Masses of Irishmen immigrated to the United States during the potato famine that swept Ireland in the summer of 1845 and continued for a devastating decade.
Folks fit enough and fortunate enough to travel took passage to North America, ironically the place from which the fungus responsible for the famine originated. Leprechauns, too, being wee men of prosperity and high-spirited adventure, grabbed their rainbows and pots of gold and fled the Old Country.
Over a century-and-a-half later, Mary and John, who wish to remain anonymous, are reaping benefit from the famine.
I refer to them as the O’Learys, because only persons with roots in the Emerald Isle would know what to do in the situation in which they found themselves. They don’t claim to possess the luck of the Irish, but they don’t deny it either.
Leprechauns – one leprechaun, at least – passed through Ellis Island in the mid-1800s and traversed as far as California’s gold-rush country. In late February, on the practical eve of St. Patrick’s Day, as Mary and John strolled a tract of their property referred to as Saddle Ridge, they spotted the dapper fellow sporting a green coat and knickers.
The leprechaun sat cobbling a pair of Nike shoes, all the rage among the fairies.
At the count of three, the couple leapt and wrestled the tiny man to the ground. Limbs flailed. Dust rose. Grunts emanated.
John came up holding the luck o’ the Irish by the collar. Mary’s breath caught. They’d done it! The O’Leary’s had captured a leprechaun.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Mary later said, “It was like finding a wonderful hot potato. I never would have thought we would have found something like this.”
Their bearded captive protested the undignified treatment, gesturing rudely and spitting testy words. Discerning that this tack did not intimidate his captors, the redhead rethought his escape strategy. “I’ll give ye three wishes if you promise to let me go,” the hoarder bargained. John and Mary O’Leary declined. Lore has it that there’s gold in them there hills, and that’s what they wanted. The little man slumped his shoulders and hung his head, pointing to the rim of a pot buried in the dirt.
Mary became an instant gold digger. Using a stick, she rescued the ransom from the earth. The couple scurried home to pry it open with the miniature man in tow complaining without pause about not being released. Alas, Mary and John had no intention of letting a leprechaun trick them out of their full share of riches.
Inside the pot they hit GOLD! U.S. mint gold coins dating to 1847, very likely the year yon leprechaun fled famine and headed for the hills of northern California. The O’Learys looked at the grieving sprite. Its horror betrayed its heart. It didn’t mean for them to get that pot. The shakedown that followed led to the landing of several more pots. All told, eight of the vessels contained a total of 1,400 gold coins worth $10-million.
Set free, the leprechaun wandered into the wilderness. Mountain lions could have at him for all he cared. He lamented ever leaving the homeland.
The O’Learys, flush with loot that was under their noses all the while, have chosen not to reveal their identities. In recognition that the potato famine resulted in their wealth, they plan to donate a portion to charity.
Mary’s parting words of wisdom, according to the L.A. Times, were “Whatever answers you seek, they might be right at home.” The rainbow might end in your own backyard. No credit for the O’Leary’s windfall was given to the leprechaun, however, who wants you to know this story is mostly true.