Thursday, March 23, 2017

"One Good Mama Bone"

Bren McClain was born and raised in Anderson, South Carolina, on a beef cattle and grain farm. She has a degree in English from Furman University; is an experienced media relations, radio, and television news professional; and currently works as a communications confidence coach. She is a two-time winner of the South Carolina Fiction Project and the recipient of the 2005 Fiction Fellowship by the South Carolina Arts Commission. McClain won the 2016 William Faulkner–William Wisdom Novel-in-Progress for “Took” and was a finalist in the 2012 Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Award for Novel-in-Progress for One Good Mama Bone, her first novel.

McClain applied the Page 69 Test to One Good Mama Bone and reported the following:
Actually, page 69 could not be more representative of the book. One Good Mama Bone, at its core, is about the relationship between a human mother, Sarah Creamer, and a mother cow named Mama Red, who becomes Sarah’s confidente and teaches Sarah what it means to be a mother. This is the page they meet, after the mother cow has broken through a barbed fence and come through the darkness four miles for her calf, who – because of Sarah -- was taken from her the day before. Sarah had been hearing the calf’s cries through the night, but when she wakes that morning, all is quiet, and that’s what draws Sarah outside to find a large cow standing beside the calf she had bought the day before. The calf is nursing the mother cow.
Chills spread over Sarah’s body. The mama cow had broken free and come for her calf.

Sarah had taken her child away. She took a step back. How could she have done that?

The mother cow held her eyes on Sarah, circles of soft brown that welcomed, not chided. The cow began to chew, her mouth moving in a rhythm, slow and steady. It was one Sarah recognized. It was the rhythm of her arm, stirring a pot of grits. It was the rhythm of love.

“How’d you know?” Sarah’s voice full of hush. “That’s a long way for you to come. And in the pitch black, too. How’d you know?”

The mother cow raised her chin and sent forth a sound, a short one, yet deep, even vibrating. The sounds the steer had made were deep like that, but his were long, intended for the long haul, for his mother, who heard and who came. Sarah knew now who he had been calling. His mother. Such acts had never occurred to her. Neither a child’s calling nor the mother’s coming.

She thought of Emerson Bridge and looked back towards the house, to his window, where six feet away, he lay. “I got a boy, too.”

The mother cow’s neck now was stretched to her far right, the bottom of her mouth and chin moving along the ridge of her calf’s back near his tail. She began to lick, making long runs with her tongue. Her breath, hot against the cold, hung in a mist. And then rose high in the growing light. Sarah stepped forward and leaned in, in the hopes that the mist would come find her, that it would trudge across however far it needed to come, even knock down a fence or two, to come find Clementine Florence Augusta Sarah Bolt Creamer.
Another wonderful thing about page 69 is it carries one of my favorite POVs, that of Mama Red, in a kind of omniscience. We’re privy to what she sees and hears. This is when she first sees Sarah, setting their relationship in motion and referring to Sarah as “the gentle wind.”
The mother cow heard a squeaking sound behind her and then a slap slap. Her calf ’s head was beneath her, nursing. She turned to face the sound. He lost his grip on her teat but caught it again.

The day’s light had begun to appear. Someone was moving towards them, someone the mother cow did not know. She positioned her body so that her calf was tucked in behind her, protected. He was not free to run like she was.

This someone wasn’t as tall as the farmer or his workingman. This one moved slowly the way a gentle wind blows grass. The mother cow was not afraid. She straightened her body, bringing her calf within view of the gentle wind that came to stand just out from them.
Visit Bren McClain's website.

My Book, The Movie: One Good Mama Bone.

--Marshal Zeringue