When I was 5 years old, I used to spend the summer with my mother and grandmother in a tiny village of only 5 houses. It was the last summer before I started school. My biggest issue at that point was that people always mistook me for a boy. I was very small, weighed only 20kg and had short hair. I truly looked like a boy but felt entirely girly. My environment didn’t always notice that.
That summer, a guy named Roy rented a room in the same house. I have no idea how old Roy might have been. Maybe 50? Could have been 60? He was ancient for me but really funny.
He was there to look after the bulls. Every morning he fetched the herd and led them onto the grassland, so that they could enjoy grazing until their bellies were full. In the evening, he led them back to the stables. The herd contained only bulls. Huge bodies, impressive to look at. I was fascinated how Roy, who was just as scrawny as myself, could command those giants.
Roy asked if I wanted to join him. I was excited. After several hours of discussion behind closed doors, my mom and grandmother allowed me to go with him.
So the next morning, I got up early, took a small backpack with a sandwich and water. The first thing Roy did, was to get me a long, slim branch of a tree as a rod.
He then said: “Don’t worry, you are the leader and the boys will do as you say. And if a bull tries you, just flick him on his behind, so he remembers, who the boss is“
From this day on, I accompanied him and his bulls almost every day for the rest of the summer.
It was wonderful. The bulls obeyed my commands and if one of them left the path, I quick flick across his loins reminded him, what today’s goal was. For him it was like the twitch of a fly and did not hurt him at all.
It must have been funny to look at. A big flock of bulls, led by a small man with twisted legs and a tiny child, which might just possibly be a boy.
Roy was gentle and kind, just like the bulls. He would have never hurt an animal and they all loved him. As did everyone else. Everyone but my grandmother. She resented his lack of personal hygiene. I didn’t go to his room very often and when I did I never found anything amiss. But it was true that 5 chicken and a goat shared his room at night. He also went to bed in his clothes and shoes and my grandmother scolded him for it. He just laughed it off and replied that everyone is going to die one day, those who took off their shoes and those who didn’t. My grandmother claimed that we got along so well because we had just about the same intellectual capabilities. That wasn’t true, but I guess my grandmother wanted to avenge his resistance.
I adored Roy because he took me seriously and treated me as an equal. We decided together where we wanted to make camp. We took turns in catching the bulls, which had left the herd. We shared our lunch. He loved my sandwiches and I preferred his bread with mustard spread on top.
Summer went by very fast. I could have imagined staying a cowgirl for the rest of my life. Roy agreed but my mom and grandmother didn’t. I loved the bulls, as they are very calm creatures. They are compliant and just interested in feeding and looking for a nice shadowy spot to digest. I never had any difficulties dealing with them.
It was hard to say goodbye to Roy and his animals. When we went back the next summer, he was gone.
That summer taught me a lot. Most importantly not to be afraid of big animals.
There is no reason for it. I know how to get them in line again.