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Unkind Cut

In response to:

Ah, Wilderness! from the March 23, 1978 issue

To the Editors:

Professor Diane Johnson of the University of California at Davis writes about ranching as though she has never tasted son of a bitch stew. The rancher in the book she is reviewing (NYR, March 23) did not vent his disappointment “by brutally murdering a neighbor’s bulls.” After three of the neighbor’s bulls had broken fence and “worked over” one of his heifers, the outraged cowboy “cut” the bull, saying, “it’s like you had a daughter and she was raped.”

Persons who review ranch books should know two meanings of the word “cut”: first, it means to separate, as to cut a calf from the herd for branding; second, it means to castrate, as is done to the calf when he is branded.

Please pass this information on to Professor Johnson, who needs it.

Martin Shockley

The Texas Institute of Letters

Denton, Texas

Diane Johnson replies:

I want to thank Mr. Shockley for telling me about the Texas usage of the word “cut,” and that the bulls were not killed; only castrated. Jane Kramer’s ending is even more artful than I thought it was, in view of her general point about the powerless cowboy.

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