A cock and bull (and bike) story

Back in the 1980’s kids like me had to make our own fun, and when you have to make your own fun things…erm…happen.

I kicked footballs through plate glass windows, fell from shed roofs, pedaled my BMX bike off the end of ever larger ramps and even, just once, climbed into a wooden barrel and had a friend roll me down a big hill. Had we lived near a large waterfall I’d still have been there now, smeared across the jagged rocks, the remains of an old barrel scattered around me.

Anything to relieve the boredom, really.

One day, spotting a large bull in a farmer’s field, a friend and I knew instinctively that this could provide at least an hours-worth of entertainment. We shouted at it. No response. We skirted the field, leaning over the wall and waving red things in its direction. Nothing. The fact that it was in the field, alone, and not being trusted with company, should have alerted us to potential dangers.

But we were bored, and egging each other on.

Bull
Bull (Image: pixabay.com)

‘Come on then’ I said nonchalantly, and hurdled the wall into the field. My friend followed. We stalked the bull, nervously at first, but eventually bold enough to shout obscenities and snort and hoof the ground in mimicry.

The bull knew his geometry. He waited until we were smack bang in the middle of the field, equidistant from all four walls, before lowering his forehead aggressively, letting out a half-snort-half-wail in our direction, and accelerating.

At first it was funny and we whooped and laughed as we ran, gloriously aware that we were being chased by a bull through a field like characters in a slapstick. Within seconds, though, it became less funny. The bull was gaining, the grass was uneven, and we could hear the heavy snort of breath mere metres behind us. We ran and stumbled for our lives.

Not daring to look around we reached the wall and flung ourselves headlong over it, no more than a couple of seconds from being gored and trampled like a pair of suddenly-not-quite-so-bored rag-dolls.

We sat on the safe side of the wall, laughing as casually as we could manage, flung a few further insults to the bull, and wandered off to our next adventure.

Bull 1 Ragtime Cyclist (junior) 0

Fast forward twenty five years and I find myself out on a sunny Saturday afternoon bike ride with a friend (a different friend, not my 1980’s bull wrangler), on one of our usual wild and hilly routes. We soon found ourselves in a valley where the road picks its way through the local farmer’s fields, with no wall or fence to act as a boundary. Unusually, today, cattle were roaming free.

We rounded a corner to be met by the sight of a huge black bull blocking our path.

He peered at us casually.

‘Erm, is this a good idea?’ my friend wondered. How was he to know that I had unfinished business with the bovine community. ‘We’ll be fine’ I replied, jutting out my jaw and fixing the bull with my sternest gaze. I picked my way past. My friend followed.

As I gathered speed post bull, from my right came what I can only assume was one of its close relatives. Another, slightly smaller bull. This bullock skittered recklessly, leapt into the road in front of me, and cantered along ahead of me at full tilt.

For a few brief, glorious moments, I was sitting snugly in the slipstream of a bull.

I assumed an aerodynamic position and tucked myself in like Mark Cavendish winding up his sprint. As lead-out men go, this bull showed potential. My muscular teammate peeled off and I shot away down the road like a ball from a cannon. I may have whooped and punched the air at an imaginary finishing line.

Bull 1 Ragtime Cyclist 1

This contest is clearly now the best of three, winner takes all, and somewhere there is a bull with a plan. I am now on permanent alert.

For the next twenty five years, if need be.

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