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The Essay
Show #304
Sandy "St." Patrick
David Gunn

On March 17 in the year 433, on a Saturday much like this one, except that the atmosphere was comprised mostly of peat and the alphabet ended with the letter W, Sandy "St." Patrick threw the snakes out of Ireland. While legend asserts that he accomplished the feat in a single day, new DNA evidence suggests that the deed was carried out over two, perhaps even three weekends. (The same evidence also debunks an earlier myth that Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. While training for the ministry in Gaul, confirms the DNA data, Patrick had taken an oath of impecuniosity, and therefore wouldn't have owned a drivable vehicle. Some scholars -- well, only one, actually, and even he won't give his name -- contend that the syntax of the legend is awry. A concurrent definition of drove was "a stonemason's broad-edged chisel used for rough hewing," and used in that context it was obviously an allegory -- but of what, the scholar never divulged.) Anyway, even giving the man the benefit of three weekends -- seven and a half days -- it is hard for us to fathom how any one person could rid a country of an entire reptilian suborder. The explanation lies in Patrick's training in and gift for snake handling, a dangerous religious discipline normally performed by zealots who are out of their minds until they are bitten by the venomous critters, after which they are briskly borne out of their bodies. Patrick, on the other hand -- the one not handling the snakes -- knew that if he could hold them just long enough to swing 'em around his head lariat-style, he'd have sufficient centrifugal momentum to fling them all the way out of the country before they could take umbrage. This is supported by Patrick's mid-life career change to a rodeo clown, a job that allowed him to show off his remarkable roping skills. Skeptical herpetologists wonder how he was able to even find all of the snakes, some of which lay dormant and out of sight in subterranean lairs. Again, DNA data suggest the answer lies in a statistical analysis of the snakes Patrick did in preparation for his 7½-day toss de force. The church at Auxerre, where he supposedly didnít own a vehicle, had a large collection of snake skins on display in its reliquary room. Inexorably drawn to them like candles to a moth, Patrick studied the skins in detail for ten years. By counting the number of scales on each and massaging that number through some recondite algebraic formula that he learned from a mad abbot, he eventually arrived at what he believed was the sum total of snakes in Ireland. He embroidered that number on the lapel of his dashiki and, when he reached it after 7½ days of snake slinging, he abruptly stopped, confident he'd reached his goal. And no snake ever showed up to refute his claim.

After he'd rid Ireland of suborder Serpentes, he moved on to those little metal coils used to clean drains. You know the ones I mean? They're long and flexible -- I forget what they're called. But these, too, he tossed out of Ireland, irking the members of the Irish Plumbing Guild.

Later, he threw the ducks out, too, deeming them worthless. But this provoked howls of protest from the Irish waterfowl appraisers, whose "what's a duck worth?" battle cry led to the supplanting of Catholicism by the fowlophile-friendlier Solecism, a doctrine that still holds sway in many an Irelander pub.

Today's 304th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, while shirking its own Irish snakelore heritage, is instead predisposed to explore the "what's a duck worth?" dispute, and here with the opening skeptical salvo is Kalvos.