Themes in ‘One’s a Heifer’ by Ross Sinclair

In life, it is natural that human beings will pass through different ages and different experiences that will shape how they perceive the world. Naturally, it takes a person particular experiences to transcend from one stage of life to the next. However, sometimes the experiences we go through in life force us to grow up too fast and learn the mysteries of the world faster than it is the norm. It is what happened in the story ‘one’s a heifer’ by Ross Sinclair. Through a detailed narration and suspense, Sinclair managed to take the reader through the narrator’s journey from being a small boy to a person who experienced the world in a different perspective than he was initially used. The paper aims to examine the narrator’s experience in the story ‘One’s a heifer’ by Ross Sinclair and to demonstrate how these experiences defined the narrator’s transition from boyhood to adulthood. The paper also examines how different experiences and situations elucidate the human potential for evil, and also how being away from familiar environments shape a person’s character.

‘One’s a heifer is about a narrator who has come of age because of the responsibilities that have been assigned to him at such a young age. The narrator’s uncle is suffering from a disease known as Sciatica, and so when two of the cows from his yard get lost due to the oncoming blizzard, the narrator is forced to look for them before they get killed in the looming disaster. At only thirteen years of age, the narrator has to set out with his horse Tim to look for the two cows with one being a heifer “Red with white spots and face, the same almost; only that one’s a heifer” (Ross 238). The narrator is still a young boy, and he has never been out in the night all alone. However, he has to take a manly responsibility and head out in a strange environment to look for the cattle. Along the way, he encounters a lot of challenges, and he has to grow up and fend for himself and his horse Tim. He moves from being a small boy who looked up to his aunt and uncle for food, and now he has to take on the big responsibility of fending for him and his horse. For example, on the first night out of the home, the narrator realizes that he and his horse are hungry. He, therefore, has to go to the strange neighborhood that is already experiencing food challenges to beg for food. He has learned the courtesy of being grateful when one has been helped, and therefore he offers money to the man and woman who gave him food (Ross 238). It is here that the narrator experiences the phase where one has to struggle with the dilemma of being hospitable and greed. When he offered the money to the couple, the woman’s eyes lit with excitement, but she had to fight back because the boy was only a small child. The narrator is confronted with a real challenge when he suspects that a stranger named Arthur Vickers has stolen his cattle. The events that follow after this meeting change the life of the narrator significantly and make him see humanity differently. Arthur Vicker states that

Human potential for evil

Another theme that comes up in the story is that of human potential for evil. The narrator suspects that a stranger who comes to known as Arthur Vicker might have stolen his cattle. When he confronts Arthur asking him to see the cows, Arthur is hesitant at first but he goes in the shade for a while then he allows the narrator to enter On seeing the locked door in the shade, the narrator is c.onvinced that is where Vicker is hiding his cattle (241). Vicker, therefore, denies having the narrator’s cattle stating that the only cattle in the shed were his. Convinced that Arthur had his cows hidden, the narrator decides to trick Arthur in to allowing him to stay the night, to which he agrees. During the stay at night, the narrator plans that he will sneak out when Arthur was asleep and drive the cows home. However, during his plan, the narrator begins to see signs that Arthur is more evil than meets the eye. Arthur tells the narrator how he had a girl who wanted him to marry her eagerly but that he was not willing to do this because the girl was stupid. He says, “Last summer I had a girl cooking for weeks, but it just didn’t last. A cow she was; just a big stupid cow” (Ross 243). As the night continues, it becomes clear to the reader that when this girl insisted on staying at Arthur’s house, he did not like that idea and so he may have killed her. The owl in the story symbolizes death, and the ashes that the narrator sees at the grinding stone may be an indication that Arthur killed and cremated the girl. Arthur also seems to be haunted by the guilt of killing this girl, and that is the reason why he cannot sleep at night and seems to be addressing a stranger (Ross 246). Similarly, the narrator has devised a plan to find out what was behind the shed. However, his plan fails and Arthur walks in and starts to rough him up. At this point, we see the potential for evil because to protect the secret that lay behind the closed door, Arthur forgets that the narrator is just a child and intends to kill him (Ross 251). The narrator on the other hand, when he sees a clear danger to his life and that of Tim, he lashes at Arthur injuring him despite the knowledge that Arthur was more built than him.

Effects of the geographical landscape on the human psyche

‘One’s a heifer’ also shows the effects that geographical landscape has on the human psyche. First of all, when the narrator is out in the cold starts to feel a sense of fear and he starts contemplating going back home. The fear and harsh landscape and nature evoke great fear and anxiety to the narrator. Additionally, Arthur’s geographical landscape also brings him isolation and loneliness, thus pushing him to the edge of madness. In the story, Arthur is seen to be a very lonely man, and he keeps saying that when someone stays alone, he forgets what the world outside feels like (Ross 243). Because of the isolation and loneliness, Arthur is at the brink of insanity. He does not sleep at night because he fears the night terrors and dead people. The owl and the grinding stone also make the narrator nervous and anxious. People always associate owls with death and sadness. The fact that the owl is in Arthur’s house gives the narrator a sense of danger and extreme fear (Ross 247). From these examples, it is clear that the geographical landscape can impact a person.

In conclusion, the story ‘One’s a heifer’ gives insight in to how one can come of age because of the experiences they go through. It also shows human potential; for evil by explaining that when the characters in the story are faced with difficult challenges or daring situations, they have real potential for harm. Lastly, the story shows that where a person stays and the environment in which they contribute a lot to the emotional state of the person.




Work Cited

Ross, Sinclair. One’s A Heifer. Atlantis Films, 1984. Print. 236-252