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    James Herriot Still Makes the Grade

    Herman has been trying to get me to read the All Creatures Great and Small books for years. As of this writing I have read two and I’m in the middle of my third.

    What is wonderful about these books is that Herriot draws you right in. Each chapter is an episode in its own right and can virtually stand alone.

    In the same vein, each chapter works well with the whole to make a cohesive book.

    I watched some of the PBS-TV series from the book years ago “under duress” from Herman as I didn’t think it was my cup of tea.

    Now I think that since I’ve gotten into the books, I’ll be more apt to want to see the PBS re-enactment.

    In case you haven’t read these great classics, the stories are about two country veterinarians in Yorkshire, England. Siegfried Farnan and James Herriot are the two primary characters with Siegfried’s younger brother Tristan often used as a comic foil.

    Herriot is “the voice of sanity” when Siegfried goes on a rampage or Tristan gets into one of his romantic escapades. Throughout, the stories of animals helped and characters’ love for their animals is both touching and compelling.

    The veterinary practice deals mostly with large animals, but they also take care of small animals and the stories of those small creatures most affected me.

    One story specifically I remember is about a dog that a couple have carried in the back seat of their car with their children who are all upset over their dog’s plight. They run into James on the rode after stopping at his house and realizing he isn’t there. Thankfully James is able to restore the dog to health. He had gotten a ball stuck in the back of his throat and was choking.

    When James saw how upset the family was, he went right to work and manipulated the dog’s neck to get the ball out. The dog is saved for another day, which is what Herriot does in each story.

    There’s a wonderful relationship that develops between James and Helen, the love interest who becomes his wife. Much of the humor in the stories has to do with James inept romantic attempts to woo Helen, one time showing up in his pajamas which he had forgotten were under his farm boots and coat after an all-night calving.

    As one reader at Amazon.com: “Pampered pooches who are spoiled rotten, savage pigs who chase Tristan around the farm, a nightmarishly strict secretary who drives Siegfried up the wall, James's car-with-no-brakes, cows running on three cylinders, a sadistic vet who makes James wear a rubber bodysuit, and an elderly, immensely wealthy widow who adopts a pig - and through this, James falls in love with the beautiful Helen Alderson and worms his way into the trust of the farmers.”

    I even got great enjoyment from a story about a cow that was giving birth by breach where James and the farmer struggled to turn the calf around inside its mother—and I am SO not a farmer type. You all know that, right?

    So, if you get a chance and haven’t already had the pleasure, please give them a try. It puts a lot of life in perspective.


    Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com