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Thursday, 27 September 2018

Head of a chicken

I don't recommend playing chicken with a bull. I really don’t. A male adult Ayrshire – that guy in the picture – weighs around three quarters of a tonne. I'm barely a tenth of that, soaking wet.

So a contest between me and a bull can have only one outcome, you might imagine.

But you're forgetting that I'm close to the pinnacle of four billion years of evolution and the bull isn’t. Well technically he is too, I suppose. But us monkeys had it harder so we should be smarter.

You have to wonder then why I'm running as hard as I can, straight at this stupendous specimen of malehood. Basically I'm playing chicken with one of the most dangerous animals in Scotland. And I'm not making this up.

Here's the explanation I figured out later. At the time I wasn't doing much real thinking, as you'll see. 

Running is like writing. If you're easily discouraged - if you need a sunny day, perfect conditions or warm words of encouragement  - you will never get anywhere.

So this morning I'd bounced out of bed resolved to increase my distance, in this comeback programme, from three miles to six. And that remained pretty much the only thought in my head all morning. So I changed into running gear, drove to the start of my usual route, parked the car, walked for five minutes to warm up and started running. 

Fifteen minutes later, as I reach the part of the track where Loch Lomond appears, way down to my right, brooded over by dark Grampians, I notice a dozen adult Ayrshires, on and around the track up ahead, chewing the cud and shooting the breeze.  

They all turn their heads to look at me with that disbelieving, “What the Hell is that?” expression cows reserve for anything that isn't grass.

The altered angles allow me to see clearly, by the fact that his head is as wide as my front door, that the cow in the centre of the track facing me is actually a well-muscled bull, with terrifying testicles the size of a sackful of turnips.

At this point, about fifty paces out from the herd, a few sparks sputter in my four billion-year-old brain, eliminating right - a barbed-wire fence – and left – a steep ditch then heather moorland. Finally they also eliminate - and here's where the runner ape-brain misfires - turning back. Because we’ve only done two miles and the plan was six.

It's a clear decision with no options. Keep running. Now 20 paces from mister bull and going well, I do my best to seem harmless, by making shush-shush sounds and easing slightly right of the centre of the track, as I run towards him without slowing. Most of the herd is to his right, my left, and I don’t want the big guy to think I’m going after his women.

At the very last moment the bull takes a grudging half-step to his right, giving me space to ease past, so close that I'm tempted to pat his ample bottom in a bonding gesture that would cement our friendly encounter. 

A lonely brain-cell, briefly sparking, tells me not to be an idiot, so I don't. I simply run on, feeling like someone has painted a bullseye on my back and dropped me in a field of archers.

After a nervy few seconds I risk a look round, to discover the entire group has lost interest in me and gone back to contemplating the meaning of grass. I relax and run. At exactly three miles out, I turn. By the time I reach the cows again, the bull has wandered off across the heather. 

I make it home entirely – though perhaps undeservedly – safe and intact.

And the moral of this story is? 

I don’t know why you’d ask a misfiring ape-brain. But perhaps this old Japanese proverb fits the bill - and I’m not making this up either: 

“It is better to be the head of a chicken than the arse of an ox.”

1 comment:

  1. Your article reminds me of an incident from my youth when I used to go hillwalking. I encountered a young frisky bull in the middle of a large field. The beast was probably being playful but I did not fancy finding out the hard way so I headed towards the nearest perimeter fence at full speed. As I approached it I realised that what was looming before me was a four foot wall of the dry stane dyke variety on top of which was three foot wire fence cemented on top of the stone. The remarkable thing was that there was not the shadow of a doubt that I was going straight over thia wall. It did not occur that an Olympic record might be in danger here. I jumped straight at the fence with my right leg landing on top of the stone, sprung up and vaulted the wire fence landing safely on my arse on the other side. More bulls should be used to train our top athletes I think.