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"Don't Shoot the Bull"

by N. Ray Maxie
N. Ray Maxie
This is a post WWII story when I was about eight or nine years old and written here to the best of my memory; a personal memoir as my best recollection serves me.

My parents owned a small farm near the Oklahoma border along the Red River in NE Texas. We lived about eighty miles south near McLeod in Cass County, at Rambo.

Upon arriving at the Bowie County farm a short distance northwest of DeKalb, my whole family, especially we children, were in for an awful shock and a mighty big surprise. We kids were out of school for the weekend and highly enjoyed going to the family farm. If we were lucky, we visited there about once a month. But this time was a sad visit for all.

We dearly loved the many farm animals and 'Unkie' tried to take good care of them on our little farm. He was a good hearted, kind man and a 'seasoned' combat veteran having seen active WWII duty only a few short years earlier.

Driving up in the front yard of the old farmhouse, at first glance all looked normal. It was a cool autumn Saturday morning in late 1947. Our Uncle Mayo Clark quickly came out of the house to greet us, nearly before Papa had stopped our old black 1939 Chevrolet pickup. "Unkie" was anxious to us tell the horrible news. This was long before the days of rural telephone service; rural any kind of service, for that matter. Uncle Mayo had no previous opportunity to tell us the sad news any sooner. And even then, smoke signals and Pond Express were becoming very unreliable in that part of Texas.

'Unkie' quickly and tearfully told us, "Some body has shot our prize whiteface bull, Barlo. He wasn't killed, but nearly. They just shot him in the face and head with a shotgun and put out one of his eyes. Barlo's pretty, fleecy white face is now all bloody and he has been stumbling around a bit in the pasture. He is not eating well. He will probably be okay and live, but I don't know if he's of much service to us anymore."

Barlo was our registered Hereford white face bull Papa had paid 'big' money for a few months before. Papa was hoping to get some mighty fine calf crops from Barlo in future years.

As we were unloading from the pickup, we all listened intently to our dear uncle. Being my mother's uncle and my great-uncle, Mayo lived alone there on our family farm where he was operator and caretaker. He was a hard working man. Years earlier, "Unkie" had his left leg injured in an unfortunate oilfield accident and now walked with a pronounced limp. There on the farm he could produce some vegetables, row crops, and livestock feed. While raising cattle, he seemed pretty happy and content with his life there.

We kids were highly anxious to see all the baby calves during each visit. "Unkie" kept chickens, ducks, geese and a few pigs, plus everyone's favorite, Pharaoh the dog. Pharaoh was always around and exciting to play with. Pharaoh was a large dog and a real good 'fetcher' of almost anything you threw for him.

It seems that Uncle Mayo had a very angry neighbor just beyond the woods past the back fence line. Angry with what? Angry at life; everything and everyone? No one actually knew just what. The neighbor was also a farmer and cattle raiser and lived with his isolated family over just past the backside of our farm. Our property joined in that area with a shared pasture fence.

There was a small creek (drainage ditch) that ran under the fence back near the woods. It was difficult to maintain a secure pasture fence across that creek. Many times the rush of high flood water often washed the timbers and post away, leaving a gap under the barbed wire that an animal could walk through.

That is what Barlo 'the bull' had done. Unknowing to 'Unkie', he had gotten through the broken fence during the night and over on the "angry' neighbor's property. The 'angry' neighbor became even angrier and decided to shoot Barlo, perhaps not to kill him, rather to maim him and run Barloe from his property. That dastardly deed the ill-tempered neighbor did do and did to such a beautiful, good-blooded animal. Barlo was never the same after that shooting and eventually had to be sold for a low bid price at the nearby cattle auction in Texarkana.

Most neighbor folk in the area seemed to think this "angry' neighbor was forever disgruntled because he had never gotten to see active combat duty in WWII. He had most seriously wanted to become an American war hero, fight the 'enemy' and be highly decorated; a big military man to stand tall for his mom and home folk. People like Gen. McAuthur, Gen. Ridgway, Dwight 'I like Ike', Audie Murphy and many other famous decorated heroes loomed large in his mind. His dream never came true. Now he was forever labeled a 'choir boy', never having served past Pearl Harbor, only playing an instrument and singing with the military band. Leaving him forever disgruntled.

From many of life's experiences, I have noted the below as "An Old Farmer's Advice".
1. Meanness don't jes' happen overnight.
2. Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
3. Keep skunks, bankers and lawyers at a distance.
4. Life is simpler when you plow around the stumps.
5. Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.
6. You can not unsay cruel words.
7. Every path has a few puddles.
8. Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
9. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
10. May you always drink upstream from the herd.
N. Ray Maxie
"Ramblin' Ray" >
February 1, 2007 Column

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