Growing up in Kansas, I had seen my fair share of hard work and chores. I relished in the mundane happenings that farm life was made up of.
There was nothing better than getting up at 4 am, opening the gates and herding the dairy cows in for their first milking of the day while I sipped on my coffee.
Spring always brought new cow babies (calves) and I loved watching them grow from little wobbly creatures into jumping, happy, young cows. When they were still growing, they seemed to have springs under their hooves and they bounced around on all four legs like rabbits.
If a person was sweet and loving towards them, they would be as loyal to that person as a dog and follow them around in the fields. I had a few of these loyal followers.
Nonetheless, it was that time of the year again.
Every calf had to be counted during or after the milking each morning to make sure it had not been a wild animal’s dinner the evening before. I decided to forgo riding my horse to, instead, walk into the pasture where the babies were kept.
As I strode out to the calf pasture with my coffee in hand and wearing a brand new pair of red cowgirl jeans that I had purchased the week before, truly, on that beautiful slowly warming pink dawn day, I was feeling myself. I planned on wearing these tight-fitting red jeans to the bull riding rodeo over the coming weekend in Pretty Prairie.
Bull riding rodeos were the most thrilling events in the small communities jotted throughout the Midwest and the Southwest of the United States. They happen to also be where a girl could find the largest number of cute cowboys to flirt with in one exciting location. Thus, red tight jeans would aid me in my flirtatious endeavors. Wearing these red jeans on this gorgeous day made me feel like a million dollar cowgirl.
Now, I was not the only person who worked on this farm. It happened to be owned by my best friend’s mother and was over 1,000 acres. There were a few men that labored and drove tractors in the fields as well as keeping the fences intact and other daily tasks. My friend and all of her sisters worked the farm also.
With my friend hollering at me as she headed off towards a different field to check on the other cows (the non-dairy cows that would go to market), I climbed up and down the metal fence one handed, still holding my coffee mug in the other hand and pleased with myself for my balancing skills.
Walking another few hundred yards, there was a wooden fence I could straddle, as I’m pretty tall, and then I hopped over with minimal movement before I reached the electric fence to go around. I could have taken the easy way and unhooked all of the gates that we drove the cattle in and out of, but I enjoyed being difficult and taking the road less traveled; basically bending my way around fences to prove that I was still flexible despite being kicked out of gymnastics. Horrible gymnastics teachers can really damage a girl’s confidence.
But that’s a whole other story.
There I was, out there on this beautiful earth, where I could see for miles and miles because Kansas is mostly flat. There are hills and trees and rivers dotting the land, and it looks less flat when I’m standing in a field looking off into the distance. However, the mornings are breathtaking and no painter could ever duplicate the masterpiece of the sky for the colors that appear there don’t even have names yet. The breeze was slightly blowing and the green grass swayed with it, bringing dewy morning smells to my nose and making me blissfully sigh out loud.
I took a sip of my coffee and observed the calves, some were bouncing around and others stood still while they stared at me. I started to count the little ones and smiled. No wild animal had eaten any of them last night. Being a stickler for accurate numbers, I counted them again and got the same number.
Seeing that I was close to one of the calves, I started to reach out a hand to pet it and it let me stroke its hair for a bit. Then it bounded off back towards a small group of young cows that were huddled together. They were all waiting for their mothers to come back from the milking.
I heard a shout from my friend in the neighboring field but couldn’t hear what she yelled. I bellowed back at her, “What?”
Too far away to hear her answer, instead I heard a heavy snort in the field and the little hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
‘The calves cannot snort that loud,’ I thought. That meant that there was a bull in the field. Holy sh*t!
How in the hell was he in this particular field? I did not have time to think about who left the gate open or who had put the bull in with the calves or why; I only had time to throw my mug up in the air as I spun around and started running towards the gate.
I could hear the bull charging at me and thank heavens that I was on the other side of the haystack than he was which meant that I was closer to the gate to escape him; I could beat him and his murderous rage.
I had been involved with the school track team for 5 years prior to this and I could run quickly, but this was a massive bull. I’m not talking about the delicate bulls that are over in Spain for the matadors to kill or the running of the bulls; the kind of bulls that are half the height of a man. Those are small European bulls.
This was a full-fledged muscled up, humongous, pissed off, 6 inches from being my height (5’11”), American bull.
Everything's bigger in America; bulls included. This thing was bred to be an angry jerk and that’s why cowboys at the rodeos hated it when they drew him to ride. He was called “Mr. Death ''; he had made quite a few cowboys retire from the rodeo life, and his father had been rated the meanest of all bulls in the rodeo circuit in Kansas and Oklahoma for 6 years in a row.
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
Fearing for my life as I knew the damage this bull could do to my much smaller human body, I ran as if I had wings. Or that’s what I was praying for.
“Please help me,” kept repeating over and over in my head.
I knew that I would not have time to get the gate open. The only way I was getting out of here alive was to clear the fence like a hurdler in a hurdle race. Despite having failed at hurdles in my track days, I knew that I could jump that electric fence with my long legs. And that fence would zap Mr. Death and slow him down.
With my lungs working overtime and my continued prayer, I cleared the fence with room to spare and did not electrocute myself. I was going to slow down but I heard my friend scream, “Keep goin’! He’s right behind you!”
‘Of course the electric fence hadn’t stopped him!’ I thought. He was a raging lunatic egged on by my red pants. All he saw was something that needed to be stabbed by his horns and trampled to death under his gigantic weight.
I hurdled over the wooden fence as if hurdles were my athletic passion and I made my livelihood from them. My hurdle form must have been perfect because I cleared that fence easily too.
Continuing my fear-of-death sprint, I realized that I would have to jump up onto the metal rod fence and climb over the top bars since it was taller than all of the others. I prayed that I would jump high enough to be out of the bull’s reach. He was a tall bull with horns that could stab upwards to get what he wanted and I could lose a foot or a leg.
I enjoyed all of my limbs and I liked them exactly where they were.
I heard nothing but my own ragged breathing. I did not hear the bull barrel through the wooden fence as if it were made of toothpicks. I could not hear his thundering weight inching closer and closer behind me. He was not going to stop until he had me.
Approaching the metal gate, I leapt up into the air to cling onto the top three rungs of it. I held on for dear life as the bull charged right into the gate, ramming his head and almost knocking me off right into his waiting horns with the force of his impact. I hurriedly scrambled up and jumped (it was more falling rather than jumping, to be honest) off the top of the gate and landed on my hands and knees in the brown dirt.
The metal gate had stopped the raging bull, who was snorting into the ground next to the gate, blowing up dust all over the place. He could smell me and he was not happy that he could not get to me.
“Thank you thank you thank you,” I said between jagged breaths.
My friend rushed over to help me up and swore she had never seen anything so scary or crazy. I started crying because I was alive and unharmed. Mr. Death did not get to have me that day.
Looking down, I saw that my brand new red jeans were all ripped and dirty.
I swore that I would never, ever, wear red jeans again.