Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small
Rita Mae Brown
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Rita Mae Brown’s earliest memory is of the soothing purr of Mickey, her family’s long-haired tiger cat, who curled up and claimed a spot in her crib. From there, a steady parade of cats, dogs, horses, and all manner of two- and four-legged critters have walked, galloped, and flown into and through her world. In Animal Magnetism, the bestselling author shares the lessons she’s learned from these marvelous creatures as well as her deep appreciation for them.
Brown readily admits that she prefers the company of animals to people, a trait handed down from her mother. After all, Brown explains, “There’s no such thing as a dumb dog, but God knows there are continents filled with dumb humans.” In fact, by observing the dogs on her farm, the horses in her stables, and the cats that have helped her flesh out her many novels, Brown has gained better insight into herself and other human beings–one need only look at a chicken coop, she once realized, to see its striking similarity to her mother’s clucking and preening group of friends.
In hilarious and heartwarming stories, Brown introduces us to Franklin, a parrot with a wicked sense of humor; R.C., a courageous Doberman who defined loyalty and sacrifice; Suzie Q, the horse who taught her the meaning of hard work; Baby Jesus, a tough tiger cat from New York City with sharp teeth to match his attitude; and of course the beloved and prolific Sneaky Pie, who needs no introduction to her legions of fans. In her succinct and personable style, Brown also revisits the very human parts of her life–growing up in the segregated South, dealing with the pain and the loss of those dearest to her, and coming into her own as an adult and as a writer.
Every recollection here reveals nature’s delight and wonder–and offers solid evidence of the ability of animals to love. As funny as it is poignant, Animal Magnetism shows how these inspiring creatures, great and small, can bring out the best in us, restore us to our greater selves, and even save our lives.
Mrs. Mundis didn’t mind eavesdropping on conversations, nor did Vergie Walker. It used to frost Mother. She’d finally say in a clear tone, “Vergie, will you get off the line?” Naturally not a peep was heard from the ever-curious Vergie, but you did hear the faint click on the line that meant she’d hung up. She dialed Tweetie. “Tweetie, Juts. How are you?” I couldn’t hear what he was saying. “I’ve got an able-bodied young lady here who will work for you in the mornings or after school for
sometimes. Some occasions.” “Nah. He was a little bird and I didn’t know him too well.” She laughed. “You’re a bird, a catbird.” Being a catbird in the South is a compliment. I felt instantly better. Nature not only abhors a vacuum, she abhors waste. A creature that can’t fend for itself is wasteful. Animals have litters, culling out those that can’t survive. Humans, centuries ago, also culled. Often if there was little money they’d get rid of the girl babies. The ancient Greeks practiced
perfect parallel, but it will give you an idea. When a horse jumps, the pressure per square inch on the foreleg and those bones is tremendous. It is when you jump, too. This fellow was ten and he had no name, or none that anyone could remember. I called him Major and I owe him a great deal. For one thing, he tolerated Baby Jesus, even neighing to her. She’d saunter (Baby rarely walked—it was always the Mae West saunter) to the fence line, where she’d climb a post and wait for Major to trot over
natural. Both Mary and I, in those few minutes we snatch to catch up, talk about how much we learned from Al precisely because he wasn’t a natural. He left volumes of notes and clippings, which his widow, Kathleen King, is wrestling into shape when she isn’t struggling with the aftermath. Al, a stubborn man, didn’t leave a will. A week before he died he said he’d make one and then boom, there went his heart. This story leads back to my hounds, but first I have tell you a little more about Al. He
years ago we had visitors, flatlanders. The fox ran the same pattern and a goodly number of them suffered the vapors. Bob Satterfield, not yet a joint MFH, kindly gave up his day hunting to turn them around (not easy), walking them back to the trailers where a stiff drink revived them. I don’t think it’s so bad, really, but I’m used to it. A pause, some air, then Cheerful and Maple opened again with Orion right there. The fox ran just below the top of the ridge on the western slope. We followed