Facing My Fears; Screaming For Help

(As promised in my previous blog, I found the column in which I mentioned Big Red … it was published in June 2008 in the Daily Globe’s Today’s Farm edition. Since Big Red hasn’t made it into the Farm Bleat, I’ve decided this story is worth repeating here – it’s a perfect way to cap off the 2011 version of National Agriculture Week!)

June 2008: I remember well the day I learned to fear the massive four-legged beast.

I was about 10 years old, teaching my goat Princess how to walk with a lead rope in the cattle pasture when, all of a sudden, I heard these thundering footsteps behind me.

Just as I thought my little Princess couldn’t possibly make that much noise I turned around to see Big Red, my oldest brother’s 4-H steer, with his head down and charging right for me and my goat. I dove for cover in the wooden hay manger while screaming for Princess to run — run for her life.

Princess survived. As for me, well, I was scarred for years — 27 years — and still counting.

For you see, I tried to face my fears just a few weeks ago only to find out that yes, I’m still terrified of cattle.

It all began with one of my dad’s three, nearly-market-ready Jersey steers chewing on a piece of blue tarp that mysteriously appeared in the cattle yard one evening.

After we had finished supper, I noticed the tarp was left laying at the top of the hill in the cattle yard, and the three steers were off in a corner, lazily chewing their cud.

Aha, that’s perfect, I thought. I can walk through the cattle yard, pick up the tarp and get out without possibly disturbing their rest.

Yeah, like that would happen.

Just as I bent down to pick up the tarp I realized I had company. I turned around in time to see all three steers within about an arm’s length of me. Then and there I knew I wasn’t going to escape the situation.

My first instinct was to shake the tarp and, in a barely audible voice, yell “Shooo.” Unfortunately, that excited them.

I managed to move about five feet — to a large tree stump I thought could be used for protection. Instead, it became a trap as the three steers moved in.

By this time I was seeing images of my lifeless body pinned against the tree stump. After they rammed me against the wood, I envisioned falling to the crusty ground and being trampled to death.

My body shook — except for my legs. I couldn’t move my legs.

Again I shook the tarp I was clutching in my hands. This time, one of the steers put his head down and kicked up his back legs. He took a step closer, and then another step.

And then … he stuck out his tongue and licked me — from my elbow to my shoulder!

(Did I mention these steers have sort of a pet mentality — thanks to my nieces and nephews who shower them with attention and have even given them names?)

So, there I stood — steer slobber on my jacket sleeve and still too terrified to move. I looked to the kitchen window, where I knew Mom would eventually see me flailing my arms. First, Mom hollered out the window, “Are you OK?” “No,” I shouted. Then she came to the garage door. “Do you need help?” she asked. “Yes,” I shouted. “I’m scared!” Mom walked out to the cattle gate, from where she told me to just starting walking toward her. I couldn’t move. “Come get me,” I pleaded. And, as I hope any parent would do, she came to my rescue. When she was finally by my side, Mom took the tarp from my hands and shook it at the steers. Oh boy, here we go again. The steers got all excited and kicked up their back legs. To them, this was some sort of game and we were the pawns.

“Take a run for it,” Mom said.

Yeah right. I should mention here that I was wearing Mom’s garden clogs — clogs that were two sizes too small for my “Buntjer-gene” big feet.

In the end, Mom took me by the arm and practically pulled my trembling body into motion. She flapped the tarp as we briskly walked toward the cattle gate, with all three steers jumping and kicking and having a grand ol’ time at my expense.

Safely on the other side, my fingers were shaking so much that Mom had to latch the cattle gate.

I took one last look at the cattle, muttered something like, “I can’t wait until you go to the butcher shop,” and headed into the house. No sooner had I entered the living room when Dad put down the newspaper he’d been hiding behind and flashed a big grin … that quickly broke into a chuckle. “What’s the matter? Did those steers scare you?” he asked. Gee, whatever gave him that idea?

6 Responses

  1. Brad

    Oh, you poor thing…lol…I would walk through the cattle pens and confinement barns to see how close I could get to the cattle to “pet” them. I had a few races with a cows, heifers, and steers including one big ole brahma steer. But, I guess, as a boy, I had a little more tendency to walk on the wild side. 🙂 See, that just goes to show you that anything red (besides the Cornhuskers) are evil…should have named him “Big Green” and all would have been fine in the world…lol

    1. Julie Buntjer

      Oh Brad, I can totally see you defying death with the cattle (a scene right out of Wild Hogs, no doubt!) Big Red suited this steer just fine … a force to be reckoned with – tough, sturdy, powerful … just like those International Harvestors! =)

  2. Tom Nelson

    I raised a herford steer named Teddy in that same barnyard where you had your (cow)ardly experience. When they get up to 1000lbs. it is a force to be reckoned with. When you are 12 years old , the horns are immense. On another subject, I read your story on the renovation of the lobby of Memorial Auditorium and accompanying photo of same. Can you locate a photo of what it used to look like? I graduated in that auditorium from WHS in 1952, and my memory of how it appeared then has failed me. If you can, it would be much appreciated. Thank You. Tom

    1. Julie Buntjer

      HaHa – I should have used “Cow”ardly experience as the headline – that would have been great! Thanks for sharing your cattle experience on the farm.
      As for the Memorial Auditorium, I’m sure there are photos of the original building. The photo that was in Monday’s edition was of the addition that was constructed. Of course, the auditorium used to be part of the old junior high downtown – I’m sure that’s what you remember.

  3. Michelle Marotzke

    This is such a great story/memory! I remember visits to grandma and grandpa’s dairy farm over by Fulda- I never wanted to get close to the cows! And to this day I DO NOT LIKE dog slobber! Eww!

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