The Many Adventures of Buddy the Bull
By Suzanne Cox
Ah, Buddy. His life with us was short but full of adventure! Back in February we found ourselves with an “extra” pair of coonhounds and in need of some beef. The idea struck me that we should offer a trade on some local sales sites asking for freezer beef in exchange for this pair. Andrew liked the idea, so we placed our ad. Within a week we had a man agree to deliver us a jersey bull he said weighed about 600 pounds and was about a year old in exchange for our dogs. That Saturday he arrives with what was definitely a very cute, but not at all 600 pound little Jersey. Buddy appeared to be around 350 pounds, and most likely around 7-8 months old.
Buddy was a bottle baby who came from a dairy herd. Despite my fear of bulls, especially those with horns, I soon fell for his cuteness. When I shared our news with friends and family I was met with both congratulations and warnings. Several said this was a mistake, that jersey bulls were aggressive and he should be castrated. Others said he would be fine, as we had no female cows and therefore no reason for him to be aggressive. Even our cattle friends could not agree as to what exactly to do with Buddy. So, we just decided to leave him as he was. He seemed perfectly obedient, coming when called and doing anything you asked as long as you had a feed can in your hand. Buddy was moved into a paddock up the hill with Momma and Baby donkey at the big red barn. And all was peaceful. For a while.
March rolled around, and we began preparing our gardens. It was a very busy time with gardening, fencing, building a barn, and adding more livestock. We purchased a few sheep which we kept in a temporary pen while we finished the front pasture. As part of my daily routine, the kids and I would go up the hill (a good 1500 feet from the house) to feed Buddy and the donkeys, and work our way towards the house feeding the sheep, dogs, and chickens. I guess my first clue that things weren’t going to remain calm was during one of our feeding trips to the barn in April. As much as I liked Buddy, I still didn’t trust him around the kids. So I would walk them into the barn and close the gate between them and the animals. After doing so this particular day I fed Buddy and the donkeys then pulled out the wheel barrow and filled it full of hay for the sheep. Just as I was about to gather up the kids and head out of the barn Buddy snorted and came right at me! I put the wheel barrow between myself and him, and looked for something, anything, to defend myself with. He hit the load of hay head first flipping it into the air and began bucking. As the kids screamed, I was yelling, the donkeys began braying and I did the only thing I could think to do at the time. I hit him with a shovel. Yep, a shovel. It was the only thing I could find to grab! I smacked him across the head, immediately thinking it would kill him or at least knock him out. Well, I evidently don’t know how hard headed a cow is. I think all it did was make him more mad! Momma donkey eventually chased him out of the barn, and provided cover for us to scurry out of the pen.
So Andrew inherited our Buddy feeding chore. At first I think he thought we were exaggerating our experience a bit because he seemed to have no trouble with Buddy. He was soon to learn just how frustrating Buddy could be. Just a few days after our wheel barrow experience we finished the fence and barn in the front pasture and moved both donkeys and the sheep there. Buddy was not quite happy with being left alone, so he broke two of the five strands of barbed wire and came in search of them. We found him trotting along down the driveway one evening. Andrew took him back, fixed the fence and came home to eat dinner. Shortly after dark, I decided to throw some scraps out to the chickens. Imagine my surprise when I walk off the front porch and meet a large, dark shadow not five foot in front of me! Escape number two in one day. The fence was not broken, wire was tight, and the gate was not open. Buddy was returned to his pen.
A few days passed calmly, our spring garden was producing beets, radishes, beautiful mixed lettuce, and carrots. Then one day as the kids and I are feeding the chickens we again spot Buddy. In the garden. Eating my lettuce! I shooed the kids onto the porch, and once again grabbed the first things that came into view. Tomato stakes! So here I go after a bull in the garden, yelling and beating my sticks. I’m sure our neighbors enjoyed the show as I ran him back towards his pen. Luckily, Andrew came home to finish the job for me while I went to check the damages. My big, thick lettuce patch was reduced to the baby growth, stubby leaves and dirt.
At this point Buddy wasn’t looking so cute anymore. We moved one of the donkeys back up the hill thinking that would keep him from being lonely and escaping. Over the next two weeks, he got back out five times. Each time with no loose wire, broken fence, or open gate. We still have no idea how he did it!
When May came around, we were in for more surprises. One evening it was a corn massacre, another time he stomped two of my new apple trees and demolished the wire cages I had placed around the others. Now he was no longer being referred to as Buddy, but as the Demon. As his attacks became more frequent, I became increasingly worried that the kids would be hurt. Several times we were outside playing or in the garden when he came into the yard. Even the kids began carrying a pair of short tomato stakes with them as the noise still drove him off.
