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  • Helen Row Toews

Prairie Wool

As luck would have it…

The times when I’ve experienced bad luck could fill volumes. We can all relate.

This column was hatched while walking with my brother to check on the cows. Mind you, it’s not the most pleasant of story openers. In fact, the tale borders on revolting, but it was the precipitating factor in my thought process and must be included. Hang on.

The cattle were settled for the night in a shed of deep straw. It’s calving season on the farm, and regular checks are always made. Bill shone his flashlight into their midst as we walked past the Charolais cows.

He sighed with relief. “Well, that’s the lot. Everyone looks settled for the night.” Yet, to his surprise, a young heifer appeared in the flickering light. Moving purposefully, she threaded her way into the group of sleeping animals and found the perfect spot to rest her weary bones. We watched as she flopped onto her side with a huff of air.

However, on the way down she bumped into an older bovine. The mature cow lumbered to her feet with irritation. She towered over the young heifer. Then, cocking her tail with perfect, unconscious aim, she ejected a torrent of liquid manure that spewed into the evening air and splattered thick upon the face of the young beast at her feet.

The heifer accepted this indictment on her choice of sleeping arrangements with good grace. She flapped her ears against the flow, batted long lashes to clear her vision and shook her head as the muck oozed over her forehead like lava edging down Mount St. Helen’s. Now, that’s bad luck.

“Bleah!” I muttered with revulsion—and a story was born.

My own tale of woe involved wet socks, an oven door, and an unexpected visitor. Sounds like an unlikely grouping of items, but stay with me.

For a brief time, when my kids were small, we lived in an apartment building. Justin, the youngest of the troop, owned some pretty snazzy socks. He was one year old and he loved them.

On this day, he’d followed his older brother into a game of puddle-jumping. First, Chris leaped across the filthy water, Becky cleared it next—and Justin hammered into the very middle. Did his older brother, Chris, surmise this might happen and stand back to watch with glee? You betcha.

Enter a wailing boy and some dripping sockets. What could be done! We had no clothes dryer, and the laundry room was occupied. I scanned the kitchen for ideas. Toaster? Microwave? Frying pan? Of course not! Wait. How about hanging them over the oven door on low heat? Yes!

They were drying quite nicely when the doorbell rang, and after quickly turning the little green socks to ensure an even bake from heel to toe, I hurried away. I’d only be a minute.

Unfortunately, it was the landlord, and I was held up longer than expected. Presently an unpleasant odor caused my visitor’s nose to twitch. He sniffed suspiciously. The smell of evaporating swamp water, roasting foot sweat, and melting polyester wafted between us in a murky haze.

“Bye!” I yelled and slammed the door. Then, amid a piercing fire alarm and a chorus of shrill shrieks, I rushed to save the sizzling socks.

In hindsight, this last tale is more about dumb ideas than bad luck, but so be it. Perhaps we can relate to those too.

Helen lives on the family farm near Marshall, Saskatchewan, where she works as an author, columnist, and in education. Find her online at There, you can learn more about her humorous Prairie Wool Books, or newly released fantasy series, Runestaff Chronicles.

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