I just returned home from a ten-day trip to Lewisburg, Tennessee. Standing in for my brother so he could go on his annual Fourth of July vacation, I noticed a huge increase in farm duties this time and believe me, the workload wasn’t easy. Farming never is.
This summer was quite different than last. For starters, the farm employees had walked off the job when the temperature hit over a hundred degrees. My brother had specifically asked each of his employees to ‘take off’ between the hours of eleven and four so they could avoid the hottest part of the day. Ultimately, when they returned for their jobs a few days later, he wouldn’t hire them back after they’d pitched a group tantrum over the weather, something he couldn’t control.
In the end, my father and I were left to tend the farms without any help. And talk about brutal. Not only did we see a few days where the temperature topped a hundred and five degrees, but we were left to work the farms by ourselves. We didn’t have the luxury of taking off during the heat of the day.
Typically, when I cover for my brother, I only have a few chores to do around the farm. My dad normally works the cattle and handles the physical operations of the farms while I write the checks, order feed, pick up whatever the guys need in town, etc. Most of the time, other than the domestic pets and a few other exceptions, I couldn’t tell you what animals are on the property.
This time, I became well acquainted with the animals. One in particular—Big Willy—grabbed my attention on the first day. While feeding “Pam T” her bottle, Big Willy charged a nearby fence and made sure his presence was known. On several occasions he would stand at the gate and bellow, stamping the ground like he was digging his way to freedom.
To be honest, I avoided going near the main barn whenever “Big Willy” was in sight. A fence separated us, but he often followed me in an apparent effort to taunt the newcomer, becoming my companion whenever I walked from the house to the barn. He must’ve appointed himself my personal bodyguard. Whenever it was time to feed, he lurked nearby, and I really didn’t appreciate his effort.
On more than one occasion, I told my dad, “That bull will hurt someone one of these days.”
Dad agreed. He explained how my brother's girlfriend had bottle fed the bull and had a difficult time with the idea of selling him.
I didn’t take a picture of this creature, but best estimates suggest Big Willy weighs somewhere around eighteen hundred pounds. Yes, 1800 pounds is a scary beast when he’s snorting continually, butting his head against the fence, and charging anything that moves.
Well, as a woman often will (or at least this woman), I bitched. I bitched about being taunted, about the boards he’d loosened, and about how the bull seemed determined to keep me up at night with uninterrupted bellowing.
Turns out, someone should’ve listened. And this is one time I wish I hadn’t been right.
My brother, the brother who has been the rock of the family, was trampled by Big Willy this past week. The bull charged him, tossed him several feet in the air, managed to roll his body completely under his where he stomped him several times.
With the dogs barking like crazy, my brother’s girlfriend looked out the bedroom window and saw my brother crawling to the fence where he was able to hoist himself up to the third plank. At about the same time, Big Willy butted him again, propelling him high above the fence, where he safely and miraculously landed on the other side.
That final hit saved his life.
My brother was checked out by the local hospital. Believe it or not, he didn’t have any broken bones. He’s a big guy—nearly 6’4” and plenty of muscle. Still, he’s one lucky cowboy and definitely realizes how fortunate he is.
A few days after the accident, I said to him, “How are you feeling?”
In true form, he said, “It’s never felt so good to be in this much pain.”
I laughed, understanding his meaning. Prior to that, he’d told me several times, “I’m lucky to be alive, Susan. I tell ya. I’m lucky to be alive.”
His girlfriend couldn’t agree more. “He shouldn’t be here. How he got away from Big Willy, I’ll never know.”
Big Willy's days are numbered. Next week, he’ll head to Alabama where he’ll be sold to the highest bidder. By the weekend, with any luck, he’ll be packaged as prime beef.
Until next time,