How Not to Castrate a Bull

The pastures where about knee deep in hay and the weather was warm but not yet hot when dad asked me to get in the truck and go with him. It was in the early seventies and while I was strong my six foot frame had yet to fill in just yet.

That year my father had rented pasture from Mr. Scaggs on Indian Run Road. Dad wanted to pasture a few beef for the summer to butcher in the fall. However, after a few weeks the neighbors started complaining about our bull. It seems as though it had gotten out several times and may have bred one of the neighbor’s cows. Country people are by and large a very forgiving lot but I guess having a cow bred by some roaming bull falls outside the conventional boundaries of hospitality.

My father’s answer to this problem, as usual, was the least expensive.

I was completely unaware of any of this, my father often doled out information on a “need to know” basis. He seldom asked me to go anywhere with him and I was happy just to be riding in the truck with him that day. I had no idea what lay ahead.

Dad’s old truck had only about a third of a muffler and the mud grip tires on the back whaled as the old truck would pick up speed. Between dad being hard of hearing and the noise of the truck it would have been impossible to carry on a conversation. Instead I entertained myself by listening to the change of pitch in the whining of the back tires as we glided around turns.

After dad parked the truck he told me the situation by employing lets say an economy of words. He then pulled this huge pair of clamps that looked more like bolt cutters from the back of the truck and we then made our way to the barn. Mr. Scaggs’ place was neatly kept and I walked a few paces behind dad not knowing what I may encounter. I had learned log ago, with dad, it could be anything.

What we did encounter was something I have only witnessed once in my life.

It was an old man in overalls knelt down in the middle of the pasture. Dad stopped and after pausing for a few moments, I began making my way towards him only to be stopped by my father’s extended arm. I then realized that this man was praying. Out of respect for the man, we stood there quietly for several minutes. During this time, I began to notice the field around me. The hay was swaying back and forth in a gentle breeze and the mid morning sun had just made its way over the far ridge and felt good on my face. It was a beautiful day.

I don’t exactly recall the pleasantries that where passed that day between the two men however, Mr. Scaggs eventually left us to our business.

After considerable effort we managed to corral the young bull into the hallway of the barn. My father surveyed the situation and took inventory of anything in the barn that may assist us. He then told me the “plan”.

In addition to the various items that you may well expect to see in a barn was an old door lying on its side. My father then said that I was to pen the bull against a wall, lean the old door against the animal, lean on the door, and hold onto the bull in a head lock while he castrated the animal.

Even though I knew it was futile, I did voice my objection to dad’s “plan”. I may have weighed one hundred forty pounds at the time and had serious doubts that by me holding that bull in a head lock would even slow the six hundred pound bull down much less hold it still. You also had to factor in what would be happening at the other end of the bull. Even though I was young, I had become very fond of all my appendages and could not imagine the bull’s reaction to having lost a couple.

Well there was no getting out of it so I did as my father directed and sure enough the bull was none too happy about it. All I can recall is being tossed around that stall like a rag doll while my father was hollering at me telling me to not let loose. Sure enough the bull stopped jumping long enough for me to let go and get away. Dad then assured me that the job on his end of the bull was done too.

Faith is the belief in something that cannot be proved.

As a boy hope was enough to sustain me. Not having say-so over my own life, I clung to hope. As each old hope gave way I grasped at one anew.

But hope alone is not enough to sustain a man. A man needs something more concrete, something more visceral. A man needs a knowing borne of past actions and then seeped in life experience. As for the things a man has no control over or no knowledge of he must lean on faith.

Faith is what you do when you are alone in a field on a pretty day. Faith is the ability to look at your son after receiving a death sentence of cancer and being able to say; “Either way John whether I go or stay, it will be alright”

Hope is for children. Faith is for men.

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