I assured her there were plenty of black men to meet in the five boroughs.

Davey was back a few minutes later looking like himself: tweed cap, blue jacket, wellingtons. The bike had a flat tire but I coasted down the hill right behind his little Ford hatchback. I led him into the barnyard and he took one look at her and said she was ready. "Where's Aide?" he asked. I told him I thought she was all the way down in Milltown, so he had me help him get the cow into the birthing stall, a narrow corridor of heavy-aluminum piping that she was not at all interested in entering. We shoved the poor old cow in, and Davey rammed a pipe into a hole in the wall behind her legs so she couldn't back up or kick. The cow let out a defeated low and, in one gesture, Davey pulled up his sleeve and stuck his arm up her vagina. She hardly stirred. "There you are, crater," he whispered into the vaginal canal. "Shhhh, everything will be alright now."

He turned to me and pointed into the gaping cavity. "Feel him?" I rolled up my own sleeve and stuck my arm into the sticky warmth. It was so spacious in there I was sure I could have crawled all the way inside with a lit candelabra whistling "Flight of the Valkyries." When my arm was so far inside that the mucus from the ruptured placenta was creeping up past my elbow, I reached beyond the cervix and finally felt the warm, soggy calf. "Grab his legs, will you?" Davey said, and I felt around until I recognized a hoof and dragged it up and out of the cow's uterus. "There's one," Davey said, and quickly tied a rope around it. I groped around looking for the other, but couldn't find it. Davey reached back in and pulled out a soggy hoof with a laugh: "Would you look at that, I found another one in there." He tied a rope to that one as well.

While he was messing with some contraption that looked like a long metal pole with bicycle handlebars attached to one end, tying the rope to some winch-like mechanism on the pole, Aideen burst out in the yard in her long red coat.

"Davey O'Dwyer! Were you planning to birth this calf without telling me?" She'd been drinking.

"Git over here Aideen, you know this American is dying to take some pictures."

With one end of the contraption pushing up against the cow's backside, and Davey holding the other end, they let the cow out of the stall. She sent out a long, anguished moo that was answered by several of her colleagues in a distant field. After a few seconds of Davey dancing with her across the barnyard, and Aideen holding her tail and swatting her still with a stick, a calf's head emerged behind its outstretched arms, its eyes begging Davey to put it back in, and then its entire body landed hard on the concrete in a pool of blood, followed by the the sliding slap of the massive placenta, and the cow turned around to start gently licking her calf. "Let's get her over there, Jimmy," Davey said, and together we carried the shivering calf---"a girl!" he shouted---over to a pile of hay while Aideen led her mother over to her.

"Let me get a picture of you, Davey," I said, and he posed up against the wall:

We went off to wash our arms, then returned to watch the calf take her first tenuous steps. I asked if they were always that easy. "No, that was nothing," Davey said. "That cow's given birth twelve times before. She hardly noticed this one." I thanked them for letting me help. "There’s nothing you Germans or Americans enjoy more than seeing a cow give birth," he said. "I don’t know what’s so special about it. We do them all year long." Then he stood there in silence and stared across the yard.

"I'll never look at cow vagina the same," I muttered.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Nothing," I said. "Next time this happens, be sure to bring Thomas the Swiss boy out to see it. He's very interested in the cycle of life. He also told me he wants to help you collect semen from Christopher the Bull."

And with that, I packed my bags and returned to the states.