It's a Hard Cow

by Terry Jordan,
144 pages,
ISBN: 1895449162

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Tributes To Wonder
by Kenneth J. Harvey

TERRY JORDAN writes beautifully about loss, displacement, and the sense of helplessness that one experiences through acts of chance and of betrayal. But the stories in this collection are not sombre. Rather, they are filled with emotional tributes to wonder and human depth that inspire a breathless sense of grace in the reader. This gift of grace is a rarity. And Jordan works it seamlessly into words. While reading It`s a Hard Cow I sometimes caught a glimpse of the stylistic shadows of various wellknown writers. The characters` sense of spiritual aloneness in small towns evokes the mood of Sherwood Anderson`s Winesburg, Ohio. In the case of "Neither Did He," which deals with a laid-off miner struggling to save his house from repossession by the bank, the arduous, burdened eloquence that often characterizes the life of the regional working man is evocative of the wonderful magic of Alistair MacLeod`s fiction. Another great, Flannery O`Connor, comes to mind when Jordan effortlessly summons that lingering quality of misdeed carried out by one person against another, especially in the title story in which a father, who brings home the skeletons of baby bats to his sons, eventually loses his mind and is politely driven from his home by his neighbours. Nonetheless, Jordan`s style remains very much his own. Here I he is, writing at his best: At times I`d walk down after school to meet my father and, when he`d finish work, we`d sit together outside the largest cave and wait for the light to fade. He`d slowly roll a cigarette and smoke it, whispering to me about the day as I sat listening for the bats to waken. The noise of their wings would begin as far-off thunder, seeming to get closer as it got louder, and I`d took to the sky for dark clouds and always be surprised when there were none. Then the sound of their squeaking would rise above everything else, gaining volume, getting more frenzied, and just as I`d feel the push of warm, damp air against my face they`d explode from the cave mouth in a giant spiral and it would be dark for a moment before they scattered in all directions to feed. Jordan`s stories gain resonance and literary depth through their honesty of expression and sensuous, caring details; and caring is a key word here. It`s evident that Jordan cares deeply about his world, creating a convincing regional milieu imbued with a fullness that transcends any specific sense of place. These stories could easily be occurring anywhere and happening to any one of us. Terry Jordans compassion for his characters is also unquestionable: his stories are poignant and troubling in a human, heartfelt manner, and filled with an inspiring sense of bittersweet acceptance. These are personal stories rendered with such clarity that we are reminded of our own emotional frailty, but also of our own tenacious striving for spiritual ease.

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