Friday, July 25, 2008

Beware of the Bull

Everyone who lives in a farming community has heard a story or two of a farmer killed by a bull. And it usually is a stockman who is killed as ‘civilians’ like Stepbar would tend to be wary, very wary, of bulls. It’s the farmer that gets complacent, especially if the bull is perceived to be quiet.

When I was a child I always scanned fields for any sign of a bull before climbing that five-barred gate. Even if I didn’t spot one I’d always keep an eye out and have my escape route planned. You’d only take younger children into a field if you were 100% certain that the field was bull-free.

It wasn’t the stories about gorings that scared me – it was personal experience. We used to stay with our cousins near Toomebridge and their father kept a very cross bull. Once when the bull was confined to a shed he spent an entire day roaring and crashing against the door in his desire to be out again and among his harem. The door didn’t look strong enough to hold him and I was terrified he’d break it down and kill someone. I think there was a story that he did break out once and my aunt looked out the door and saw the bull peering into the pram of one of my younger cousins left outside to take the air. My aunt raced out and snatched her baby from under the bull’s flared nostrils. Despite this early fright, or maybe because of it, my cousin grew up to be a respected breeder of Limousin cattle and works with bulls on a daily basis.

When I was about eight Daddy bought a Hereford bull called Mulderrick Hero affectionately known as Ferdinand. He was a handsome fellow and said to be quiet. Indeed the whole time we had him I never saw him do anything more frightening than lightly paw the ground with a foreleg. Despite this he terrified me. Daddy didn’t keep cattle dogs – he kept children and when the cows (and Ferdinand) were on the move we were made to go out and ‘kep’ them. This was very traumatic as we had to keep an eye on the bull, who might, I thought, decide at any moment to toss me in the air at the point of a horn and then trample me to death. Truth be told we had a lot more to fear from The Cross Cow who was a complete devil when she had a calf at her foot and fairly temperamental even when she didn’t.

Once, soon after Ferdinand came, the TB man was on the yard to test the cattle. I took refuge upstairs because I was sure the bull would go mad and crash through our front door and kill us all. I reasoned there was no way he’d get up the staircase. I knew he’d want to but wouldn’t be able to get the stairs to bear his weight. I spent the whole time looking anxiously out the window and praying that Daddy wouldn’t be killed.

I was a very anxious child. I also had serious concerns about the lions breaking out of Bellevue Zoo but that’s another story.


Anna in the USA said...

Tsk, tsk, Nelly. Never get complacent about bulls not climbing stairs. I remember, as a child, one of my drunken uncles led his bull up a flight of 8-10 stairs into my mother's kitchen. He, the bull, immediately shat upon the newly waxed floor and my mother chased him and my uncle both out of the house. And that's no BS!

Grannymar said...

We had a runaway bull spend a night just outside our back fence.

He objected to having the snip-snip at the local vets.

Hagelrat said...

Mum gave up the dairy herd when i was quite young, handling three children and frisky bullocks just got too risky.

Nelly said...

Anna - I totally believe that but the bull wouldn't have made it up our staircase - it was so rotten it barely held my father's weight.

Grannymar - better outside the fence than inside it. Cattle can make a big mess of a garden.

Hagelrat - a diary herd is a huge responsibility in itself.

Anonymous said...

I'm in total agreeance Nelly. Once a farmer let my brother & me camp in his field - he then came back later to say we had to move fields 'cos he was letting the cows into that one, so he pointed to another spot a couple of fields away. We unhitched our tent and carried it over, only to find a LARGE bull careering towards us over the hill! We ditched the tent and bolted over the dyke. Apparently the tent was the same colour as the bulls feedbag, so he got 'a bit excited'. Bears scare me the most though.

Mikey x

Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with bulls. Congratulations to you and Bert. Mick n Linda. xxxx

Nelly said...

Might it put you in the notion?

Stephen Barnes said...

Glad to have inspired one of your blog posts, Nelly!

In reality, the story on Flickr might have been embelished with a little poetic licence (as you probably knew). I did happen upon the bull without realising he was there, and he did start to snort and stomp about, but I managed to retreat before he got very angry (or very close) and he calmed down a lot. Luckily I knew not to panic or run unless it was a last resort. Coat was prepared to be flung as a distraction, just in case!

Moral of the story is to heed the warning signs, even if they are on the wrong field!

Nelly said...

They're always worth a watching..bulls that is.