By mid-May life on the farm was not so fun. We were constantly on the look out for a Buddy attack. And while his shenanigans were providing great entertainment to our friends and family, the humor was lost on us. One Tuesday evening the kids and I were headed home from karate. As we pulled into our driveway, we saw Buddy standing next to the road. Our driveway is 1350 foot long, and his pen is another 1500 foot beyond the house. This was the furthest he had strayed before. Since the tomato stakes weren’t working anymore, and I was nearly five months pregnant I was not so eager to get out and chase him back down. So, I decided to herd him back down the driveway with my car. It worked! He walked obediently down the entire driveway and right back up the hill towards his pen.
The next week, the kids and I were out at the front barn with the sheep. Here comes Buddy again headed right for the fence. For some reason, he had become fascinated by the sheep and often when he got out would come to the fence to stand and stare at them. So, I thought, why not just round him up into this pasture until Andrew gets home? It would only be an hour or so, what harm could come? I went to open the gate and call him in with the kids close behind me. Grey clouds had been gathering overhead, and a few drops of rain were splattering on my arms. The Demon saw me coming, and began to run back through the garden. I turned to head him off, and instructed the kids to go back the way we had come, close the gate, and go in the house. Well, they headed out straight away and almost made it to the gate when a huge clap of thunder sounded over head with lightening in the distance. Now, Macey is terrified of thunder and lightening. I swear she flew to the gate without touching the ground! Unfortunately, she hit the gate and never stopped running! The gate swung wide open, and there goes the donkey. So now I’m changing directions running towards the open gate with a bull in the garden, a donkey eating the leaves off yet another apple tree, and my kids running through the yard. I yelled at my daughter, “Macey, you let the donkey out. What were you thinking?!” She turned briefly throwing her arms up in the air and yelled “I’m a thinkin’ I don’t wanna get wet!” With that, she quickly scurried into the house. So here I am, alone, wet, and in a pretty foul mood by this point. I managed to get Momma donkey back into the pasture. By the time this was accomplished, the Demon had bush-whacked a huge path through three rows of corn, trampling nearly a dozen tomato plants, a head of red cabbage, and stomping who knows how many carrots into the ground. And this is how Andrew found me when he came home from work. Standing in the yard dripping wet, starring in despair at the Demon destroying the garden.
You would think that would be the last straw. However, Tennesseans are a stubborn breed. We needed him for spring beef this coming year so I wanted to give it one more try. I told Andrew that was it, one more incident and Buddy was off to the slaughter house. Andrew took Buddy back up to his pen, added extra support posts to the corners and more t-posts to the fencing thinking there was no way of escape now in the fortified pen. Oh, but he underestimated this Demon of ours…
Nearly two weeks passed and Buddy did not get out. We celebrated, thinking that Andrew had out-witted the Demon. But it was not to be, this was just the calm before the storm. One evening William yells “Momma! Buddy’s back!” and sure enough, he’s back in the garden. Now, that was just it. Since it worked so well the first time, I reached for the car keys and told the kids to load up we were going on a cattle drive. So here we go out to the little Saturn Vue SUV to chase a bull. Thank God my neighbor didn’t have a camcorder! We chased him up the driveway, across the front field, back down the driveway, and around the gardens. I called Andrew, who said he would be home in 20 minutes and for us to just keep him off the road and out of the gardens. Ok, no problem. So the Demon heads back towards the driveway in the direction of the road. I scoot my car over just in time to cut him off with my car planted right between two fence rows and, I think, no way around us to gain access to the road. The kids are laughing and having a great time, and I’m thinking we have him right where we want him. I was soon reminded though how little I know about bulls. Evidently after 30 minutes of being chased by a vehicle they decide to fight back. Here he stood, eyeing the car and stomping the ground with his front feet. And I sat, with my hand on the gear stick and my foot on the clutch. What a sight it must have been, this dual between beast and machine. Then the Demon made the first move, a stomp, snort, and a few steps forward. I put it in gear and headed towards him. Guess what? Bulls actually bounce off of a bumper! Especially plastic bumpers, they aren’t quite made the same as those old ancient real metal farm trucks. And after they bounce, they get right up and stampede past you while you sit in shock that you just ran over a bull. Have to admit, I never saw that coming!
So Andrew comes home to find the Demon up at the road, me standing on the front porch, and the kids talking excitedly about Mommy hitting poor Buddy. And what does my husband do as the kids and I tell the story of how bulls bounce off plastic bumpers? He laughs! Well, that was enough for me. I came inside, picked up the phone and dialed.
Two weeks later Buddy was back in the yard, again. Only this time, I smiled and pulled out the buns and ketchup! The kids still joke about our “Buddy Burgers.” Life on the farm is once again peaceful. That 600 pound bull we supposedly got in February weighed in at a whole 518 pounds on June 1st. Not a heavy weight, but no longer a problem!
Our time with Buddy taught me many things. Perhaps Buddy also left our other livestock with a very valuable lesson: Here on the farm, you have two options. Be good or be tasty! And boy, is he tasty!
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