Ah, spring. It is so welcome here in southern Illinois, especially after the never ending winter we had this past year. The freshness in the warm air stirs up all sorts of desires.
The people are gardening, birds are chirping, the grass is greening, and the bulls are trying to kill each other... in the lake.
Yes. That’s right. It is spring. Time for Bull Match 2014!
Along with the warming temperatures comes a “warming of the blood” as it were. Usually the two ‘ole guys butt heads and kick each other. It is all in good fun until they are having a stand off in front of your tractor while you’re trying to move hay and you have somewhere to be. Their bellering across the hills blends with the sounds of the birds, cats, and stallions; a distinct song of love and lust and, well, SPRING. It is always a welcome sight, and frankly is one of those things like the return of the robins that lets me know that winter is finally gone.
But not this year. This year it got scary.
So many things fell into place Friday. I was taking the afternoon off to go hang out with Captain America, so I was home to help dad load up calves to go to a farmer friend of ours who will be feeding them out at his house. It was single handedly the WORST calf round-up of which I have ever been a part.
What usually takes us 15 minutes turned into renegade calves escaping to haunt the woods along the driveway, and two hours of trying to sort the remaining bull calves and heifers. We try to ship only the boys to feed out.
I know that they will have a good home while they are with him, and that it was significantly less traumatic than being run through a sale barn, but it always breaks my heart a little bit when a rough black nose pops out of the trailer window to nuzzle me. Or to try and find a weak point to escape the trailer, but I’m going with nuzzle…
Anyway, we finally got the trailer loaded and I happened to hear splashing in the lake, which was odd because usually the cows don’t start swimming until it gets to be much warmer. I turned and peered down at the muddy brown water trying to figure out what was going on. I couldn’t really process what I was seeing. There were two black shapes in the water. One was barely above, and the other was… throwing itself on top of the barely swimming one? What the hell? I walked a few steps closer and realized that they were the two bulls. Brisket was shoving Dale into deeper water.
“Dad! I think your bulls are trying to kill each other.” I called over to him, amused at the time, not yet understanding that I was watching an actual death match and not just horsing around.
“Get me a gun.” He yelled as he sprinted towards the lake. I took off for the house heedless of my muck covered boots. I almost spun out on the pale hardwood floor as I slid in front of the gun closet and opened the door to find… not a single gun there. I stared at the vacuum cleaner and cursed. I didn’t even live here anymore, where had he moved his cow stopping guns? I slammed the door shut and sprinted into my parent’s bedroom, breathlessly. Surely there were still some weapons hidden in the drawer. I found a gun case and turned to run downstairs, out the door, and towards the lake as fast as my legs could carry me.
I saw dad nearing the dam now, yelling and throwing rocks at the bulls. Dale’s nose was just barely above the water as Brisket tried to repeatedly throw his bulk on top of him to hold him under the cold brown water. Brisket really was trying to kill his rival, and he was smart enough to do it. Knowing that they were well matched on land he had somehow got Dale into the water and had quickly taken advantage of the situation. I sprinted towards dad, heedless of the pain in my side, and got to him just as he managed to get Brisket out of the lake. Dale laid along the shore. His huge chest heaved as he tried to catch his breath. I tossed the gun to dad who immediately removed it from its case and pointed it at Brisket; as the huge bull made a move like he was going back for seconds.
“What the hell, Lauren? You brought me an unloaded gun? What am I supposed to do? Throw it at him?” Dad glared at me over his shoulder as he reached down for a rock to throw at Brisket’s big black head.
“You’re lucky I could even find one!” I yelled back, exasperated. “I don’t even live here anymore. I don’t know where you guys keep your guns!” Yes. I managed to find the ONE unloaded gun in the whole damn house.
Brisket let out a few short bellows followed by a long one. From the body language I could tell he was taunting Dale. After dad stung him with the rock he sauntered up the hills towards the herd of cows. Three of the girls made moves towards Dale, but as Brisket strode past and talked at them they eventually turned to follow him. At that, Dale finally had the energy to heave himself up onto dry land again and dad and I started the journey back around the lake; herding him with words and well placed mud clods as he bellered and pawed out his anger.
Many times as we walked I wondered if I was going to survive. There are few places quite as dangerous as walking ten feet behind an already pissed off 1,600 lb animal and throwing things at him. There is something very scary when that said animal turns towards you pawing and rubbing his head in the dirt, snorting; and all you have is a handful of dried dirt to protect yourself with. Sometimes I question my sanity.
Eventually we got him locked up in protective custody with our remaining heifers. His calls of discontent are echoing off the barn walls now. They are not the happy sounds of spring that they once were. I can only imagine what would have went down if dad and I hadn’t been home. I don’t know what we would have assumed had happened to him (I'll take Brisket in the library with the candlestick!), but I can guarantee that we would have never thought murder. It was almost the perfect crime.
So begins the hunt for a new bull. Can’t have Brisket throwing his psychopathic intelligence to the next crop of calves.
Seriously. He’s like the bovine version of Gacy.