After a long, sweltering afternoon, dusk made its welcome descent upon Butterberry Farm. Stretching shadows blended with the dimming light. The unrelenting summer wind, having scorched the paddocks with furnace heat all day, now sailed off to wherever the wind goes. In the chicken yard, mother hens gathered their chicks under the watchful eye of the chief rooster. The Clydesdales grazed lazily by the stables. In the lower paddocks, sheep stirred from beneath the shady trees and headed for the night-time safety of the big shed; the cows plodded toward the barn. Frogs croaked down near the eastern fence, while plovers cackled in the west. Jagged fruitbat silhouettes flapped overhead. Behind the farmhouse, the big blue tractor came grunting and grumbling up the slope, guided by two golden headlight beams. And at the far end of the cow paddock, like an island in the middle of the sea, stood Hector, the great bull.
No beast on the farm compared to Hector. He towered above most animals. Only the Clydesdale horses stood taller, but their look and nature were gentler. Hector was something else. From his nose to his rump, the great bull was as thick and solid as an oak trunk. His hide was black except for a splash of white between his eyes, whose stony glare never faltered. Two mighty horns stretched out from his boulder of a skull, arcing upward and forward before narrowing to lethal points. Hector was a fearsome wonder of nature, an eight-hundred-kilogram battering ram. Even Sonny, the chief rooster, had respect for the bull.
Hector watched the headlights cut through the dark as the farmer, Mr McGinley, drove the tractor up beside the farmhouse. The tractor stopped, its lights vanished, and then the grumbling of its engine ceased. By the light of the kitchen window, Hector saw Mr McGinley climb down from the tractor then step back and look at it admiringly. The farmer took off his hat and went inside. Hector stood there a while longer, until night settled in, and then he walked over to a nearby fencepost. The post was an upright log, five feet above ground and one foot buried below. Two wires threaded holes in the middle of the post, while timber beams joined atop to form the rail. Hector pressed his side up against the post and dragged his hide against it. His tail swished. He leaned his weight slightly against the post. The wires tensed. Hector looked up toward the farmhouse. He looked back across the paddock. All the cows were in the barn. He was alone. Backing his immense frame up a few paces, he faced the fencepost head-on. Slowly he approached it, bowed and pressed his head against it. He leaned in. There was a creak from the nails holding the top rail. Hector snorted and stepped forward. His rear hooves sunk an inch into the ground as he pushed—with his legs, then his mountainous shoulders, forcing with his neck. The nails creaked, the timber cracked. The fence wires pulled tight, and the fencepost began to lean outward. The ground between Hector’s front hooves rose a few inches. Hector eased the pressure then stepped back. He looked at the post. It was weakened, off balance; the timber beams had loosened. Hector flicked his ear back. The soft, flickering glow of a firefly drifted before his eyes. Hector planted his hooves and slammed his head against the fencepost. It split and uprooted, reeling back as the great bull trampled it like a twig. He set a hoof onto the grass beyond the fence line, then stopped. He looked up at the farmhouse and the tractor. Hector huffed and stood still a moment, before stepping back into the cow paddock. He stared at the broken post. A huge clump of dirt spilled at its base. The drooping fence wires suspended the top of the post just above the grass, while the beams of the rail had detached and now dipped to the ground. Hector took long, slow breaths. Insects chirped in the clover. Hector swished his tail, turned and walked back to the barn.
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