Kittle cattle

This is an expression I was exposed to in reading Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I only got through the Anne books once, and not attentively; most of my Montgomery reading was the same two books, over and over again, because that’s what I did, when I was a kid, was to read books over and over again, like the Mary Poppins books and the Hobbit and the Narnia books, and then Lord of the Rings and then Dunnett, ah, Dunnett.  I obsessively re-read Blue Castle and A Tangled Web.  Like, a lot, and repeatedly, to the point I memorized great chunks of dialogue.

When I’m trying to be warm and funny and chumpathetic with human foibles and vices, it’s to Montgomery I look for the blessed tone.  She gave me characters of occasional dignity and variable worth; all more or less attempting to be good while surrounded with the potential for thunderous criticism inherent in a small Prince Edward Island town early in the 20th century.  Where people really cared about what their neighbours did, having no tv poor things, rather than strangers living in Babylon several thousand leagues away and anything you saw them doing happened three months ago, which is good because it keeps you in perspective.

In this environment kittle cattle means – easily spooked or set awry.  The descriptor from the text is “so intense”. To me it’s a combination of being easily startled and self-willed, ‘difficult to manage’.  Not fun to be married to, as I construe it.  A troubling person, perhaps with genuine mental health difficulty.  Liable to stomp off.


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Born when atmospheric carbon was 316 PPM. Settled on MST country since 1997. Parent, grandparent.

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