The bull and the brothers


By Lynn Moffett
Special to The PREVIEW
My dad, a charming man, told stories born from years of living. One memory came from an early age.
He was the third of four brothers whose father, a pastor, died when Dad was 8. His single mom worked hard in the ensuing years to provide food and shelter before and during the depression.
Left to their own devices, the boys proved full of mischief. They played basketball in their parlor, moved Model Ts up on neighbors’ porches and the like.
One Friday evening, their mom announced they were going on the first vacation Dad could remember. To those of us living in the 21st century a weekend away might not seem much of an escape from troubles, but to this struggling family, it sounded like heaven.
Visiting their uncle’s farm brought a long-forgotten smile to their mom’s face. The brothers spent hours hassling chickens, chasing goats and racing through the fields of corn. They played baseball and used the hoop attached to the barn for games of horse and two on two.
Throughout that Saturday, they eyed the prize bull. Dares barked between them, escalating as the day waned.
They chose a time when their uncle left to retrieve his mule from the farm next door. The oldest brother dashed through the pasture and leaped on Black Thunder’s back. Unable to find a hold, Thunder catapulted Tom 5 feet straight up. He landed with a thud on the hard-packed earth. The other three laughed until their sides ached. All the while, Tom bragged about getting on board and challenged Bob, next in line, to do better. He suffered the same fate, a sudden flight and the next moment slammed into the dirt. He jumped to his feet and dodged the cloven hooves intent on driving him into the ground. The big black critter wasn’t having fun.
Next came Dad, who not only scrambled to the bull’s back, but actually rode him. Though full of the euphoria at breaking a rule, he said the bull turned out to be the worst kind of experience. Through the brutal bouncing up and down on that boney spine and fear of jumping off, he held on. Hearing the racket, my grandmother tore out the kitchen door yelling. The animal hated that. He bucked and raced more than before.
Uncle Aaron returned and stood stunned to discover a boy riding his bull. When he shook off the surprise, he trotted through the grassy field to grab and gentle the creature enough to pull Billy off the bristly back.
Dad was the only one who got a tongue lashing. Nobody tattle-tailed among those brothers.
Interestingly, he always laughed and claimed it to be one of the best times in his life. He used the story to point out not only a delightful day at a farm, but the depth of my grandmother’s faith and how in the midst of dire times, she managed to teach her boys that a moment of adventure and laughter rolled together trumped all the hardships.
Are you going through a bad time? Is finding a positive moment impossible? My grandmother went through the same thing. Faith is what strengthened her. Without fail, she believed God would see her through the darkness and back into the light, as much as a platitude as that may sound. She held this scripture tight to her heart.
Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (MSG).
In grandmother’s case, doing well consisted of taking care of four rambunctious sons in spite of losing the love of her life. She didn’t let her circumstances destroy her or them. She trusted blessing would come. God would never let her down.