That's a Lot of Bull
Summer was ending. The group would soon be headed off to college or full-time jobs. Their carefree time was slipping away. The challenges and pranks increased as the days grew shorter. Tracy went along with the group, but she was always the last one in and the first one out of any of the shenanigans they got up to.
The gang hung out at Justin’s family’s farm. They swam in the spring-fed pond, rode dirt bikes on the trails, and had boozy bonfires in the woods. One late Saturday afternoon they were hanging out by the fence watching the cattle. Dennis grinned and let out a whoop. That was always a sign that something crazy was about to happen.
“I have a great idea,” he said. “Let’s see who can last the longest in the field with Buck!”
Tracy shouted, “Are you crazy? Have you seen that bull’s horns?”
Justin jumped up on the fence and swung himself over. “It’s not that big a deal, I’ve been in the field with him lots of times. Somebody time me on a watch.”
Dennis held up his flip phone. “I got a timer on this baby.” He started the stopwatch function and then let out a loud whistle!
Buck looked up at the group of kids and stared at Justin. After a few minutes, he put his head down and continued grazing. Justin walked the field, patted Buck on the neck, and walked back.
“Well, that was no fun,” said Dennis. Who’s next?”
Jade was the next in. He jumped quickly over and started running in a zigzag pattern toward Buck. The gang laughed at his crazy running. He was about six feet from Buck when the bull stomped his hooves and snorted loudly. Jade sprinted back to the fence. Buck was agitated but didn’t charge.
Lynn, never one to let the boys have all the fun, did a handstand off the rail and ran straight toward the bull. About halfway across the bull started running. Lynn pivoted and ran back to the fence. She vaulted over it and then rolled on the grass. “Whew! That was exciting! Who’s next?”
Everyone took their turn. Buck was getting more and more agitated. No one could beat Justin’s and Jade’s time in the field. Dennis took his turn and Buck nearly got him when he tripped and fell in a cow patty. The gang howled watching Dennis rolling in the grass trying to wipe the manure off. They were heading back to the farmhouse when Dennis stopped.
“Hey, Tracy hasn't had a turn. She has to face Buck!” He grinned and started chanting. “Tracy, Tracy, Tracy!”
The group chimed in, but Justin held up his hand. “Stop it. Tracy doesn’t have to do this if she doesn’t want to.”
Tracy looked at him relieved, but she saw Dennis doing the chicken dance. She scrunched up her face and looked at Dennis. “No, it’s okay, I’ll go. Start the clock manure face!”
The group howled at the dig at Dennis and cheered her on.
She carefully climbed the fence and cautiously started walking toward the bull. Buck was fed up with the intrusion of his field. She was about two feet away from the fence when he started to charge. Tracy hurled herself over the rough fence and caught her jeans on one of the nails. There was a tearing sound but the seam of her pants held tight to the fence. Justin rushed over and pulled her off the fence leaving her jeans behind. He set Tracy down and then noticed she was standing there in her bikini underwear. He couldn’t help laughing.
Tracy slugged him in the shoulder. Mortified, she started walking toward her car. Stella caught up to her and gave her a sweatshirt to tie around herself. They both walked to Tracy’s car and drove away.
Tracy broke down in the car. “I’m going to have to change schools for my last year. I can’t face those grinning idiots after today.”
Stella smiled. “Tracy, you wear a bikini all summer long. Really, what’s the difference between that and a pair of underwear? Relax. Just hold your head high and keep on referring to Dennis as manure face and everyone will just laugh at him instead.”
Tracy’s tears gradually became sniffling laughter. “True, he’s so obnoxiously cocky all the time, people enjoy having something to tease him about!”
It took a while for Tracy to feel confident enough to face the group. She finally felt comfortable for a bowling night. She was the best on the team, and they begged her to come out for the finals. There were some snickers about underwear when she bent over to release the first ball, but it was a strike, so they quickly changed to cheers.
Justin asked her to the Labor Day dance at the community hall, but she declined. She still wasn’t over him laughing when she felt so embarrassed. Watching him slow dance with Patty stung. She’d never admitted the huge crush she had on him.
Promises were made to keep in touch, but everyone knew it would never be the same.
Tracy excelled in the Business Administration program at Cal State. Her spare time was spent at the beach where she met people who were into obstacle course training. They convinced her to come out and give it a try. It was challenging but there was something she liked. Months later she was impressed at how strong she’d become and how her speed and agility had improved.
