Sunday, January 15, 2012

Beware the Staff of the Ninja Cow

They come out of nowhere in the middle of the night: pitch black Angus cows.  My friend Ian calls them ninja cows, as driving at night is pretty scary when these masters of camouflage creep out of their pastures and onto the road.  My ego took a serious blow when one of these ninja masters hit me in broad daylight.  With a pole.

My parents raise Herefords, who are pretty gentle in compared to Angus, but any cow can be dangerous if a person's being stupid.  My dad has a picture of my brother riding a Hereford bull at age three.  Well, not so much riding as sitting on it while it ate hay.

Ninja Cows
The selling price is a little higher for what we call black baldies, which are a cross between a Hereford and a Black Angus, so Dad runs a few Angus bulls, usually shooting for a herd of calves that are about half pure-bred Hereford and half black baldies.

Just after Christmas, I was helping my dad do Bangs vaccinations, which involves crimping medicine into a heifer's ear with a nasty looking, green-coated tool.  They don't like it.  My job was to stick a solid fiberglass pole behind their butts to keep them from backing out of the headgate, which is the mechanism Dad uses to catch their heads.  His headgate was made in 1954, so it had a few issues. 

One of the black baldy heifers, who was bigger than the Herefords but probably smaller than I'd like to exaggerate, hit the chute hard.  She kicked as I tried to slide in the pole.  I couldn't get it through to the other side, turning it into a giant lever.

She kicked again and all I saw was sky.  When I realized I still had all my teeth, I found that she'd caught me with a glancing blow to the right side of my jaw.  Thankfully she didn't shatter my jaw, but now there is scar tissue over the nerve that controls the right lower side of my face, making it feel for several weeks like I'd been to the dentist.  I tried to play trumpet with my fifth grade band, but the only sounds I could make were closer to that of a flatulent hippo. 

My husband asked me if I'd try to cover it up with makeup, and I joked that I'd leave it alone so I could get some street cred with the kids at school.  Funny enough, I really did.  In a rural community like this one, even the kindergarteners shook their head solemnly and said, "You've gotta watch out for those Angus heifers..."

I must point out that the Hereford bull that was in the chute just after the psycho Angus just stood there and let us cut off his balls.  So, for the health and well-being of agronomists everywhere, don't eat ninja cows. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: Pilgrims of the Sky, by Natania Barron

After Maddie's fiancĂ©, Alvin, disappeared, she tries to disentangle herself from Alvin's family and makes the heart-breaking decision to move away from his mother and his endearingly broken-minded brother.  A box of books, a guilt trip, and an unwilling favor later, she's sharing bodies with Matilda in the Second world.


Pilgrims of the Sky had many strengths.  My favorite part of the book is the vivid way Barron paints the other worlds.  I applaud Barron's vision, especially considering the fact that I have the artistic skills of a third grader and the descriptive vocabulary to match.  She manages to make the setting interesting without spending too much time on description.

My favorite character was Randy, a special man that reminded me of several of my students in a very charming way.  The cast of characters was quite large, and the difficulty of developing them was apparent.  I saw why the cast had to be so large, but it did make keeping names straight rather difficult for me.  I have a terrible memory for names, especially ones that are similar.  It's so bad that my students that I've had for a long while feel obligated to warn new kids that it's not that I don't care, it's that my memory card is made of swiss cheese.

The stakes for the main characters were deep, and the motivations clear, so I really had only small complaints about the book.  One:  there were a few sex scenes that were a little more hinky than I usually like.  That's a personal opinion, and obviously everyone has their own tastes and tolerances.  Two:  (SPOILER ALERT!)  the climax of the conflict really boiled down to "love conquers all," which made it slightly anticlimactic.  There were surprises, of course, but fiction that really floats my boat has some sort of deep, deep meaning, and the whole "love conquers all" thing has been done.  A lot.  In perspective, though, it's a pretty minor complaint.  I loved the book, and hope you do, too.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I Didn't Forget About You

Ladies and Gents,

I apologize for my lack of activity on my site.  I've been working on two tricky posts, posts that I'm taking time to make sure I do right. 

The first is an explanation of how to get agriculture right in fiction.  When my friend Michael Spence mention he didn't realize that grazing wasn't referring to a near miss by a bullet, I realized I needed to include pictures.  The article is ready to go, I'm just waiting for some pictures to be sent to me by a relative.

The second is a review of the book Pilgrims of the Sky.  I allowed the holiday insanity derail my reviewing schedule, so the review will be posted as soon as possible.

Thanks for your patience, and happy reading!