Farm Girl

Still reading this Margaret Atwood collection and the two stories I read yesterday were about the character, Nell, trying to adjust to living on a dilapidated farm. Her boyfriend, Tig, keeps bringing more and more animals to their place. First, it's chickens. Then a peacock and his mate. Then four cows and three lambs and a blue-tick bloodhound named Howl and a cat who multiplies into many many other cats and the last story I read was called "White Horse;" about a stumpy, asthmatic white horse who coughs when Nell rides her. The thing about farm animals is that they serve a purpose and the purpose is not to be pets or companions. Mostly, the purpose is for food. Nell has to accept this and in the meantime, there are all sorts of gruesome deaths and mishaps. The peahen accidentally hangs herself on the clothes line and her mate goes mad with grief, killing off a bunch of hapless chickens. Tig and Nell try to hatch chicks using warm light bulbs but something is off and when the chicks pop out, their eyes are popping out and their stomachs are unformed and so Tig has to kill them with a shovel. One of the lambs has triplets, but rejects the smallest one. They raise her in the kitchen, but as an adult, she becomes aggressive toward Tig and so they send her to the butcher shop and she arrives back at the farm a few days later in pieces wrapped in neat white paper. They butcher one of the cows too and a chicken who then runs around with blood spurting from the its headless neck. It's just this melee of murder and chaos.

I saw a cow get butchered once when I was visiting Nebraska. I went with my Uncle Tom to the butcher shop on the corner and petted the cow and then watched as they shot it through the head with a steel bar and then hoisted it up by its back legs to the ceiling so they could slit her throat and let the blood pour into a huge gray trash can underneath, an ordinary plastic bin like the kind we had in grade school. I don't know why I thought I should take the opportunity to witness this act. It didn't make me a vegetarian, but I'll also never forget it.


It's happened more than once that someone pinpoints something I do as being Midwestern; making honey toast for instance or wanting to eat popcorn with slices of cheese. Are those strictly Midwestern meals? I had no idea. I don't feel Midwestern or Floridian or East Coastnerian.

This photo, by the way, has a caption that reads "Depression Era Farm Girl in Nebraska."

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