Learning to dance with bulls

IMG_7731Before I met Sammy, I already had established a great respect and not a little bit of fear, of bulls.  I had been told, “don’t look ’em in the eye”.  I’d heard horror stories of people getting hurt or killed because of complacency and the unpredictability of bulls.  I have two stories of my experience with bulls under Sammy’s tutelage.  My first day moving the herd with him and, much later, gathering the bulls alone.

The first time Sammy invited me to move the herd with him, I was so excited.   True to his nature, Sammy gave me few verbal instructions.  He told me he’d go to the front of the herd and call them and I was to stay at the back and drive any cattle that were lagging.  My mind was swimming with many questions, but I simply said, “ok” and took Jesse to the rear, determined to do a good job.  I had never seen cattle moved by calling them and I was struck by the artfulness of Sammy’s ways with the herd.  I sat there in gratitude and waited for the herd to move wondering when I should start moving.  I decided to go with my understanding of energy and flow.  I was ready for my job.  One by one the entire herd followed Sammy, calling to him and drawn to him like a beautiful wave.  I came to think of this as the cattle song.  Well, all but one went to Sam.  One of the bulls was not following and I panicked, internally.  I new enough about energy and dominance to understand that I was no match for this bull; I had real fear and very little knowledge.  I sat there for a few moments that felt like hours.  I didn’t want to let Sam down and felt way out of my comfort zone.  I finally called him.  He told me, “if the bulls want to stay back, let ’em.  We’ll get ’em later.”  Whew!  I was sure relieved and we went on to have our first experience in the corrals, separating the herd together.  That’s another story for another chapter.  Sammy later explained to me that it can be a good thing to let the bulls stay back if they want to because they can cause drama in the her when moving through the alley or in the corrals.  They can start fighting and push the herd back or cause undue stress on the cows and calves.  That day was the beginning of a 5 year lesson on learning to understand the herd and figure out how to work with their nature to get the job done.  It also was my first glimpse into the brilliance of this Paniolo.  I didn’t get it that day, but came to see later how important taking the time to set things up is.  As with all the big lessons I learned through Sam and those cattle, these are two powerful metaphors for life and they are burned in my brain; they come back to me daily and Sammy is with me, reminding me to go with the flow and set things up first, with quality.

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