It was the summer of 1954 when the bull attacked my mother. Not a pit bull. Not Bull, the bailiff from the 1980s sitcom "Night Court." Not Bull, the doctor in the current drama inspired by the life of Phil McGraw ...although the idea of Dr. Phil attacking my mother would make for a compelling story.
No, I mean a bull, an intact male bovine. For the city slickers, let's cover a bit of bovine basics. Those "cows" in the pasture aren't necessarily cows. Cows are females that have borne a calf. Females that haven't reproduced are called heifers. (The word "heifer" tends to trigger a spontaneous chuckle from about a quarter of the population. Calling your neighbor lady a heifer, however, does not trigger in her a spontaneous chuckle. There's no known explanation for this phenomenon.)
A male bovine that hasn't been castrated, ie. "intact," is called a bull. A young male that's been cut is called a steer. The cattle in the pasture are typically cows, heifers, calves or steers, unless it's mating season, when a bull is introduced to the cows and heifers of age.
Bulls are said to account for 2 percent of the cattle population and 80 percent of the trouble, and I believe it -- although a cow with her calf can rival that reputation. But cows are usually predictable, whereas bulls aren't, and standing at 1,500 to 2,200 pounds, they cause injuries you're unlikely to survive.
Now enter stage left, a young girl playing with kittens on a farm near Pollard, Arkansas. My mama loved all things plant and animal, much as I do. So it was no wonder when the kitten she was playing with tumbled under the fence and far into the pasture that my mother unwittingly tumbled right after it.
As the story was long told, my mother was fully engrossed in petting the kitten, and when it wandered between the legs of a cow, she reached to retrieve it. She was oblivious to any danger until she heard her name called in an odd tone.
Mama's older cousins were lined up on the three-board fence, calling her name calmly but emphatically. With kitten in hand, she looked up to find herself kneeling not beneath a cow ... but a bull.
"Run, Brenda, NOW!" the boys hollered.
She got to her feet and raced for the fence. The bull snorted, lowered its head, pawed at the dirt ... and charged.
"Faster! Don't look back!" they yelled. She could hear the bull closing in behind her and knew she couldn't make it on her own.
Just then, the boys leaned over and grabbed her by the shoulders the moment she was near the fence. They tossed her -- kitten and all -- overhead as the bull sunk its horns deep into the wooden slat.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. He apparently had never been to Pollard.
NAN Our Town on 01/11/2018
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