Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I wanted to be a country vet

James gave me All Creatures Great and Small for "Valentines Day." I put it in quotation marks because it wasn't really for that day. But people seem confused if I tell them he just gave me a book for absolutely no other reason than he wanted to give me something. It was close to the red hearted day, so there.

For those of you who haven't read James Herriot's adventures in country vetland in the Yorkshire Dale hills.... you should. In my mind, he is the best nonfiction storyteller ever.

1) Of farmers with dead cows trying to convince the insurance company that it was lightning:
" I had heard Siegfriend tell of one old chap who had called him out to verify a lightning death. The long scorch marks on the carcass were absolutely classical and Siegfriend, viewing them, had been almost lyrical. 'Beautiful, Charlie, beautiful, I've never seen more typical marks. But there's just on thing.' He put an arm round the old man's shoulder. 'What a pity you let the candle grease fall on the skin.'
The old man looked closer and thumped a fist into his palm. 'Dang it, you're right, maister! Ah've mucked t'job up. And ah took pains ower it an' all - been on for dang near an hour!' He walked away muttering. He showed no embarrassment, only disgust at his own technological shortcomings. "

2) Of being called out after the farmer had tried his own treatment:
"He had been with us for over a year but it was an uncomfortable relationship because Siegfriend had offended him deeply on his very first visit. It was to a moribund horse, and Mr. Sidlow, describing the treatment to date, announced that he had been pushing raw onions up the horse's rectum; he couldn't understand why is was so uneasy on its legs. Siegfriend had pointed out that if he were to insert a raw onion in Mr. Sidlow's rectum, he, Mr. Sidlow, would undoubtedly be uneasy on his legs."

3) Of shouted phrases that made the author laugh:
"The milker was an old man and he was having trouble. He was sitting well into the cow, his cloth-capped head buried in her flank, the bucket gripped tightly between his knees, but the stool kept rocking about as the cow fidgeted and weaved. Twice she kicked the bucket over and she had an additional little trick of anointing her tail with particularly liquid feces then lashing the old man across the face with it.
Finally, he could stand it no longer. Leaping to his feet he dealt a puny blow at the cow's craggy back and emitted an exasperated shout.
'Stand still, thou shittin' awd bovril!' "

Good stories. Yes.


Phoenix said...

Ha ha I read these books over and over. I wanted to be a vet my whole childhood.
I finally volunteered at a vet's office and realized the county vets in my area spent most of their time with their arms up cows butt's, seeing if they were pregnant. How disappointing :(

elliebird said...

I agree with you! That was probably one of the most engrossing (special emphasis on "gross") nonfiction book I've ever read. I want to read his other books, too.
Have to say...I've never wanted to be a vet, though.

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amateur idler said...

James Herriot! He is hilarious. One of the best writers I've ever read. Great quotes.