A FRIEND OF THE FLOCK: Tales of a Country Veterinarian by John McCormack

A FRIEND OF THE FLOCK: Tales of a Country Veterinarian

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McCormack's (Fields and Pastures New, 1995) rural, deep South veterinary practice provides a wealth of anecdotes, which he relates in a crusty, quick-tempered style. Since he moved to Alabama's Choctaw County some 35 years back, McCormack has seen to most every barnyard complaint: ovine, bovine, and otherwise. When he is not busy castrating bulls and deworming sheep, he can be found on porcine beautification errands, plucking bones from dogs' throats, letting the gas out of a cow's stomach, or, in one sad episode, frightening a parakeet to death. He's no James Herriot: He flashes anger, is fast to pigeonhole people, he can be a tad superior to the local rubes, and can display an irksome primness (hiccuping is for him a ""rude noise,"" liquor the cause for a raised eyebrow). And the animals here get rather less narrative attention than the motley neighbors who are both his joy and his bane: Clatis Tew and Speed Whitted, Vester Crowson and the self-taught ex-vet Carney Sam Jenkins, dispenser of elegant homespun medical nuggets (""A sheep is born lookin' for a place to die""). Each of 25 chapters tells of an incident in his days afield and in his clinic; from each he has drawn a moral with which he tidies up the story, and more often than not they feel obvious or condescending: ""People who don't tend to the needs of their animals shouldn't be allowed to own them"" or ""There's a good lesson to be learned from dreaming too big and at the wrong time."" To be read more as a cautionary tale for aspiring rural vets than as a warmhearted peek at a country doctor's tribulations.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Crown