The Farm Chronicles—the quick and the dead

Our farm in Northeastern Ohio was pretty isolated by today’s standards. It was five miles to the nearest town, five miles in either direction to the nearest store, and 16 miles if you wanted to actually buy anything useful. There were eight farms on our road. There were many more farms surrounding us. The farmers, for the most part worked together, helped one another, and shared our lives. We were truly neighbors—kept to ourselves, but worked together and celebrated together—mostly through the local community church. Those of us who had beef cattle needed to make sure that our herds were healthy and bred well. This also was shared among the neighbor farmers, sometimes with interesting twists.

Whoever had a new bull was expected to share his bull with the other farmers to make sure the gene pool in the herds was diverse. This meant that exchanging the bull and actually keeping the bull long enough to breed the heifers could pose certain challenges. A lot of bulls become accustomed to their home farm, and don’t want to leave their herds. So when they are shipped off to another farm, they sometimes try to escape and return home. Somehow, they have a built-in homing device and can find their way back to where they came from. This would result in calls on the old party line late at night alerting this farmer or that, that his bull was loose on the road or in someone else’s barnyard or some such thing.

The bulls would jump a fence, plow through a fence (and if they did that, a lot of other cows would be roaming around, too), or find a small hole in a fence and somehow get out. It usually happened about 1:00 in the morning, causing a bull chasing drill, first on foot with flashlights, and if that wasn’t successful, then on horseback, or in a pick up truck. Sooner or later (usually later) we would find the bull and herd him back to where he was supposed to be. One time, I remember dad wanted to load a friend’s bull into the stock trailer to return him. This was a big Hereford bull and he was pretty mean spirited. We had chased him down many times to keep him in the pasture. Now it was time to take him home, and he didn’t want to go. Dad tried herding him into the stock trailer from the corral, but this bull was having no part of it.

As it goes, dad puts a rope around the bull’s neck, hands me the end of the rope and tells me to loop it through a handle in the trailer, stand outside the escape door, and pull on the bull. Bull’s not budging, even with dad herding him with the horse and smacking him. More drastic measures are needed. Dad tells me to drop the rope, come around in front of the bull and see if I can lure him into the trailer. Well, the bull was so angry by then, he charged at me full speed, slamming his whole body into the nose of the trailer. Luckily, I dove through the side door just a split second before being smashed. I didn’t even think about it until it was over. Acts 10:42 says, “And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and dead.” That day I was quick or I may have been dead!!!

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Bill Wilson