I forgot to recount one more store from FMK Ranch.
It’s worth telling.
Mark and I were out grubbing thistle in the paddocks—I was actually down a good ways into the pig paddock, its causeways lined with memorable pungas and palms—when Frances called us up to the house.
“Hurry, now. Someone’s found our bull. We’re going to bring him back.”
Both of Frances’ bulls had escaped in the past few weeks, and she had been concerned that someone had poached them by now (“They’ve probably ended up in somebody’s pot!”). But alas, the neighbors called and said they found him roaming around and decided to use him to inseminate their cow. But that was done now, and we could have him back. They would leave him outside their gate on the main road.
So we piled into Frances’ 4Runner and headed up the road. I thought it a little strange that we were bringing a trailer of any sort. “We’ll just corral it back with the car,” I imagined.
But when we got to the site, Frances turned around and handed Mark and me each a broomstick.
“These are your bull sticks. Make sure he doesn’t double back. You can whack him if you have to.”
Whack a bull! Where? On the head?
Isn’t that a sure way to get gouged?! (Or at least trampled?—This one didn’t have horns to speak of.)
Anyway. Here we were, chasing a bull down the main highway (most highways in NZ are curvy, one lane thoroughfares between undulating paddocks of wispy straw) between Coromandel Township and Colville.
It felt like a bizarre, backward version of Hemingway’s Pamplona.
But the bull was in love. He kept bolting around us (Mark got close enough to whack him no the head once; I only pelted him affectionately on his rear a couple of times) to return to the paddock where the cow he inseminated was. This occurred five or six times—twice we chased him through a winding trail behind another neighbor’s house, only to end up right back at the cow’s paddock (we think the bull knew this).
Then I cornered the bull between the road and the cow’s paddock.
Attempting to drive him toward the road in the appropriate direction, I traipsed toward him, through the gully separating us.
What the bull did next was almost certainly unprecedented.
He turned and leaped over (well, it was more like into) the barbed wire fence of the cow’s paddock. His back leg caught on the barbs—and for forty-five seconds or so, he bucked apoplectically to get free.
Frances and I watched, cringing at the sound of scratching rawhide, relieved when the bull finally got himself over the fence.
Frances said it must be true love.
“If so, let ‘em be. C’mon. We’ve got a stew on the hob at home.”