Sunday, 30 June 2013

It's Best Not To Fall Off Your Horse When Rounding Up A Bull

I was woken at 6 this morning, not by Ted yipping at squirrels (because he's spending the night in L's attic bedroom at present on Monster Patrol, which handily also means he can't hear or see any squirrels and therefore isn't waking us up by barking at them at 5am) but by a whirring noise which was going on over my head.

M is away on a Boys Cycling And Curry Weekend (the hardcore credibility of which took a dent yesterday when I received an excited phone call informing me they were all off to a National Trust Tearoom overlooking Golden Cap for a Cream Tea in the afternoon) so it's just me and L this weekend. I therefore got out of bed to investigate the noise and for a second thought I'd discovered a new species of moth that was round and tubby with a sticky up tail (not that I am becoming at all obsessed in any way). As I woke up properly and could focus with my whole eye instead of half of it, I realised it was in fact a teeny weeny wren bumping against my mirror. I picked her up and took her to the window expecting her to fly off the second I opened my hand, but instead she tilted her head and gave me a thorough and I felt, given the early hour and the fact I'd just rescued her, a rather critical examination before bobbing her tail in thanks and bouncing off into the garden. I think the word that best describes a wren is pert.

I love wrens (they remind me of my Grannie) and don't see them often so it was A Nice Start To The Day.

Yesterday, it being just L and me, we popped over to ma's to show off our new car which finally arrived (after a delay of what felt like several years) on Friday evening. It's a shiny red fiesta with zero road tax and a decent mpg, which, after the Landy which consumed money just by staring at it, will be heaven. At the moment no-one is allowed to eat in it, touch it, breath near it, and I'd really prefer they didn't sit in it either but I suppose I won't be able to avoid that. L is disgusted and keeps rolling his eyes and threatening it with a football and saying things like: "how long is this going to go on mum?" and "what d'you mean, I can't eat my sweets in it?" A bird has already done a poo on it which is typical. I washed it off quickly, much to everyone's amusement because I am not usually known for doing this.


Ma duly admired the new vehicle with it's "Aston Martin Grille" (;-)) then went off to saddle her Appaloosa mare Lou and the four of us, plus Ted and Dougal, went off for a tramp round the forest in the sun.
  





L walking with Gran, Lou and the two doggy boys



Half way round we saw these people who were very curious about us indeed....


They reminded me of the times I used to help round up our local dairy herd in Sussex with my friend Sarah. She was the daughter of the Farm Manager on one of the neighbouring farms and was three years older than me so I rather looked up to her and thought she was pretty cool. I'd been dying to do the round up ever since I found out about it when I was 9, and when I was 12 I was finally allowed to go.

Sarah used to ride down from her farm across the fields and collect me. I'd sit on the gate with my binoculars trained on her farm and the minute she set off I'd rush round to the stables and get my pony ready so I was waiting when she arrived. Together we'd ride through the fields, collect the dairy herd and bring them back to the farm for milking. This was usually done pretty early in the morning before school and the land was often wispy with mist and wet with dew (which is an important part of this story).

One particular morning the Hereford Bull William was out with the girls. He was known for his bad temper. Think typical caricature of a bull, quadruple it, and you get near to what he was like. We were warned NEVER to go in the field if he was in it (so of course we did- my sister and I used to play a game of dare, sliding under the barbed wire fence and venturing as far into the field as our nerves would allow. If we were feeling particularly brave we'd do a little dancy wiggle to get his attention and annoy him. Usually all it took was for William to raise his head and stare at us from the other side of the field and we'd turn and flee back to safety giggling in a slightly hysterical fashion).

I hadn't expected him to be out with the herd on that particular morning but being on horseback gives you a sense of safety and I felt quite imperious in a masterish way, knowing he couldn't get to me. It was rather empowering not to be scared witless of him as I usually was and it made me braver than I probably should have been. Anyhow, we got on with the round up, collecting the girls and William (all of whom knew the routine so were quite biddable) and driving them down towards the field gate. This particular field was on a slope and something happened at the top that made the cows spook and they duly all took off down the field.

My pony, usually so reliable, took off with them. By this time William, who had led the charge, had reached the flat ground at the bottom of the hill and had turned round to stare straight at me and my pony as we flew out of control down the wet hill straight towards him.

All sense of empowerment vanished. I have never been so scared in my life.

Wet grass, panicked pony, girl out of control AND enormous angry bull waiting at the bottom for them. None of these things make for a healthy combination. 

Pickles (pony) pulled up sharp when faced with William, but couldn't entirely control his hooves on the wet ground. We skidded straight towards the enraged bull who of course didn't move because Bulls Don't Get Out Of The Way For Panicking Ponies. Finally Pickles managed to dig in his toes and stop, about eight feet away from the now snorting bull. The saddle shot up his neck and I shot with it. 

It looked, Sarah said (from her safe vantage point at the top of the hill), very impressive.

I went straight over Pickle's head in a sort of acrobatic but fairly graceless somersault and landed thump on my bum at William's feet. 

I'd like to say I radiated a calm and impressive sense of control over the bull and that was what saved me; in fact I think William was just so surprised at the sudden and unexpected appearance of this girl-child with her flying pigtails sprawling unceremoniously at his feet when he was used to people running away from him in terror, that it took him a few seconds to react. 

He stared at me, blinked, then slowly lowered his massive head and, raising one extremely thick leg, began to paw the ground.

"GET UP!" yelled Sarah.

Believe you me I Did Not Need Telling.

I scrambled to my feet, hauled myself up on the equally terrified pony (with the saddle still half way up his neck), turned him round and fled back up the hill with the enraged bull in hot pursuit behind us.

