So, apparently WordPress has these daily prompt things. This guy I follow, a Buddhist guy who is doubtlessly far more disciplined in his meditation than I am, took the opportunity to relate an anecdote about a face to face encounter with a berry loving bear that made me recall a similar story from my own youth.
I wanted to make that into a pun so bad. Also, it was the writing prompt from three days ago (fight or flight experiences), so I’m late. But then I’m still writing up a story about the bat me and my coworkers rescued back on Halloween, so it could be much worse.
Imagine that I’m nine or ten or so; it’s easy, I’ve changed so little since then. Myself, my brother and our friend are playing at said friend’s house in a cozy little semi-rural community with a pasture out back containing a few head of cattle. Such sideline ranches were and are pretty common in such places. We kinda weren’t supposed to be playing in said pasture, but we did all the time to no ill effect. There was also a treehouse toward the back of the pasture, so there were mixed messages at play.
As we all also know, children have to urinate every thirty seconds, so I went inside, did so and came back out and found that my friends had moved on elsewhere while I was gone. Slightly annoyed and figuring they were out in the pasture, I set about looking for them.
I crossed the cattle guard – for those who don’t know, it’s a shallow pit across the gate leading into a pasture with big thick tubing laid in parallel across it; people can walk across it, trucks can drive over it, but cattle won’t traverse it – looked across the pasture, still couldn’t see anyone. There were a couple of storage sheds on the left a little ways down, but I didn’t figure they were in there. We weren’t supposed to play in those either, only we actually didn’t, being that the very same implements that are proficient in doing farmey ranchey type things are also proficient in maiming children. Also, they were locked. Seeing as how I had a clear view of the entire pasture, and knowing they wouldn’t be in the storage sheds, I concluded that they had to be in the wide alley between them.
So off I went, calling out, and thus when I rounded the corner and entered the alley, the massive, angry bull at the end of it knew I was coming. Worse, it was a dead-end alley, so I’d inadvertently cornered it. You can’t really describe what this feels like; in fact, for a few eternal seconds it doesn’t really feel like anything. My brain seemed to resist accepting that there was a bull looming there, as if it were a trick of the sunlight and it was really my two companions, one standing on the other’s shoulders, making little bull horns atop his head with his fingers. The one thought I did have was little more than bemusement with the fact that antagonistic bulls really do lower their heads to point their horns at you and snort and stamp at the ground just like in the cartoons.
It stamped again, harder, and shifted its weight as if it were preparing to move, quickly, so my survival instincts decided this impromptu musing was unacceptable, locked me out of my own brain, and then I was running. I just sort of went along, watching the grass pass behind me and marvelling at how automatic it all was. Nothing I felt even casually resembled fear in the classical sense until I noticed first the tremors in the ground, then the rumbling behind me and realized it was chasing me.
That sounds bad, but consider: I was like ten years old. He obviously just wanted out of that alley when he saw his exit blocked, else I wouldn’t be here typing this. Bulls can run up to twenty miles per hour, and adult humans tend to do about eight, and short, chubby ten year old legs must be considerably slower. If not for the fight/flight override, maybe I would have heard it slow down or stop, or maybe I would have recalled that I was tiny and it was huge, and thus, as a threat, it probably didn’t really take me all that seriously. As such, I’m forced to conclude that it merely wanted to terrify me senseless, a task at which it unquestionably succeeded. Really, the way the ground shook when he ran was surreal, and I think it helped with the disconnect I experienced despite those tremors being easily the scariest thing about the whole experience. Feeling that, there was no question how heavy and powerful that animal was.
That said, there was ample reason to assume it meant to trample me. To those with little experience being around cattle, it’s hard to adequately explain how incredibly bad tempered bulls can be. Consider that while all the other animals on the ranch are being fattened, milked, shorn, etc., the only thing the bulls are “asked” to do is literally be sex machines, and that’s not so much a question of asking as it is a you-really-don’t-want-to-try-to-dissuade-him sort of thing. You don’t want to dissuade him because he weighs 2700 pounds on average, most of it muscle and arrogance, and is accustomed to every single entity he comes across being extremely deferent, even its owners. They are just a soft, hornless little sticks to be broken in its eyes, make no mistake. A friend of mine owns a bull with particular infamy among the bull riding crowd, and he has to sneak into his own pasture to feed the thing, because despite having owned this bull for years now, it will attempt to run him out if it sees him. That guy’s an ex-bull rider himself, and you know why? Because after he was bucked from his last ride, the bull, having successfully divested his rider and calmed himself down, idly stepped on my friend’s head and accidentally fractured his skull. They are powerful, temperamental, territorial animals not trifled with even by those with much experience handling them.
Not a bit of any of that passed through my head then; it was all running, and then sprinting, and whole bunch of ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod, so I had no idea what was going on back there. Here’s how full of adrenalin I was: I wasn’t fleeing quite in the direction of the cattle guard/gate, but more straight at the barbed wire fencing next to it, and yet there was no room in the reptile brain for course correction, so I could do nothing but sprint straight at it, climb it in like two seconds and leap as far off the other side and into safety as I could, without a single scratch. If I tried that now as a quasi-athletic adult, I’m fairly sure I would accidentally decapitate myself three or four times.
That’s pretty much it. I did keep running, all the way into my friend’s house, where his mother was soon quite perplexed upon finding me out of breath in her kitchen after having slammed her back door. Again thinking quickly, if you can call it that, I only said that I couldn’t find my friends. She didn’t press the issue any, only chided me gently for slamming the door. She was nice. Even now, more than one decade later, she still has no idea about any of this. And to this day, barbed wire fences still look so fragile.
The moral of this story is obviously that being chased by a bull makes one awesome at parkour as well as temporarily capable of great social chicanery.
Or maybe it’s that when the normal conscious mind is bypassed and instinct takes over, we become hyper-competent superheroes in the vein of Batman, except it only happens in moments of pure terror, you can’t control it, and it only makes you run away, in which case the moral is that life is a cruel and excoriating mockery of our very dreams.
Yet contravening this is the fact that awesome stuff like literature and music and yoga exist, leaving only the possibility that the moral is that when your parents or their temporary proxies tell you not to play in the bull’s pasture, maybe you shouldn’t assume they just want to ruin your pastoral frolics. Usually, there’s some good intent mixed with the resentment for how you ruined their lives.
And for that we should all be berry, beary grateful.