Sunday, March 15, 2015

Women of mud and manure


Gail Jenner is no stranger to Chico. She graduated from Chico State University “but we are still in Etna (five generations on the ranch now).” In her latest book she’s an editor, collecting dozens of short reminiscences from ranch and farm women and contributing four essays herself.

“Ankle High And Knee Deep: Women Reflect On Western Rural Life” ($16.95 in paperback from TwoDot; also for Amazon Kindle) features contributions from both new and established writers, grouped into such categories as “horse sense” and “lessons.” Jenner notes that “this is not a faith-based book, but this collection of essays does underscore traditional values while providing an ofttimes humorous look at life spent at the wrong end of a tractor, cow, or horse.”

Among Jenner’s lessons: “Don’t hold onto trouble; you’ve got to spread the manure around to make it effective fertilizer.” Those who live on the land, and from the land, can’t help reflecting. “Maybe,” she says, “that’s why farmers eventually become philosophers.”

Chico contributor Laurel Hill-Ward remembers “Mom Was A Beekeeper.” “When Mom got a call from the school, she’d drop everything and head to the rescue of one of her seven children.” She was unmistakable in her “men’s khaki Dickies” and “men’s size ten high-top Redwing boots,” an outfit designed “to keep bees from crawling up her pant legs.”

Madeleine DeAndreis-Ayers knows “Why Liberals Shouldn’t Own Chickens.” “What the liberal eventually learns after he recycles all the self-help books he has read is that a rooster will always be a rooster.” That means “he will always sexually assault every hen within reach and in full view of everyone, including the children who are being raised without television because of the media’s gratuitous sex and violence.” In the end, the liberal will discover that the ax that chops wood “has another use.”

Funny, poignant, telling. As Jenner writes in “Doing What Comes Naturally,” “Deep character is what is cultivated when you have to rely on the seasons and weather--and hope.”

The author was interviewed by Nancy Wiegman of KCHO’s Nancy’s Bookshelf, and the archive is here:

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