The Next Chapter

Ross King on the summer he spent shovelling horse manure

Bestselling author Ross King shares memories from a particularly brutal summer job.
Mad Enchantment tells the story of Claude Monet's famous water lily paintings. (Melanie King)

Ross King has built an award-winning career writing about European and Canadian art history. His latest book, Mad Enchantment, takes an in-depth look at Claude Monet's water lily paintings. The book was a finalist for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize. But before becoming a bestselling author, King had some decidedly less glamourous jobs, including this one...

An odd job I had in rural Saskatchewan in the summer of 1980, I believe, was to shovel manure out of a horse barn. My friend and I were hired for this prestigious occupation by a farmer, who I think was going to convert the barn into some other use. We shovelled for days on end. It was very hot, and manure, obviously, is very humid and steamy. It was not one of the best jobs, but it was good, physical exercise. One odd thing that happened was that there was a pigeon in the loft of the barn and the farmer's son came out at one point with a BB gun and shot it dead. The next day at lunch, I was served that same pigeon to eat. 

Ross King's comments have been edited and condensed.