Michaela Merz

Sunday walk

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It was such a lovely day. The sky was cloudless, the sun was shining and it was Sunday morning. We had decided to go for a hike with my youngest one (soon 6 years old). The path led through the wood, which smelt of mushrooms and damp. We told each other fantasy stories and followed the markers along the path. Suddenly the wood came to an end and in front of us was a huge hill with the grass completely eaten clean. The meadow was separated from the wood by a hedgerow, but the barrier with wooden beams was open.

We started to walk up the hill. We will have a superb view I thought when we came close to the top. The climb was long and since it was warm we were both sweating. Surprising was the large number of flies, which started to annoy us, attracted by our sweat. It became more and more clear that the hill was pretty high.

We reached the top and stood there like frozen. The view was indeed breath-taking. One could see far into the valley. However it was not the view, which had taken my breath but a huge herd of completely white cattle grazing at the other side of the hill. I intended to sound the retreat and slowly and quietly walk down the hill and return to the wood the same way we had come.

But my little one called out very loud: Look, mum, that cow has a ring through its nose” and pointed to a spot under us, where about 200m from us a grand animal was grazing. However he was been wrong, that animal was not a cow but a bull.

The bull in question, just as if he knew that we are talking about him, raised his head and looked in our direction. The herd had noticed us and I started to get afraid.

My education is in economics and in high school I had biology lessons. But none of my schooling was helping in the situation right now. The knowledge obtained, i.e. that cattle lives on grass did not calm me. I looked at the mixed herd with many calves and the bull with its metal ring. “What shall I do?” I asked myself. Shall we run away or shall we move very slowly? Could they attack us because they consider us as a danger or are we all the same to them? I had no clue what the right decision would be and my hands became sweaty.

And then I remembered an event many years ago. Back then I was 5 years old. About the same age as my little one today. It was the last summer before my schooling started. Part of the summer I spent in a little village. Every morning I went with Roy to herd bulls. Roy was about 60 years old, had lost almost all his teeth and every now and then, when he was drunk, he slept in bed with his wellies still on. But he was a kind-hearted man and back then I loved him very much. We got along splendidly. I could not remember any more what and how I did things with the bulls back then. But I know that every day I had a long fresh stick and with that I made the cattle move when they did not want to go.

I looked around. Only a few steps away were a few hazel bushes. I took my little one and we went the 10 steps to the bushes. Slowly and continuously watching the herd. I took my pocket knife from my pocket and quickly decided for a thicker, long branch and started to saw it off. I did not work well and I was very nervous. With one eye I watched how the entire herd slowly moved to our direction. I sawed and sawed and beads of sweat were rolling down my face and impeding my view. But I did not have time to wipe them away. I needed this stick. Finally it got off. The relief was huge and it was high time. The herd had stopped about 20 metres from us and watched us. My son anxiously pressed himself to me.

Still watching the herd I freed the stick from leaves and little branches. I took all my courage, on the one hand my boy and with the other swinging the stick. As loud as I could I shouted with deep voice “Hou, girls, hou” and walked slowly and continuously calling towards the cows. My heart was beating like crazy and I could actually feel the fear. The cows looked at me with big eyes and did not move. But I purposefully walked towards them. And suddenly the first one started to turn and slowly but surely the entire herd started to move. I had to wait until the entire herd was on the move. Then the herd, my boy and myself, still holding the 2m stick, slowly walked down the hill.

Academic education for sure is a great thing but practical experience is not to be replaced by anything.

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