A cock-and-bull story. Sans cock.

me, basically

About a week ago, while the girls napped in the safety of a shady car outside the livestock auction house, I snuck into the sale barn about an hour before the start time to take a peek at the Jersey cows for sale.

In MOST cases, sale barns have these big, wooden catwalks several feet above all the animals so you can admire them from afar without seeing any of their defects up close. They normally don’t let you down on the ground level with the animals, but I have enough Steve Johnson in me to ignore all “Do Not Enter” signs and just walk on in like I own the place. This was handy in journalism, where I rarely paid any mind to physical harm.

In my new life, truly dangerous things are rarely labeled, so if someone before you deemed an activity worthy of a warning scratched onto a cardboard sign, brazen disregard is not advised.

A couple old farm hands were hanging around downstairs, and didn’t seem too disturbed by a 100-pound 5’2” female loitering about, so I followed one of them in the barn. The city folk won’t understand that this was a victory – I had managed to skip the part where you have to figure out how to open a gate!!

So far I’ve found the trickiest thing about fitting in any type of agriculture situation, other than the vocabulary, of course (pregnant pig = SOW, fixed boy cow = STEER, etc.)  is figuring out the damn gates. Whether it’s pipes or slats of wood or chains or heavy plywood or whatzits and whozits, there seems to be an infinite number of simple barn gate mechanisms, and people who grow up in these sorts of environments possess a sixth sense about how to open them.

I always end up climbing the fence when no one is looking, or awkwardly asking for help mid-conversation, only after I’ve fiddled with it without success for 45 seconds. Such blunders make you stick out like a protestant at a Catholic service. You ain’t from around here, are ya? MUST NOT GO FIRST IN OR OUT OF THE BARN!

So I was in! The problem now was: Crap. How to do I get out?

Ah, well. First I’ll mingle with the Jersey cows. Lookit their EYES!

But suddenly I heard a scuffle and someone shouted something that sounded like, “BULL’S OUT!”

And then, out of nowhere, a haunting old timer with a tattered shirt and a large yellow paddle in his hand tells me through the wooden slats in the gate that I need to be on the lookout – because there’s a mean bull that’s busted out and making his way through the maze of pens. Pens that could NOT hold a bull, but could VERY MUCH hold me. Possibly forever. I did not know how to get out. Then the old timer goes tearing off in the other direction. So much for chivalry.

The rest of the story, in my mind, sounds like this.  Every single one of my stories sounds like this, actually.

If you can imagine the visual, I am briskly walking up stairs, down platforms, fiddling with gates, checking manure-stained doors and being denied a retreat.

Only instead of a princess waiting to be rescued from the pixelated dragon, in this story there are three small children napping in the car, waiting for a mother and/or babysitter who will never return, but who instead will be gorged and trampled by a wild, escaped sale barn bull. The bullshit I’d dealt with in journalism suddenly seemed benign as I imagined Molly, Alivia and Eleanor scrappy-tagged and auctioned off to some meat packer because their owner was never located. Admittedly, I started to regret my decision to sneak into the auction an hour before the sale started.

But Jesus took the wheel and I slipped two boards out of one of the makeshift pen latches and found an unlocked door that led to my escape.

I never saw the bull.

I assume we both left intact.

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