Author: Ryan Dennis

The Last Crofter

Several years ago BBC News ran a story on Ian MacDonald, a quiet man with pink cheeks that is the last known Scottish crofter to swim his cattle across the sea from the Isle of Sky.  Scottish crofting is a farming tradition in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland that dates back to the 19th century.  Crofters are mostly tenants that raise sheep and beef cattle before typically selling them to a farmer who can finish them out on the richer grass in the south. The Highlands and Islands consist of crofting “townships,” in which the poorest ground is...

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Rabbit Shows: An Amusing Tale Of Brutal Competition

If you say ARBA (short, for the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association) out loud enough you realize it sounds like a sect. Little did I know it was an even more dangerous organization. I handed my rabbit to the judge. Unlike showing cattle, this is the entire role of the rabbit exhibitor. Rabbits are in their prime when they are under six months of age. I had an English Angora five months old with long, dense wool. I was thirteen. My grandparents had driven to me to the show in Rochester. Most other breeders with Angoras were old Asian women,...

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Bad Principles and the Abuse of Power

When I was in Jr. High our school principal showed up drunk at a basketball game.  He shouted at the referees over a bad call, calling the decision “asinine.”  When they gave him a warning, he told them to look it up.  It was the type of juvenile thing my friends and I said to each other, but it didn’t work out well for our principal, because he was kicked out of the game.  Both parents and students watched in silence as the figurehead of our school was escorted out.  I had once seen him tell a kid that...

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The Geography of Family

Our family’s history starts with a pond on top of a hill.  It was first dug by my great grandfather, Claire Dennis, as a watering hole for cattle. He lived and milked there for two years without electricity. Because the milk carts, pulled by horses, would not make the climb he had to haul his milk over a mile in metal cans every day. Being the highest point in the county there was no geographical pardon from the winter winds that tore over the hill, still notorious among hunters and neighbors. When electric lines finally passed through the bottom...

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Strange Bob Square Bale Pants

In our old stanchion barn there was a large fan built into the wall. The blades turned quickly and the image of the calf hutches outside flickered in front of you. One of the first lessons I remember as a child was being told not to stick my hand in it. At the same age I also recall sometimes finding pieces of cat next to the fan. It was more puzzling than upsetting, even at that age. I had always considered barn cats to be a steady, grounded subculture of animals that were still around because of their savvy...

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