I looked back once and saw him, red nostrils flaring, enormous shoulders pumping, and urged the dear pony to Please God Go Faster. Half way up the hill, satisfied that he'd seen us off, the bull stopped running, turned and went nonchalantly back to his ladies.

I reached the top of the hill white-faced and shaking but oddly exhilarated (adrenaline is useful stuff it turns out) and discovered Sarah nearly falling of her own horse with laughter. I like to think this was because I was now safe and she could afford a chuckle.

"I have never seen anyone move so fast!" she gasped. And because it was either that or cry, I laughed too. We finished the round up, got the girls (and William) in off the fields and I went to school as as if it was perfectly normal to start your day being chased by a bull who wanted to gore you.

I'm not certain that ma ever had the unedited version of that story, but given that she'll be reading this post I expect I'll get a phone call later....

I'll leave you with a pic of this adorable baby Blue Tit who I think must have flown into the window and was in recovery mode when I discovered him (he flew away fine)...


A lovely Stag Beetle I found on the wall...

 
And Naughty Teddy, who went in a muddy puddle, was rinsed and shampooed clean, then decided to roll in a flower bed so had to be rinsed all over again. Well, I couldn't let him in the New Car covered in soil could I? As it was he got his revenge by rubbing himself all over the inside of the immaculate boot and redecorating it off white :-(


 Monday tomorrow. Have a good week all.

CT x

 

17 comments:

  1. Hi CT, I too thought the Wren was going to be some type of monster moth, glad it was none the worse for wear. I still think you should put some of your posts together in book form and submit them to a publisher. I was delving into your archives again and the ducklings in the spare room was another great tale :-)

    Great bull story which could have had a very nasty outcome! I am even wary of walking through a field of cows, never used to be but there have been several people trampled here in the last few years.

    Your car looks very smart. I know that new car feeling but it never lasts long here and before long it looks as scruffy as the old one ;-)

    The flower photos on the last post were lovely, the garden was gorgeous and I loved the rose clad wall. Was it my imagination or had the Grey Wag (the first photo of it) got a dragonfly in its beak?

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  2. Hi CT That story about the bull is hilarious.. I remember when I was young and went for a picnic with friends on our bikes adn we sat in this field to have the picnic. We did not live in the country so didn't know much a cattle habits. Suddenly we saw a herd of cattle racing towards us, we up sticks and ran and ran and as they were nearing us, we had to jump over a wire fence that had nettles near it. OH!!! we were stung badly but safe! I know more about cattle now and bulls because I am a caravan now in the same field as them. I love them now so it did not put me off these wonderful animals. Margaret

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    1. Crikey how scary! I'm not great when on foot around cattle, especially if we have Ted with us- too many stories of people being squashed by them with dogs as SB says, but M grew up on a cattle farm so luckily for me is very competent at handling them and shooing them away!

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  3. Goodness you have sharp eyes! I hadn't noticed but having just looked again it certainly looks like it. Not sure if I'm glad for the chicks of these wonderful birds or sorry for the dragonfly!

    I would like to get the blog published one day, more as a record for the family of daily life here than anything else. We'll see...

    Give it a week and I'll have given up with the whole clean car thing. Everyone will doubtless be relieved :-)

    Hope all's well,

    CT x

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    1. PS- this reply was for Jan, for some reason it's printed itself away from your comment! :-)

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  4. Cows are funny beasts and thank goodness you were okay! The blue tit is indeed adorable.

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    1. I don't really trust cattle unless I'm on horseback. I once got stuck by some prehistoric stones in Ireland when a herd of youngsters galloped over to have a look and refused to leave. M found the whole thing hilarious. We very nearly missed the plane home because of it.

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  5. CT you do have some great stories. I'm going to look for the ducklings story now Shy Songbird has mentioned it...sound irresistible! Enjoy your new car, you cant keep them clean for long.

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    1. The pictures are the best bit of that one. I had a look again after Jan mentioned it. I'd forgotten how adorable they were when small :-)

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  6. You didn't half have some scrapes when you were a youngster, didn't you?! And I understand the new car OCD perfectly. The answer is to bin-bag EVERYTHING - shopping, plants, cats, dogs, hens, children, husbands....if you are persistent then they will eventually learn to climb into their allotted bin bag automatically, thereby saving you the early struggles of forcing them in.

    And if you have a big enough bin bag you can put the whole car in it, and that will protect it from bird poop!

    Happy driving and happy week!

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    1. What a fantastic idea! I shall purchase some industrial size bin bags and install them today. L will not be surprised- he has already (rather sarcastically I felt) suggested I buy him an oxygen tank so he can sit in the car without breathing over it ;-)

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  7. Wow, your story sounds very wild west, but good for you laughing at the end of it, because bulls can be so frightening. I'm glad you saved the Wren, they're such adorable little birds. The Blue Tit is very sweet, too.

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    1. At the New Forest Show last year there was a prize-winning bull the size of a house. I have never seen one so huge, we literally could not believe it. William on the other hand was tiny in comparison but massively bad tempered!

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  8. Eeeesh what a story! Sounds like you had a lucky escape indeed! My pup Bracken frequents many a muddy puddle but would never in a million years allow us to hose him down as Teddy lets you!

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    1. Ted isn't keen on the hosing but does endure it as long as he's allowed to roll all over the lawn immediately afterwards :-)

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  9. EEK !!! :) Great story but what a lucky escape you had! Love your new car!! As ShySongbird says your blog would make a wonderful book :)

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    1. It was terrifying at the time but now something I'm rather proud of :-) All good character-building stuff!

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x