The next morning, the chief rooster’s crow announced the dawn. Hector, from his stall in the corner, pried one eye open and peered around. The faintest light crept into the barn. The cows began to move about; some of the calves had to be nudged awake. Tiny, rapid wingbeats hummed before Hector’s nose as a shiny orange beetle alighted on the hay in front of him. He puffed a gush of air from his nostrils. The beetle was unperturbed; it just crawled across the hay toward him, displaying not the slightest apprehension at facing a creature a thousand times its size. Hector sighed and sunk his chin into the straw beneath him. “I changed my mind,” he muttered. “Get someone else to do it.” He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
The mid-morning heat woke Hector a few hours later. He sniffed and snorted, then suddenly raised his head. He looked around and listened closely. The barn was quiet. Magpies sang in the trees outside, and in the distance was a steady hammering. The lowing of cows in the paddock was a soothing song to his ears. He stood up from the layer of straw that was his bed and looked toward the bright sunshine and green pastures beyond the open barn doors. With a trumpeting blast of wind from his backside, the great bull went over to the old iron water trough for a drink. He gulped down three mouthfuls of slightly grass flavoured water, and then suddenly stopped. His eyes widened and he stood perfectly still. After a moment, the great bull stepped carefully back. He shut his eyes and shook his head violently. Then he stopped and listened. The barn was silent. “No!” cried Hector. He spun around, kicking wildly and shaking his head. “Leave me alone!” He jumped and bucked and slammed his rear hooves into the water trough, sending water spouting into the air and leaving a pumpkin sized dent in the iron. With a crazed bellow, Hector ran from the barn. Across the cow paddock he raced, thrashing his head from side to side. He spun in circles like a dog chasing its tail, then charged up the slope toward the farmhouse. With his eyes closed, huffing and grunting in a frenzy, Hector did not see that he was approaching the paddock’s north fence, and approaching it at speed. Before he realised what was happening, he slammed his wrecking ball head into the fence rail, snapping it like a matchstick. The fence wires squealed and pulled tight as they caught the bull mid-charge. He ran a few more paces before the wires dragged him to a halt, popping a nearby fencepost from the ground, and jolting Hector’s hind quarters into the air, so that it appeared for a split-second the great bull was about to summersault over the fence. His back legs thumped back to earth, he kicked himself free of the wires, and then he stepped back. The tractor could not have smashed the fence with more success. Hector shook his head. He wagged his ears back and forth, then slowly lifted his gaze, following a soft humming sound until he was left staring at the clouds. He breathed a great sigh and turned around. Spread across the paddock, thirty-six cows all stood staring at him. A few sheep had gathered by the fence at the lower paddock and stared at him too. Hector looked to the western fence. The big blue tractor was there, along with Mr McGinley, who was putting in a new fencepost to replace the one Hector had splintered the previous night. Mr McGinley stood scratching his head and staring at the bull.
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