Extra ‘n’ Ordinary, by Peggy Godfrey
[amazon-product]0964437538[/amazon-product]Review by Martha Quillen
Mountain Life – September 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine
Extra ‘n’ Ordinary
by Peggy Godfrey
Published in 2001 by Media Chaos
THANKS TO HER EXUBERANCE, her humor, and her original material and genial jokes, cowboy poet Peggy Godfrey is a popular performer in our region. She’s laugh-out-loud funny and can easily entertain an audience that includes both poetry lovers and critics.
Therefore, I was somewhat surprised a while back when High Country News did a feature about her. First I was surprised because — like most people who herd sheep for a living — Godfrey isn’t particularly sold on environmental law or preserving endangered predators, so I wasn’t quite sure why she was being featured in a leading environmental newspaper. Mostly, however, I was surprised at how many angry letters the High Country News article inspired. A couple of letter writers were downright hostile toward Godfrey and her lifestyle and opinions.
A description of Godfrey racing down her country driveway scattering pets — and letting kittens beware — drew the most criticism. Personally, I wasn’t sure whether that was because readers truly believed speeding down private ranch roads was a menace or because the author of the piece was extremely vivid in her depiction. For the most part, though, I thought the anger at Godfrey was a little over the top.
But I suspect that anger also reflected a real and growing division in modern viewpoints. Though Godfrey loves her animals — be they pets, sheep or cattle — she has a no-nonsense, country viewpoint about them. She accepts the economic realities of working farmers and ranchers. The lame, the injured, surplus young male stock, and pups that raid the henhouse may have to be killed to insure financial stability.
To some extent, all of us accept such winnowing, even if we’re only willing to support the extermination of rats, mice or insects. But even so, there is a chasm in opinion on such matters with a growing trend toward establishing animal rights, “no-kill” animal shelters, and vegetarian alternatives. Times are changing. When the original “Lassie Comes Home” was made nobody seemed to worry about whether any animals were harmed in the production of the movie, but now film makers assure us that even scorpions and snakes are protected. Thus, many old-fashioned ranch narratives full of stories and advice, witticisms and homey parables, seem more controversial than they were probably meant to be.
I suspect Extra ‘n’ Ordinary is like that. It’s a collection of thoughts, memories, personal stories and poems. Twenty years ago some of this material would have seemed pretty traditional, and some of it would not. Godfrey also shares some of her religious experiences.
Upon telling about a message God confided to her in church she writes: “This isn’t the first time God talked in church to me and I remember once responding ‘Shhh! We’re in church’ and then nearly laughed out loud at what I said and to whom!!! Old rules die hard.”
In her poem “God Has Been a Woman,” Godfrey writes:
Who comforts me when no one is near
When pain is so sharp, breathtaking, that I can’t even say where it hurts
Sings me lullabies during nights when I can’t rest
Holds me gently in Her vast silence when I need gentleness: and quiet…
In another entry, “The Story of Ewe #2,” Godfrey writes about the inspiration she gleaned from a crippled sheep who wouldn’t give up. And in other selections, Godfrey shares her resentment toward some of her new neighbors; here’s an excerpt from her poem, “New Neighbors.”
High in mountain summer range
I share with regular folk
There is a “new-age rancher”
And his cattle are a joke.
A Scottish breed best kept on moors
They’d certainly keep it warm
Because their meat is skimpy
But, oh, the hair and horn!!
Godfrey goes on to complain about how frequently this shaggy bull gets loose, impregnating the neighbors’ stock.
The Colorado mountains aren’t as homogeneous as they once were. They’re no longer a land of ranchers and miners and the business people that serve those ranchers and miners. Now, with the rise of tourism, lone eagles, and second homes, our citizens run the gamut, and so do our opinions and outlooks.
Extra ‘n’ Ordinary offers some spirited opinion in a varied selection of poems and essays. You’ll probably like most of the selections, and you may even love a couple of them, but no doubt you’ll really dislike a few, too. Altogether, though, the book offers a very candid glimpse into one woman’s life. Godfrey bares her heart and soul.
THIS LOCALLY PUBLISHED BOOK is also well-produced and edited with just a few trifling exceptions: First, almost every page starts with an indented paragraph, even if the page starts in mid-sentence. And second: the beginning of the book is a bit confusing. In the intro, the author tells why she wanted to write a “book of animal stories,” but then the first selection (“Wild Raspberries”) has nothing to do with animals (which is true of many of the selections).
All in all, Extra ‘n’ Ordinary is not as funny as Godfrey’s stand-up cowboy poetry routines, but it is fascinating; perhaps because the author is anything but “ordinary.” She’s a woman in a man’s world, a conservative rancher with feminist leanings, a fiercely independent Christian with some pretty non-traditional viewpoints, and a committed entertainer who devotes her time to both school and church. Godfrey’s book reveals the thoughts and ideas that fuel her extraordinary life.
– Martha Quillen
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