During Christmas break, she had a few drinks with the gang. It all seemed different now. Dennis and Lynn were a new couple and spent time cuddling which resulted in fewer pranks and name-calling. Justin dropped in late and gave Tracy a warm hug and kiss on the cheek. She held on a little too long and then awkwardly backed away, knocking over the chair behind her.
“Whoa there, cowgirl, don’t break the place! Still having problems with wooden things, I see. Justin grinned and picked up the chair.
“I didn’t know there was a stupid chair behind me. I’ve no problem with wood or anything else.” Tracy snapped.
“I’m sorry, let’s start over,” Justin said. “I really would like to hear about your experience at Cal State. It must be fantastic living in LA. Can I buy you a drink or a hot chocolate?”
Tracy almost backed into the chair again. She saw her parents walking up and waved to them. They came over and shook hands with Justin.
Her dad said, “We’re on our way home, we’ve got lots to do before dinner tomorrow. You can stay and catch up with Justin if you want.”
“No! I can’t let Mom and you do all the work. I’ll come with you.” She touched Justin on the shoulder and promised to catch up next time.
Tracy continued to enjoy her courses and stayed through spring break to work on a project. She still practiced the agility courses and her strength and ability improved weekly.
Tracy was offered a summer job in marketing for her hometown tourism board. She was passionate about all her town offered and it would help build her resume. Her parents were glad she chose to come home.
Part of her plan assignment was to photograph the rolling hills and winding creeks. Tracy enjoyed driving around and capturing the beauty of the places she knew so well. Driving past Justin’s family farm, she spotted old Buck in the pasture and stopped the car by the fence.
She got out and stared at Buck over the fence. He seemed quite chill. She had to try it again. There were no witnesses if she failed. “Of course, if I fail and there’s no one to offer help, I’ll probably die, but at least I won’t be humiliated again,” Tracy said out loud.
She slowly climbed the fence and walked toward the bull with gentle steps. She was almost there when Buck raised his big head and looked at her. “It’s okay Buck, we’ve got no reason not to like each other. It’s just you and me today, no loud noises or fools running at you. I’m just going to get close enough to give you a little love pat and then I’ll leave you to your nap. Okay?”
The bull watched her intently, but he didn’t make any motion to get up. Tracy stood by his side and reached out her hand and gently patted him on his flank. Buck flicked his tail and it hit her hand. She jumped back and screamed, which startled Buck and he snorted loudly.
Tracy backed up and started running, she looked over her shoulder and Buck was slowly pulling himself up. She ran faster, she heard Buck’s hooves pawing the ground, but she didn’t look back. Reaching the fence, she did an arial summersault over and landed on her feet.
Tracy looked back at the fence. Buck was standing calmly beside the fence looking very much in charge. She laughed, “Okay, big guy, I’m still afraid of you but I’m the only one other than Justin who got to pat you, so I still win!”
She heard clapping just behind her and turned to see Justin standing there with a blanket over his arm.
“I brought this just in case, but I see you’ve managed to keep your pants on this time. Well done!”
Tracy walked over to Justin, took the blanket, and smacked him with it. “You’re still making fun of me. All this time I've been obsessing over that stupid day. I thought this would finally make it right but here you are laughing at me again!”
“I’m truly sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. You facing Buck again was brave. Stupid but brave. I had no idea that day still bothered you. I’m sorry I thought it was funny, I’m a jerk.” Justin took the blanket from her and spread it on the ground. “I just picked up a case of cold beer. Can I offer you a drink while you tell me all about your life in California?”
Tracy plopped down on the blanket and kicked off her shoes. “Yes, I’m just a little thirsty after my sprint across the field, I’d appreciate a cold beer.”
Justin came back from his truck with a couple of beers each and sat down. He handed her an open one and then held up his own to clink hers. “Cheers! And good job sticking that landing btw!”
Tracy laughed and choked on her sip of beer. “Fine, it was funny, I guess. And stupid, but a little bit brave right?”
Justin responded, “Definitely funny and a stupid thing to do, but yes a little bit brave. Now in the future please tell me if I’m being a jerk, so I can apologize before you feel the need to do something dangerous again.”
“Future?” asked Tracy.
“Well, I’m hoping we can spend some time together,” said Justin. “I’ve asked you out several times over the years and you always said no. I’m hoping now since you’re feeling so brave you will say yes to this idiot!”
“I say, cheers to that!” Tracy clinked her bottle with his.
Over in the pasture, Buck settled back down for a nap.
About the author
Mary Haynes splits her time between a romantic old sailboat in tropical waters and a beach home in Ontario. A wanderer, by fate, she embraces wherever she roams! Mary recently completed her first children’s book, “Who Ate My Peppers?”