Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
I am typing at my desk when I look up at the screen. Like a shrunken mountain climber the Genius Loci of Portland ascends up my monitor. She is dressed in head to boot in green. When she reached the top she balances herself of my monitor. She proclaims in a shrill voice resembling Alvin and the Chipmunks. “Top of the morning me buck-oh.”
I eye her wearily as she calls out in that Lilliputian voice. “Kiss me I am Irish, for today is St. Patrick’s Day.’
“First of all…” I say counting on my fingers. “…You are a figment of my imagination…Second of all, you are two inches tall…and for a tertiary reason, Uh, St. Patrick’s Day is like in a month and a half.”
“Why every day is St. Patty’s day when you live next to the largest Leprechaun refuge West of Ireland.” She declares and begins to dace a jig on screen.
“Really.” I say slumping back into my seat.
Mill Ends Park (Sometimes mistakenly referred to as Mill’s End Park) according to The Guinness Book of World Records is the world’s smallest park. It’s just a few feet across and only has one tree. It set smack in the middle of the road. Cars speed by either side of you as you stand above it. It is cute and gimmicky, but it pure Portland, oh and the coolest thing about the park is the leprechauns.
Originally the location was supposed to be taken up by a light pole, but local reporter Dick Fagan got the city to make it the world’s smallest park, and named it Mill Ends, after his column. Mill ends are pieces of scrap wood that lay around a sawmill. Dedicated in 1948, it’s where Taylor Ave and Naito intersect, near the bank of the Willamette River.
Fagan had it dedicated as leprechaun haven, and would often write about the exploits of Portland’s head leprechaun Patrick O’toole. When the city began enforcing an eleven PM curfew, the rascally fae threatened the city with a leprechaun curse if he and leprechaun mates weren’t allowed to stay in the park late in to the night. It became unofficial city policy not to take action against the leprechauns for breaking the curfew and the city avoided a vicious curse.
In March of 2013 someone stole the park’s one tree. Since Fagan had passed away many years ago there was no talk of leprechaun retaliation. But the good citizens of Portland opened up their heart and paid $3.25 US for a new tree. The old tree was returned the day after the new one was planted. Criminal investigators were unable to determine weather the thief felt remorse or weather the manifestation of a leprechaun curse was what caused the repentance in the blackheart. But since the park already had a replacement tree, the returned flora was planted on Arbor Day in its new home in Mt Tabor Park.
Last year a town in England challenged our claim to having the world’s smallest park. They claim some silly non-existent rule that a park had to have animals and a fence. So Portland did what it always does and thought out of the box and someone bought a kids farm set and placed a fence around the park and filled it with plastic animals. Point and match to Portland.
I visited the park one day while waiting for a job interview in downtown. With the wind whipping at my tie and the cars whizzing by I tried to snap a picture of the park as I loomed over the new tree. You can see my finger on the lenses of my I-phone. When I was snapping the picture I looked up and an elderly jogger, with a red tipped, white seeing eye can hustled pass me, I swore I herd Bob Marley coming out of his ear buds. Only in Portland. Anyways I must have had taken a bit of the luck of the leprechauns with me because I did pretty well on the interview.
“OK, you got to respect a guy who uses mythological figures to describe the city he loves.” I tell the genius Loci in reference to Fagan’s writing style.
“What do you mean mythological boy-oh?” She asks in her recently acquired Irish borough.
“I mean you know leprechauns.” I reply.
“Mythological! The leprechauns are as real as you or I and they are proud to call Portland their home. Why me and Patrick O’toole are stepping out for a pint this very hour.” And then she vanishes in a puff of green smoke that vaguely smells of shamrocks.