“Twisted Cow Tales” by Debby Schoeningh

This book is not a novel. It’s a compilation of a set of newspaper articles. As such, it’s meant to be enjoyed in small batches, not read through at one go.

As we expect with this sort of book, its success is mostly because of the author’s low-key sense of humour and imaginative wit. She has just enough of the old standards — cow poop, tough weather, calf diarrhea, marital conflict, calving on stormy nights and did I mention cow poop — to keep within the genre. Added to this are the non-sequiturs, the untraditional quirks, and the modern-day realities to make us feel we’re getting a true picture of the life.

For example, a constant theme running through the tales is the anthropomorphizing of the bovine personality. Cows, she warns us, far from being the typical quiet, contented animals we all see lounging about in pastures, are malicious, spiteful beasts who take particular pleasure in confounding the desires of well-meaning ranchers. The bovine plotting of Christmas mayhem in “Laughing Cows And Billiard Woes” is particularly revealing.  Her description of trying to pick up a slippery 80-pound newborn calf is worthy of a Charlie Chaplin sketch.

Lastly, we come to the ranch couple’s relationship. Rather than the misogynist-vs-the put-upon woman you might expect, these stories paint a picture of two reluctant angels, which they’d have to be in order to put up with the strains ranching puts on their marriage. And if you read  “The Handyman vs the Handyma’am,” which takes four pages to describe a man hanging a picture, you’ll wonder how it could ever work.

If I had my druthers, I think about 10 stories could have easily been culled from this herd book. At least two about driving calves up a chute and three about cow poop.

Otherwise, this is a great read for city slickers who want to know what life on a ranch is really like, and ranch people who know darn well it isn’t.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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