Any kid that grew up on a dairy farm remembers being told “Watch out for the bull,” “Stay out of the pasture, the bull is out with the cows,” and “Don’t tease the bull.” We heard stories about farmers who had been killed by bulls who had gone mad. As kids we took these warnings very seriously.
That is why the night the bull got out remains a vivid memory in my mind. It was summer, the time of the year when the cows are turned out to pasture after the evening milking. Dad usually kept a Holstein bull on the farm. The bull was kept in a special stall secured by a heavy duty stanchion. The bull usually resigned himself to his captivity, but every once in a while he would test his constraints.
On this particular night we had finished milking, had supper and sat down to watch TV. I don’t remember why, but I know Dad was not home. We always had a dog on the farm. They serve as sentries, quiet when things are normal, but quick to sound the alarm when the situation calls for it. Our living room had a south facing big picture window that overlooked the garden. It was nearly dark when the dog let loose with a flurry of angry barking. We went to the window. His bark became sharper, and closer to the house. Our first thought, a skunk! Shut the window, quick! Then we saw him. He was black and white, but much bigger than a skunk. THE BULL was in the yard, looking into the window at us.
Mom assured us we were safe as long as we stayed in the house. No problem there. I don’t remember what happened next. I suppose the bull wandered off into the night. I suppose Dad caught him by the brass ring in his nose and put him back in his stanchion. I do remember a chain looped around the top of the stanchion after that.
To this day I always proceed with caution when going into an unfamiliar pasture … Or a new situation. “Watch out for the bull” is good advice to live by.