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We jump right into our story with a first-person narrator who confesses to us that "I should of been in school that April day" (1.1). Uh-oh. Playin' hooky, huh?
Turns out our narrator ran away from school at recess, after being teased about his clothes by another boy. Now he's up on a ridge above his family's farm, throwing stones and fantasizing about fighting the bully.Suddenly, our unnamed narrator hears "a painful noise" (1.4), and he sees a huge cow a little way off. He recognizes her as Apron, a cow belonging to his neighbor, Mr. Tanner.
Apron is in the process of giving birth, and she's having some trouble. Okay, Shmoopers, hold on to your hats, because we've got a feeling this is going to get pretty gritty pretty fast.
Apron is trying hard to get her calf born, and there's blood on her backside and "foamy […] yellow-green spit" (1.6) around her mouth. The calf's head and one hoof are sticking out, covered with blood and "birthsop" (1.7). Hmmm. Don't say we didn't warn you.
The narrator wants to help Apron, so he tries to grab hold of the calf's head. The calf is covered with slime, though, and since our narrator is just twelve years old, he's at a bit of a disadvantage against a thousand-pound, frantic, won't-hold-still cow.
Apron kicks him in the shin while he's trying to get a hold of the calf, and he almost gives up.
When the calf starts crying out, though, our narrator decides he has to help.
He realizes he needs something to tie around the calf, and since he doesn't have a rope, he takes off his pants and knots one of the pant legs around the calf's head. Man, this kid is resourceful.
Apron, however, is not impressed, and she runs all through the bushes, dragging our narrator behind her.
When she finally stops, he takes the opportunity to tie the other pantleg around a tree.
His plan is that when the cow runs off again, the makeshift rope will pull the calf out.
The problem, though, is that now mama cow has decided she wants to stay put.
Not knowing what else to do, our narrator yells at the cow, hits her with a stick, and kicks her. Hard. (We know, we know—but don't worry. We can promise you that no actual animals were harmed during the writing of this book.)
This does the trick, as the cow pulls suddenly away, and the calf emerges. Booya!
Mama cow shows her thanks by licking both her calf and the narrator. Sweet.
But don't relax yet—there are more cowventures to come, faithful Shmoopers.
Now that the calf's been born, mama cow is having trouble breathing.
Our narrator knows what he has to do.
He puts his hand into the cow's mouth, way up past the back of her tongue, and into her throat. (Did we say resourceful? Anyone wanna vote for crazy?)
Way up in the cow's throat, he feels some kind of hard ball, about the size of an apple.
It's blocking her windpipe so she can't breathe. So of course, he grabs the ball and pulls.
The cow responds by biting down on his arm, and running around in a panic, dragging him along with her.
Needless to say, our narrator is not feeling good. "What she didn't do to me with her teeth," he says, "she did with her front hoofs" (1.26). Ouch.