Bull, Run!

For some reason, people like to name cows after flowers–maybe because people often use cow shit to fertilize their flower beds. That’s just a guess. There could be other reasons, I suppose.

Maybe it has to do with the cutesy cartoon ideal of what a cow is supposed to be … fat, sweet, big-eyed, with a flower or two hanging out of her mouth. Sort of like a hippie who’s just eaten a whole pan of marijuana brownies. When we think of cows, we think “placid,” “maternal,” and a little stupid, of course.

But cows are smarter than we think; indeed, most animals are smarter than we give them credit for. People often assume that because a dog or cat can’t talk, they can’t understand what we say to or about them. Yet pets can feel shame, humiliation, or depression when they’re ridiculed as easily as any person … and so do cows.

Take, for example, Buttercup the Bull. It shames me to use his name; who could have dreamed up the name “Buttercup” for a bull? Some human idiot, of course–perhaps the same jerk who was trying to ride Buttercup like a horse at a recent bull-riding contest in Spokane County.

Buttercup, seeing his opportunity to get revenge, bucked the rider off his back. Instead of just running around inside the arena, like most of the other bulls, Buttercup had other ideas. He saw his chance and went for it. Buttercup jumped clean over a high railing, shoved his way through a fence, and made his escape from the rodeo ring. He headed directly for the road and never looked back.

Buttercup is no lightweight: 2,000 pounds of bovine muscle on strong, fast legs, with a neck and head like a bulldozer. And remember that Buttercup had been humiliated past all reason: given a stupid name, taunted and teased to make him angry so he’d buck harder, forced to wear a cinch around his chest and belly, shoved into a squeeze chute, and then forced to bear a 200 pound man on his back. If it was me, I’d be so angry I could spit … and so was Buttercup.

He ran and ran. The road was hard, but it felt good to be free. Whenever a person saw him coming down the road, they screamed and ran, and Buttercup would toss his head and snort to make them run faster. Buttercup was enjoying himself; it felt good to see people panic at the sight of a bull not tied up with a rope or tethered to a chain or fenced in. Cars slammed on their brakes and turned aside. Buttercup could stop traffic–no, Buttercup could clear traffic.

Soon police cars were following him, but Buttercup couldn’t tell the difference between a cop cruiser or a Nissan Sentra. He only knew that he had his own escort, like a herd. He made a turn and ran up a long, curving hill towards a bigger herd of cars. Soon Buttercup merged onto Interstate 90.

Traffic slowed. What in the hell was a bull doing on the highway? Cars honked and tried to pass Buttercup; he lowered his massive head and did permanent damage to a couple of cars. Each loud crunch was a satisfying sound.

Police cruisers wove through traffic, set up barricades, rerouted cars off I-90. How in the hell do you get a one-ton bull off the freeway?

Buttercup was starting to get tired, he slowed to a trot, then a walk. Finally, he stood in the middle of I-90 and stared back at the police cruisers, his sides heaving, his nostrils flared so wide a man could slide his fist inside one of them–if Buttercup would let him. Fat chance.

Buttercup’s owner tried to sidle up to the bull, but Buttercup lowered his head, pawed the ground, and let loose a deep, reverberating bellow. His owner dove into a police car and slammed the door.

After a radio confab, the cruisers slowly inched towards the bull. The plan was to surround the bull and escort him towards a nearby off-ramp. Buttercup, however, knew what it meant to be surrounded by metal–the slats of a pen, the bars of a squeeze chute–and he wasn’t having any of it. The bull tossed his head and crunch! One cop car down, a few more to go.

The cruisers backed off. Buttercup was tired, but he had won this round. It was time to find a good place to eat and rest. He spotted a wooded area not far away. That would keep the cars away. Buttercup wheeled around and was off, running across I-90 and into the brush to lose himself happily in the woods, to be surrounded by living trees and not dead fence posts and barbed wire.

Buttercup sojourned in the woods for a while and did what all cows (and bulls) do in the wilderness. He trampled through a trout stream and left a lot of his drool in the water as he drank. He ripped up a couple of endangered species of plants for dinner. He broke several lower branches off a couple of pine trees while trying to scratch an itch on his enormous back. And everywhere he walked, his cloven hooves tore up tender vegetation and sent tiny ground-burrowing creatures scurrying in every direction. In short, he had a great time, and did less damage than a Ford Bronco would have.

The next day, a person spotted Buttercup in the woods, and the police came back. This time they brought a trailer with a bale of hay inside. They thought he was hungry.

Buttercup put his ears back. The trailer smelled like slavery. He turned his back and went in search of the trout stream, so he could cool his hooves.

Later in the day, the police came back with another trailer. Inside was a bale of hay and two, sexy cows with their heads down, munching the hay, and their tails twitching lazily. Buttercup lifted his nose and sniffed the air. The cows smelled good. He called to them: come and join me! The cows turned their heads to gaze longingly at him. He could see that they were tied to the inside of the trailer. Buttercup snorted and stamped, tossing his head in anger. He retreated again into the woods, looking for a tree on which to sharpen his horns.

On the third day of Buttercup’s sojourn, a veterinarian arrived with a dart gun. Buttercup had no defense against the tranquilizer they shot into his shoulder. Within minutes, he was a prisoner again, a rope around his neck. They pulled and shoved him up a steel ramp and into a trailer. Poor Buttercup, head spinning, staggered into the trailer and collapsed into sleep.

Will Buttercup get more respect after his taste of freedom? Will his owner and the people who paid to see him be humiliated in the rodeo ring learn a lesson from all this? It’s not likely, but we can always hope so.