Mad Cow Nightmare
Ruth Willmarth wakes one hot July night to a cacophony of drums, accordians, high-pitched warbling, and the bellowing of cows. Her lover Colm has invited his distant cousin Darren to fill in as herdsman on her Vermont farm, but Darren has brought along his extended family of volatile Irish Travellers. Among the crowd are Darren's estranged brother Ritchie and his beautiful but exhausted girlfriend, Nola, who has recently undergone brain surgery in a Toronto hospital. Unknown to Ruth, the hospital is seeking patients who might be infected with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human form of the fatal Mad Cow.
But Nola disappears, and Ritchie is found in the local swamp, strangled with the reins of a neighbor's "darling" Morgan mare, prompting a widespread search for a "plague-carrying, female killer." The mare, too, vanishes, to the secret satisfaction of the owner's jealous partner!
The troubles pile up on Ruth's barn-step when calves on the N.Y. farm where Darren, Ritchie and Nola worked, contract Mad Cow; and now the feds want to slaughter the two calves Ruth bought from that farmer, and quarantine, without proof, her whole beloved herd.
Harrassed by reporters, feds, and paranoid townsfolk, Ruth has her back up. She polishes her ex-husband's hunting rifle; Darren's granny squats by the calf pens with her potbellied pig and shotgun. But when Ruth's kooky sister-in-law arrives with a vanload of women to reenact an ancient Black Plague dance and demand that the "gypsies" leave, a despairing Ruth breaks down.
It takes a fire in the Travellers' trailer to bring her out of her funk; and desperate to find Nola and ascertain her state of health, Ruth springs into action. And ultimately farmers, Travellers, neighbors, armed feds, and spooked cows slam together in a whirlwind climax. Told in a variety of offbeat voices, and with a vibrant sense of place, Mad Cow Nightmare is the sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreakingbut always suspenseful story of a strong-minded farmwoman and her extended family, whose lives are dramatically altered by the threat of plague.
© Copyright 2001 - 2012, Nancy Means Wright. All rights reserved.
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