Clancy’s Irish Griddle


Clancy O’Clagen was stacking wood in Mrs. O’Reilley’s woodshed. As he neatly piled the sticks, he was thinking of what his wife had said that morning. “It’s a fine thing to be helping Widow O’Reilley, Clancy,” she had said, “but while you’re setting her woodshed to rights your own is a sorry sight, what with kindling laying every which way. But if she pays you well for the work, I’ll be doing no more complaining.”

Clancy straightened up to rest his back and glanced around the gloomy shed. Suddenly he spied a shimmering of metal up high in a cobwebby corner. He moved nearer to see what the glimmer of light might be.

“Sure, and that’s an old Irish griddle, if ever I saw one!” he exclaimed. “But it’s rusted and grimy and in need of a good scrubbing. Now I wonder if I could lift it from the peg.”

Clancy stood on the tips of his toes and grunted and stretched and lifted. Then with a pull that nearly set him back on his heels, the griddle came off. Just as Clancy was slapping some of the webs from the griddle, Mrs. O’Reilley came in.

“So you’re interested in that old thing, I see now,” she said. “That’s been hanging there for many a year, and not much good it is to anyone. ’Tis one that came from the old sod country, it is. But only burned cakes is all it ever would bake, and who’d be wanting burned cakes now?”

Clancy’s eyes sparkled. “Sure, and I’d be glad to take the thing as pay for my work. Somehow I’ve got a fancy for it, seeing as how it came from Ireland.”

Mrs. O’Reilley threw up her hands. “Then pay it is!” she said. “But with that kind of pay, I can’t help feeling I’ll be cheating you for sure.”

Clancy finished his work in the woodshed and then, with a gay whistle on his lips and the griddle tucked under his arm, he went home.

But there was no gay whistling when Clancy’s wife saw the griddle and no money.

“Clancy O’Clagen!” she cried, “have you taken leave of your wits now? A grubby old griddle you bring home instead of money! And you with no good hat to wear on a Sunday and needing the same!”

“But no money could buy a griddle like this, and from Ireland too!” said Clancy. “Old hats shade heads as well as new.”

While his wife grumbled, Clancy went to work on the griddle. He scraped it, he scoured it, he brushed it. He rubbed and he scrubbed and he polished, and after a time part of the dullness was gone from the surface and bits of shining metal winked through.

“Potato pancakes!” said Clancy. “Good old Irish potatoes made into pancakes on an Irish griddle! Doesn’t that sound good? Would you be making some fine Irish potato pancakes, now, my good wife?”

Clancy watched his wife stir the pancakes. He watched while she ladled them out onto the hot griddle. He watched while their edges turned brown. And then, with his lips twitching in anticipation of a delightful mouthful, he saw the pancakes all at once turn black, burned to a crisp.

Time after time Clancy’s wife tried the griddle. But every time she did, it only burned whatever was on it. “A waster of good food and good time it is!” she cried. “I’ll be having no more to do with it!”

Then Clancy tried the griddle. He mixed pancake batter, spread it in little rounds on the hot surface, and watched the dough bubble. But just when he thought the cakes were baking well, they suddenly began to rise and went up and up. Like little round towers, the bubbling dough rose above the griddle—a foot or two high. Then, while Clancy watched open-mouthed, the cakes turned to cinders and crumbled away.

After that, Clancy’s wife turned the griddle upside down and used it to cover her churn of sour cream. But even as a cover it didn’t work well, for often in the mornings the griddle would be off on the floor and the cream would be sloshed about.

“Now you see what kind of a bargain you made, Clancy O’Clagen!” his wife said stomping her foot. “’Tis no good for baking. ’Tis no good for covering. A dirt-catcher and an eyesore is all it is. I’ll not be having it around any longer. If you’re bound and determined to keep the old thing, you’ll be keeping it outside and that’s a fact!”

Clancy picked up the griddle and marched outside. “’Tis no way at all to be treating a fine Irish griddle,” he muttered. “Using it for a cover for sour cream! It’s shame that I feel when I think of it, and this from the green land of Ireland, too, and maybe made with metal that’s been touched by the Little People’s own hands! Could be that houses are an irritation to the likes of it. Could be that a fire in a woodsy spot is what the griddle is needing!”

A sparkle leaped into Clancy’s eyes. He went back into the house, packed things for pancake batter, put two plates, two knives, two forks, a jar of butter, and a jug of syrup into a box, and then he took the griddle and went off whistling to find his young friend Denny O’Day.

“We’re going to make pancakes in the woods, Denny, my lad!” he said. “Pancakes on an Irish griddle!”

Denny loved to go into the woods with Clancy, but this time he kept looking to the right and to the left, and sometimes he even turned around and looked behind. “I’ve got a feeling that there are eyes looking at us,” said Denny. “And now and again I’m hearing the crackling of twigs. Do you think there might be something about, Clancy O’Clagen?”

“Sure, and what if there is? ’Tis nothing to do with us at all,” answered Clancy.

Beside a little spring Clancy made a fireplace. He put rocks about in a neat little ring. He scraped away the grass and built a fire that soon burned down to rosy coals. Then Clancy mixed the pancake batter until it was as smooth as liquid velvet. He whistled awhile, and every now and again he stopped to jig a little. When the griddle was sizzling hot Clancy poured the batter on it.

He stepped back and stared in amazement. For though he had meant to make round pancakes, the batter spread out by itself into dainty shamrock shapes—three rounds together and a little tail for a stem! And the pancakes didn’t burn. They browned gently on one side and, just as Clancy was about to give them a turn, over they flipped by themselves, or so it seemed.

“Hurray!” cried Clancy. “Sure, and I knew this was a griddle to be proud of!”

He heaped the pancakes on Denny’s plate. And when the boy had eaten all he could hold, Clancy said, “Run home now, Denny, my lad, and tell my good wife to come quickly! She’ll never be believing the same! Not till she sees it with her own eyes! Off with you now!”

Denny started off and Clancy made more pancakes for himself. But he was almost too delighted to eat. “I’ll just be making one more big one for myself,” he said, “and then I’ll sit back and wait for my wife.”

With an extra flourish Clancy poured batter onto the griddle. He poured until it was almost covered. Then he watched to see the shamrock take shape. But this time there wasn’t a shamrock.

The pancake spread and spread. It bubbled and bubbled, and then it turned itself over. But before the pancake was completely turned, a great zinging as of ten thousand hornets filled the air. The pancake flew high. The griddle rose and a huge puff of green smoke sent it spinning and sailing off over the woods.

In another moment the big pancake came flapping downward. It flopped on Clancy’s head and knocked him to the ground.

When Clancy sat up all was still, and he reached up his hands to push the pancake from his eyes. But instead of a pancake his hands pushed up a slightly warm, high plush hat of emerald green. From the bushes impish laughter and deep chuckles reached Clancy’s ears.

When Clancy walked into his own house his wife was busy knitting. Without looking up she said, “Clancy, how could you tell such yarns to Denny O’Day? I sent the lad off to nap after the way you’d filled his head with nonsense.”

Before Clancy could answer she looked up. Then she threw up her hands in surprise.

“CLANCY O’CLAGEN! Where did you get that elegant hat?”

Clancy pulled his ear thoughtfully for a moment and then he smiled. “Sure ’tis true,” he said. “In a manner of speaking, you might say I traded it for Mrs. O’Reilley’s Irish griddle! And that’s a fact!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Jim Arnowsky