Memoir Review  

A Buzzard Is My Best Friend
by Margaret Anne Barnes
Mercer University Press, 2000 (Reprint)
ISBN: 0-86554-713-0
In A Buzzard Is My Best Friend, Margaret Anne Barnes takes the reader on an adventure. Perhaps it is every city dweller's dream to move to the idyllic countryside to escape the rush and confusion of the city. The author and her family make the change.

But the odyssey is not all fun and games. The reality of farm life is that it is a job from sun up to sundown. The amount of work required to keep the author's 112 acres in pristine condition on the Virginia countryside and the care required to raise and care for animals is often overwhelming.

Barnes and her husband and two sons meet a variety of farmers, many of whom look on the new family as outsiders. Their opinions change over time. But she has to work like she has never worked before to be considered simply another neighbor and friend. The hay must be cut at precise times. The weather only complicates the task. And when Barnes has her "city slicker" friends come to help, the results are not as expected. One girlfriend shows up in white slacks and dainty sandals.  Another friend is a retired military man who rounds up the troops ( a group of neighbor children) and fights one of the toughest battles of his illustrious career.

Certainly one of the most humorous aspects of the book is the way the animals are named. They each take on human characteristics, personified by the author. The animals are a riot! Each horse, cow, cat, dog, chicken, and goat add to the humor with their idiosyncratic behaviors.

One of the most important lessons Barnes learns is that buzzards are early warning devices. When cows are caught on fence posts or bogged down in mud flats, the buzzards begin circling the fallen animal. Barnes learned to look to the skies and and watch for warnings from the buzzards. When a child gets a new BB gun for Christmas and wants to shoot the buzzard, Barnes must admit to herself and the others the the buzzard is her best friend.

The tale is full of humor! It is akin to All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot.  The animals steal the show! Most of us cannot just pull up stakes and move to the country. But it is still a dream. Barnes put a touch of reality to the dream without destroying it for the rest of us! Most city dwelling readers will continue to dream! 

Maris Cato
Southern Scribe Reviews

Editor's Note: Margaret Anne Barnes is the author of the highly acclaimed Murder in Coweta County (1976, made into a TV movie) and The Tragedy and Triumph of Phenix City, Alabama (Mercer University Press, 1998).

2001 Southern Scribe, All Rights Reserved