LAST SPRING I WAS ON A MISSION: Kiss the Blarney Stone. I packed my bags, booked my ticket, and endured an unfortunate bout of seasickness while crossing the choppy Irish Sea. Days were spent riding on crowded buses through miserable weather; nights involved tossing and turning in an uncomfortable bunk at a fourth-rate hostel. When my friends and I finally reached Blarney Castle, we waited in a seemingly endless line of tourists that slowly inched toward the top. To kiss the stone, you need the flexibility often reserved for a yoga class: You must actually bend backwards to face the stone; fortunately, an elderly man grips your waist so that you won’t plunge and land on some unsuspecting grandmother from Hoboken.
I could have saved myself the trouble and simply headed to the Panhandle instead. Shamrock (population: 2,200), oddly enough, has its own Blarney Stone. A fragment of the famed original is embedded in a simple concrete monument and holds court in Shamrock’s Elmore Park. How did a piece of this legendary stone make its way from a majestic castle in the Irish countryside to a park in West Texas surrounded by playing fields and swing sets? As its name suggests, Shamrock has taken an avid interest in Irish culture. Shamrock was founded by George Nichols, a sheep rancher who named the town in honor of his native Ireland. In 1959 a local organization decided to maintain this Irish image by sending away for a piece of the Blarney Stone. Shamrock was not the only town to do this—there are Blarney Stones in Irish Hills, Michigan; Emmetsburg, Iowa; and Reno, Nevada.
Legends have made the Blarney Stone famous. It is believed to be half of Scotland’s Stone of Scone, the stone that Scottish kings were crowned over because of its supposed magical powers. The stone’s name originates from land negotiations between Queen Elizabeth I and the Lord of Blarney, Cormac Teige McCarthy. During that time, the Queen decided that McCarthy’s smooth talking was “a lot of Blarney.” To this day, kissing the Blarney Stone is believed to bring the gift of eloquence (ironically, I lost my voice two days after the big smooch).
A visitor to the Shamrock Blarney Stone can kiss the stone if he chooses, with the added bonus of not having to contort his body into strange positions. If it’s luck—not eloquence—you’re looking for, the park has a faux—Blarney Stone closer to the road, which features a leprechaun instructing visitors to pucker up for good luck.