It’s not really cow country, this corner of Suffolk. Leave the village in almost any direction and you’ll be surrounded by fields growing any number of crops: wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape and, of course, the ubiquitous sugar beet. There’s even a local deer farm*. Travel a bit further and you might see rows of corrugated pig houses and their sleek, pink occupants. But you don’t often see cows.
Which is why I was a bit perturbed when, riding my bike round a corner on the road into the next village on a quiet, sunny morning, I came face to face with a black, skittish-looking bullock, slap bang in the middle of the road.
Now, I was pretty certain that if I just kept going he’d skitter off into the field and that would be that. However, “pretty certain” didn’t seem certain enough to me. Even a small bullock has a lot more weight and kick behind it than I do, and I wanted to keep myself and my bike in one piece. So I paused to take stock. (Pun completely unintentional, until I noticed it and liked it so, sorry, it’s staying. I have no shame.)
As we eyed each other suspiciously, the bullock and I, a car drove up behind me, slowed, and then passed me and approached the bullock. Of course, he scarpered into the field and the car driver, the bullock and I merrily went our separate ways.
Which just goes to show that sometimes it’s worth pausing. I wasn’t consciously waiting for backup, but I paused long enough that the situation changed in front of me and I was able to make progress after all. If I hadn’t stopped, there was a chance that all hell would have broken loose.
Of course, there is an alternative reading of this salutory tale: perhaps I haven’t grown out of a childhood nervousness around cattle, after all!
*Lest I give the impression of living in a peaceful rural idyll, I should point out that today someone in the street has spent all day using a very loud and obnoxious piece of machinery while I bury my head and try to work. I may have to break out the earplugs.