Amid all the serious news today, reporter Brad Bolchunos celebrates St. Patrick's Day by taking a lighter look at a character who may or may not exist.

Local hikers, sure of foot and quick of eye, may be lucky enough to spy him once in a great while - but never for long.

Shamus P. Shaw takes pride in his active lifestyle, seldom motionless when glimpsed by fellow wanderers in the woods of Clatsop County. Among trail-trekkers he is legendary for his speed - especially considering his apparent old age and diminutive frame - and for being aloof.

But from time to time, inquisitive-minded folks who trace the sound of his hammer echoing through the trees as he embarks on a bit of his custom shoe-making work just might have the fortune of catching him and visiting for a spell.

His face scrunches in rage if met unexpectedly, but his expression quickly melts into a youthful, mischievous, almost elven smile. In the manners of bygone times that belie his age - which he refuses to disclose - he tips his green hat and extends a hand.

"Charmed, to be sure," he says, his voice lilting with an Irish brogue.

He has ventured far and wide from his native County Cork, and occasionally pops into Astoria or Seaside for a bit of sightseeing. "But I feel most at home in the forest," he says, waving his pipe at the trees.

He leads a solitary and roving existence, carrying an array of tiny tools in his jacket and, as he puts it, "flyin' by the seat o' me pants, talkin' by the tip o' me tongue and livin' by the edge o' me wits."

Commercial, mass-produced footwear companies threaten to stomp out the livelihoods of independent shoemakers across the world, he says. The thought of commercialism in the shoe industry as well as other pursuits sends his temper flaring almost as much as those who dare to poke fun at Ireland or at "little people."

"Soap called 'Irish Spring,' and 'Sprite' - a fizzy sugar-water," he spits. "Blarney!"

He does not deny that the promotional atmosphere has extended to his own profession, including company names after ancient Greek myths.

"The shoe trade, I'm afraid, has lost a wee bit o' the old magic," he says, taking a rueful puff on his pipe.

But Shaw says in certain circles there will always be a demand for high-quality, hand-crafted work - even for unusual items like his distinctively pointed shoes. He admits that over the decades he has amassed "quite a fortune, don't you know," and not trusting banks or "fairy paper currency" he has stashed his savings in the form of valuable coins inside an old iron pot "in an undisclosed location."

"It's me 401(K), you might say," he says with a wink. "For the golden years."

Suddenly he sees something in the distance. He nods and points his pipe.

A bird? Another visitor? In the moment taken to try to discern what it was, he has vanished in the trees.

- Brad Bolchunos


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