More Memories from The Farm

A facebook friend and our local state Representative Rick Brattin had to chase down an escaped bull over the weekend. When I read his wife’s post, I had a flashback to a similar escape over fifty years ago.

I grew up on a small farm in Southern Illinois. Dad was a coal miner and part-time farm, or it could have been the other way around with all the UMWA strikes in the fifties. Mom was teaching school. As I remember, I was around twelve.

The time was in the Fall. My Grandmother had moved in with us a few months before. The Farm mostly raised crops but we did have some hogs and a few cattle: a bull, three cows and a couple of yearling calves that were destined for the market or our freezer.

I rode the bus arriving home around 3:30pm. Grandma greeted me with the news that our bull had escaped. He had broken through a 2×4 fence and tried to get to the cows, it being that time of year. He failed to break into their pasture. From there he wandered off looking for more female companions.

I called our neighbors, told them of the escape and asked if anyone had seen the bull. No one had, but one, our neighbor a half-mile down the road, said he’d seen some tracks along his fence line.

Some farms put halters on their bulls, a halter being easier to lead cattle…when cattle, the bull in this case, is cooperative. Our bull didn’t wear a halter. I found some half-inch hemp rope in our barn, told Grandma where I was going and took off after the bull.

Usually this bull was docile. But, in some circumstances, he had a stubborn streak. It took me an hour or so before I found him grazing in a meadow about a mile back in the woods on another neighbor’s farm. He had broken through a number of fences and was scratched up from the barbed wire. He wasn’t in a good mood.

I tried to make a rope halter to lead the bull back to our farm. He didn’t cooperate. The most I could do, at that point, was to keep him in the meadow instead of wandering off deeper into the woods.

I finally heard Dad and some neighbors hollering, looking for me. I answered and in a few minutes they arrived. Dad took over, tried to make a rope halter and after several failed attempts gave it up as a bad idea. He made a lasso instead, put the rope around the bull’s head and attempted to lead him off.

That didn’t work either. The bull liked that meadow. Even with all of us pulling on the rope, the bull wouldn’t budge. Another neighbor arrived in a jeep. One neighbor had the idea of tying the rope to the jeep and forcing the bull to follow. Everyone agreed it was a good idea.

Dad tied the rope to the jeep’s bumper. Our neighbor put the jeep into double low and slowly moved off. The bull got stubborn. He didn’t want to go and dug in his hooves. The jeep inched forward, the bull resisted, the rope tightened, the bull’s hooves dug deeper into the meadow’s loam.

All that suddenly changed. The bull collapsed. The jeep dragged it a foot or so before stopping. The bull was dead. In his stubbornness, he had strangled himself with the rope.

You can imagine the scene. Dad and some of our neighbors turned the air blue. The neighbor driving the jeep was apologetic. Dad acknowledged it wasn’t the neighbor’s fault and besides everyone had agreed on the tactic.

Dad sent me off with our jeep-driving neighbor to get our tractor and wagon. I returned a while later to find the bull strung up from a block and tackle being field dressed. We lowered the bled out bull on the wagon. Dad thanked our neighbors for their help and we rode home, Dad driving the tractor, our neighbors riding with me and the bull in the wagon.

We dropped off our neighbors along the way home. Dad was fuming. The bull was registered Black Angus and Dad made quite a few dollars in stud fees from it. I was smart enough to keep quiet. Obviously, Dad wanted to be mad at someone but he had no one except himself. I learned a lesson that day. Some times it’s better just to keep you mouth shut…among learning other lessons.

At home, we switched the wagon from the tractor to our pickup. Dad took the bull to our closest meat locker where the bull was turned into steaks, roasts, sausages and hamburger.

We ate well that coming winter. It was a costly lesson for Dad. There were some things in this world, the bull in this case, who were more stubborn than him.