Jean Stradshaw sat on the top railing of the cattle tick spray enclosure watching her father chase the young bull down a slope toward the dam. He had an axe in his upraised arm and he meant business. She’s heard him threaten to have those horns removed but knew he’d eventually cool his anger, and have it done mercifully by the district vet. The bull had been the terror of the farm, but obviously it had met its match and was heading for the next hill and after that scrubland beyond. The bull was heading for a safer environment and would probably retreat into thick scrub whenever one of the farm hands checked on cows just coming into calf and preparing for the milking season. It was an unusual sight. Her father Dave Stradshaw loved all his animals and had a pet name for each of them, so this was out of character.
Her eyes shifted to one of the prize Jersey cows still bellowing in fear and being attended to by a farm help who’d roped her to keep still while he attempted first aid. The young bull had gored her in the side, and it was a nasty gash. It was obviously a job for the vet, but it would take time to get him out from town and in the meantime they had to do all they could.
Jean turned to watch the drama far down the hill, but as she cupped her hand over her eyes to shield from a blazing sun she saw the young bull loping up the distant hill as fast as it could past fruit plantations. Her father Dave stood by the dam watching with the axe now by his side. Then he turned and raced back up the hill, sped past his daughter and headed for the house to phone the vet. Jean slowly negotiated the rungs of the fence and hopped onto the ground to follow her father home.
On the way she found her mother inspecting field mushrooms and selecting safe ones to put into a basket for lunch. Jean’s mother stood to greet her daughter.
“What on earth got into your father? I tried to talk with him as he ran past, but he didn’t answer. Did something go wrong at the stock yards?”
“Barney gored Duchess so dad jumped into the stockyard with an axe. I think he was going to chop Barney’s horns off!”
Anna Stradshaw gasped in horror. “That was very foolish, the young bull has been a real terror and dad was going to sell it off at the next stock sale. He could have been badly hurt. What happened then?”
As Jean recalled the scene she began to laugh.
“That’s not funny Jean, your father could have been hurt badly doing that!”
“Oh Mom, you should have seen it! Dad was so angry when he picked up the axe and jumped in. He ran up to Barney waving the axe and Barney got such a fright he charged at the fence and broke the two lower palings then crawled under and began to run with dad after him. I saw him running up the second hill past the mango and macadamia plantations. It really was quite funny!”
Anna Stradshaw’s eyes narrowed. “Not funny Jean!” She wiped her hands on her apron, picked up the basket of mushrooms and headed for their house purposefully. Hard to imagine Dave getting angry at anything but this was foolish, and she was going to get him straightened out. The family needed him strong and healthy at a time like this. Jean followed on excitedly to see how it would all play out.
But when Anna marched up the stairs to confront her husband she found him on the phone to vet Dennis practice in town. Apparently the vet and his helper were out on a call and wouldn’t be returning to the office for at least two hours. After his unsuccessful attempt Dave sat on the hallway chair head in hands thinking mournful thoughts about their financial position. Duchess was prize breeding stock and they’d invested heavily in her purchase. Things were tough enough with a year of drought behind them and no hint of when they could anticipate rain to replenish the dam.
Anna’s heart melted as she realized what this could possibly mean to the family finances replacing Duchess to continue strengthening the quality of their herd. Her irritation evaporated and she moved to put her hand on Dave’s shoulder to encourage him.
“You can’t do any more than you have Dave. Wait patiently and things will work out. They always do.”
Jean nodded her head vigorously. “Everything will work out OK dad.”
The phone chimed and Anna picked it up.
“It’s for you Dave, Dennis the vet on the line.”
Dave grasped the phone eagerly listened for a while and then poured out the latest event before replacing the receiver.
“Dennis was phoning to inquire if we still wanted to sell the young bull, apparently his office hadn’t passed on our message yet as he’s at farmer Brown’s place. He was phoning from there as Jeff Brown was looking for a young bull of a good breed and Dennis recommended ours. He said if it was OK he’d bring Jeff with him. If we can find Barney in the scrub with our horses Dennis may be able to sedate him with his dart gun. May have to use the tractor and slide to put him on if we can somehow bring him back over the mountain to the cattle trailer by the gate before he wakes up. If he sees me they’ll never be able to get near him. Not safe to lasso him and drag him back with the horses after what he did to Duchess. Oh, and he said not to worry Dennis the miracle worker is on the way to repair Duchess good as new.”
Anne squeezed his shoulder affectionately. “See, I told you things would work out old worry wart.”
Jane tapped on her mother’s leg. “What’s a worry wart Mom?”
“It’s another name for your father dear.” She headed for the kitchen to prepare mushrooms for lunch with Jane trailing behind to help.
Dave chuckled then headed back to the stockyard to see how his farm hands were dealing with the cattle tick spraying and check on Duchess.
Money from the sale of that young bull would come in handy. He’d be able to use it at the cattle sales next month. Maybe everything would work out for the best after all.
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