R i v e r   B u l l
River Bull

I suppose that every country boy has his favorite story or stories about how he escaped from a charging bull. When I was only 15 years old a young bull tossed my Grand Dad around with his knobby little horns and it bruised him up pretty good. The next day Grand Dad was met at the gate by this young bull ready to do some more tossing. Grand Dad stepped inside the gate and the young bull lowered his head and charged. A well-placed thump on the head right between the horns with a two-by-four stopped him dead in his tracks. With crossed eyes and unsteady legs the youngster wandered off to graze with the cows. That two-by-four hung by that gate for as long as I can remember. Big bulls can kill people and can be very dangerous.

Since I spent a lot of my young life on a farm I found it necessary, a time or two, to jump a fence or crawl up a tree to avoid some very upset bull. If I remember correctly though, I just might have been the one to do the upsetting. When I think back, slingshots got me into a lot of hot water in those days. Take my word for it, donít ever use a bull or an empty hornet nest for a target. Why in the world do teenagers test the limits of fate?

Later on in years when I was in my early twenties, some of my friends and I decided to take a long boat trip down the Kissimmee River in southern, central Florida. The old river was dark and beautiful. It wound around through the upper Everglades and wetlands for over a hundred miles. The wildlife was abundant and easy to see. That whole area was a giant sponge, just soaking up the water.

The Swift meatpacking and cattle company owned or leased thousands of acres along this old river. Many of their cattle became wild and lived with the local wildlife for many years. This area ran all the way from lower Lake Kissimmee all the way down to Lake Okeechobee. It was wild and was still a home for the Florida Panther and black bear. Wild boar or as the locals called them, piney-woods-rooters, could be seen in the mud along the river. Bird life could be seen at every bend in the river. The first night we set up camp we were visited by two young bobcats that played like little kittens. Latter on that night we were visited by hundreds of cows that crept in, their eyes reflecting our campfire light. As the fire got lower they got closer. This was too close for comfort. Somebody threw some starter fluid on the fire and scared those poor cows so bad you could hear their grunts as they hit trees in the dark. By the large splashes we knew some stumbled into the river.

The second day on the river we often had to pull the boat through thick lily pads and shallow marsh grasses. We thought that we had passed the worse section when to our dismay we came to a sandy beach that narrowed the river to 20 or 30 feet. This bend was very shallow and required raising the motor and pulling the boat across the sand bar and into deeper water.

I was getting back into the boat when a big, black shadow appeared above us on the riverbank. The sun was low but still shined in our eyes. We could see well enough to know that it was an outline of a large bull. He was all muscle and his horns were at least 3 feet across and he wasnít happy we were there. We also found out very soon that he was very fast. Before we could get the engine started he charged off that bank and right at us. When he hit the water it didnít slow him down very much and he put a good crunch in the rear of our only transportation out of there. One would think that an impact like that would dislodge a horn, but not this guy. The engine was going by now but shallow water made our progress painfully slow. Splashing water in his face only made him madder but what else could we do? Soon he was out of the water and again made another run at us. This time we moved just in time to avoid those horns so he jumped in and swam after us for some distance. That was one determined bull. Right then I started thinking out loud, hey guys, weíve got to come back this way tomorrow. That night we should have slept well but vampire mosquitoes the size of fruit bats kept us awake and we slapped ourselves all night. To late to ask who was supposed to bring the mosquito net.

Those three days on the Kissimmee were unforgettable in many ways and now I mostly remember the good and funny parts. Iím very thankful that God has allowed me to enjoy much of what nature has to offer. Let us all be thankful for the blessings that America has to offer on this 2006 Thanksgiving season. Let us also be thankful for a loving God that is patient with mankind. I donít think it will be long before His patience will run out. Let us be ready and plan for a future in the New Earth.

Burney Tompkins

    - Uncle Burney

("McDonald Manna" December, 2006)

Copyright 1995 - 2006

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