Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Rooster Named Pola Negri

     They're drawn in by the laughter, wondering what could be so funny behind the pages of the oversize book.  Soon there are three snuggled around me, one on each side and one stretched out on the back of the couch behind us.  The book was funny, unexpectedly funny.  The title didn't draw us in, Our Animal Friends At Maple Hill Farm, it seemed rather dull.  The cover art didn't draw us in, boring, didactic, perhaps no more fun than learning that a cow eats grass.  And so the book was shelved, unread, brand new and never opened, for half a year. 
     Arden and I were laughing after a couple of pages.  The cats did us in.  A page full of cat pans and spitting cats, boring cats and good cats, playing cats and mothering cats.  The spitting really got us chuckling.  The names the Provensens chose kept the humor in motion.  There was the rooster named Pola Negri.  Another named Big Shot who liked to fight and hated children and his come-uppance was in being carried off by a fox.  A horse named Ibn Rafferty and a beloved ewe known as Old Eleven.  And pages of dogs.  Sweeney, who's not around any more, and one poor little dog who ran away and no one remembers his name (we laughed and laughed).
    There are imperfect horses and imperfect ponies, and as the Provensens point out, imperfect people.  Still it's fun to know them.  It's fun to know all those animals with their idiosyncrasies, dogs that carry rocks, geese that like horses, silly sheep and goats that make every one angry.  We were glad to meet them.
     Our actual experience with animals is scant.  We had a grouchy old cat, who died this spring, but she made us laugh.  Once she performed a surprise leap off the microwave cart, into the side of Sam's head and knocked a two year old clean off his feet.  We have a little dog.  She's a lot easier to live with, but she can't make us laugh the way the way that bad cat could.  Over Thanksgiving a stray dog wormed his way into our affections.  We were hoping that if ignored he'd wander on, but Kara shattered those hopes, hanging over the bed at 7 AM and saying,"We found a little dog.  We named him Scotty Jim.  Can we feed him?"  When the thunder storm struck Scotty Jim was smart enough to let himself in and make himself comfortable on the rug.  Wasn't he good not to sit on the couch?  My kids still talk about Scotty Jim, he won our affections and we hope he has a good home.  At times we wish for chickens, horses or sheep.  Bryan has drawn a firm line - no more animals.  Bryan used to do 4-H in his youth; we thought differently of him.  For now we just go on wishing for a little hobby farm, wishing in the same way we wish we'd win the lottery, but we never buy a ticket.  But we love to read books like this written by someone who cares for animals, all sorts.

Scotty Jim

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