Water Bull

Norman leaned back on his bike with time to spare and told me of a bull he’d lost in the river. Not “lost” as a euphemism for death or geographic puzzlement, but lost as the final sigh of resignation, the way you lose patience or hope. Norman had been angry. Now he was just tired.

The bull was a great white charolais brute with shoulder blades like dumbbells. I got to know him a little in the spring; still young but showing every statement of intent – clearly defined muscles which seemed to squeak as they rubbed in his walk. In driving him across the ford to the Skeoch, the bull turned and chose to go downstream. Norman followed along the banks and tried to yell him back, but then he gathered steam and began to shamble through the water with his briskets flailing like the flukes on a whale.

Then he hit a deeper pool where salmon are known to lie, and he began to swim with the water over his back. What a sight it must’ve been to see him pounding white and amber through the trailing weeds. Soon he was at the tail of the pool and standing, dripping and sullen and doubly determined to bide where he was. So Norman went for help and fetched down two neighbours from upstream, and Marglolly came himself when he saw the men standing. They brought dogs, but they couldn’t get that bull to move an inch. Collies hung off his nose and his lugs, but he was that thrawn he hardly bothered to bat them away. He wore them instead like jewellery.

So Norman fetched more help and tried to drive him up to a place where there was a gate and rails to hold him, but he doubled back and chose the water instead; the bramble banks and the eddies where the river carries the black reflected underside of meadowsweet and campions.

That was a month ago, and that’s where the bull stands even now. He’ll trek up and down the river as he wills it. You can find him anywhere along a three mile stretch of water from Irongray to the Cluden.

Knowing that river is steep-sided and runs to rubble, I said “aren’t you worried he’ll be injured?”

Norman said “I hope he fucking drowns”.

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