Delta rescues another lost and hungry soul
Dear Doctor Firth,
I run my kitchen and my life by two sayings: Good food speaks louder than words, and Nobody’s a stranger, just a cousin waiting to be recognized.
Maybe that second one is a southern idea, even more than most. Howsomeever, here goes.
I read about you at Whittlespoons R Us, the online genealogy newsletter for my husband’s (Sheriff Pike Whittlespoon of Jefferson County, North Carolina) family. Your great-grandfather Angus Firth of Glasgow is Pike’s third cousin twice removed on his daddy’s side, through the Jefferson line, meaning it’s likely that you share the Jefferson appreciation for cloven-hooved animals, liquor, family, good food, and the other passions of living. (Sex! Football!)
I know you are in your cups at this time, drinking, taking pills, and sleeping under trees, but I have some experience rehabilitating lost souls in that regard, and so I am enclosing a box of my biscuits and a cold-wrapped container of cream gravy for dessert. Please eat and write back.
We need a veterinarian of your gumption here in the Crossroads Cove of Jefferson County. My famous movie-star cousin, Cathy Deen Mitternich, and her husband, Thomas, have purchased assorted goats for their estate on Wild Woman Ridge, and our local berry farmers and lesbians, Alberta and Macy Spruill-Groover, wish to add sheep to their collection of critters and abused women they shelter. We could use an animal doctor who doesn’t mind progressive Oddness.
If you are willing to move up here, I have Jay Wakefield’s permission to offer you a no-rent fixer-upper on his property at the nearby haunted village of Free Wheeler. Since Jay has become a friend of yours already, you know he is one of the richer-than-Midas-and-stingier-than-Scrooge Wakefields of Asheville, but did you know this? He’s related to me on his grandmother’s father’s side, so he’s got a soft heart for peculiarities. I’ve been dosing him with biscuits and gravy since he was a bitter teenager stuck in a private boarding school, and I believe I’ve greased his view of the Wakefield family curse.
I can also promise you plenty of friendship among the local women plus Saturday night card games at Pike’s poker trailer, free meals at the Crossroads Café, and enough veterinary business to build yourself a decent income here in the Cove (and also over at Turtleville, our county seat). Most of all, I promise you lots of biscuits.
Come home, Cousin Douglas Firth of Scotland and now from Florida. You know we are descended from the same stock, don’t you? Mountaineering Irish and Scots and Scots-Irish around here? Plus Cherokee, African American, Vikings, outcast Romans, the Ten Tribes of Israel, and space aliens (That last one is harder to prove.)
You’ll fit right in.
Doug, three years later
A SCOTSMAN, two lesbians, an agoraphobic knitter, five herding dogs, and three hundred sheep walk into a bar and . . .
Ought to make a fine joke, you’d think. But it was for real, that is, the reality as I’ve come to know and love it, another day in the gently accepting world o’ the Cove, or, in this case, one mile higher than the Cove in altitude, up on the ridges of the Little Sheba, one of the Ten Sisters Mountains.
Damn sheep don’t need to go to pasture up here. Lots o’ fine pastureland down in the Cove. That’s what I get for hiring Alberta and Macy Spruill-Groover to tend my herd along with theirs. Lesbian feminist shepherds!
“The feminine urge to explore should be nurtured,” they said.
“The instincts of the ewes come from the Mother Goddess,” they said. “The Mother Goddess says they must follow the call to roam.”
Then I say Mother Goddess could come up here by herself in the arse-chilling November cold and risk being run over by a speeding poultry truck or a pack of joy-riding bikers. We were herding the sheep down the Asheville Trace. Even at its best, the narrow old two-lane is a steep, winding launch ramp for idiots on wheels. We’d have taken an off-road route instead, but the temperature was dropping fast. Had to get home before the fall lambs froze to their mams’ teats.
“Trouble ahead, Doc!” Macy shouted. Alberta started whistling commands to the sheep dogs. I was bringing up the rear, trying not to step in sheep dung, at least not before my new hiking boots got the shine of the Turtleville Shoe Bee Hiking Store rubbed off. Macy and Alberta were hidden around a curve at the front of the flock. Lucy Parmenter looked back at me from her seat atop a tractor, her face going so pale she could be one of my grandmama’s blond ceramic dolls back in Glasgow. Before Grandmama painted their bisque-white faces.
“No worries, Luce, just hold the course,” I soothed. She nodded shakily then faced forward. For Lucy Parmenter to creep out of her fiber studio at Rainbow Goddess Farm was a huge step forward; driving this tractor pulling a wagon full of lambs was an accomplishment that made Macy, her therapist, dance a jig.
“No dawdling,” I growled, as the ewes ahead of me began to slow or even stop. Sheep are the lookie-loo’s of the herd world. Give them any distraction whatsoever, and they’ll cause a traffic jam. You’d have better luck making good time on a city highway during rush hour behind a stalled bus full of naked strippers giving away free Lotto tickets.
Lots of insulting bahs came my way, and the ripple of slow/stop behavior continued to build. Around the curve, the dogs began to bark, and Alberta stopped whistling and started yelling. “Down. Stay. No!”
“What in the hell is going on up there?” I muttered. Propping my walking stick on one shoulder, I strode through the flock as fast as I could.
“Tagger’s finally caught a car!” Macy yelled.
A cranky veterinarian, two lesbian goddess worshipers, a little blond fiber artist who’s about to faint like a frightened bunny, a stalled herd of sheep, five freaked-out Belgian Sheepdogs, and a giant black bear named Tagger walk into a bar . . .
. . .and I meet Tal MacBride.
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