This week I’ve invited a guest to do a blog post. My friend Lorne Finlayson tells a story from his childhood days on the prairies. I hope you enjoy reading one of the adventures of Muck and Finn.
Muck and Finn were terrified of Billy Reed’s bull. This frightening beast was the scariest thing on the face of the earth. All they had to do was start talking about the huge animal and each would want to run home, jump into bed and pull the covers over his head to be really safe.
Muck and Finn figured Billy Reed kept the bull just to beat up on little boys, to chase them and poke them in the bum with its long horns, then use its powerful back hooves to boot them over the fence and send them home crying. Nothing was meaner than Billy Reed’s Bull. Just seeing the fence around Billy Reed’s farm was scary, for they knew the bull must be somewhere inside, waiting to huff and snort at them. He would throw great wads of grass into the air by pawing the earth with his huge hooves. The ground would shake like an earthquake when he came roaring after them.
Neither Muck or Finn, nor any of their friends had ever actually seen Billy Reed’s Bull. But the terrible bull scared them even more than being hauled into the principal’s office, not that they’d ever been there.
Muck’s sister, Grace, and Billy Reed’s daughter, Faye, were in teacher’s college in Saskatoon. It was a long way and they only came home for holidays. One day towards the end of the Thanksgiving holiday, Grace was out visiting Faye at the farm.
Muck’s mom had heard from their driver and called out to Muck and Finn, who were outside playing catch with an old baseball.
“Boys,” she said, “take Maud and ride out to Billy Reed’s farm. Tell Grace and Faye they have to get ready to go to Saskatoon in an hour or they won’t have a ride back to teacher’s college.”
Maud was the old bay mare that Muck and Finn rode all over the country. They had no saddle, so they just went bareback, with Muck in the front holding the reins and Finn behind, holding onto Muck. Finn’s dad said Maud had sore feet so she couldn’t gallop very much or very fast, but the boys didn’t care. They loved her anyhow.
The boys ran down to the barn and put a bridle on Maud. Muck had long legs and jumped up on Maud’s back. Then he took her over close to the corral so Finn could climb up on the rails and get onto the horse’s back. Urging Maud to a slow gallop, they were off.
The boys rode down the highway about a mile to Billy Reed’s gate. Poor old Maud was in a sweat by the time they got there. The barbed-wire gate was about four feet high. Muck reined Maud to a stop and waited for Finn to get off and open the gate. Finn waited for Muck to get off and open the gate. Neither moved, except for shivering in fright. For there, in the field on the other side of the gate, stood Billy Reed’s bull!
From their side of the gate the boys could see Billy Reed’s house. The clock was ticking for Grace and Faye’s ride back to teacher’s college. They had to get to the house. But, they also had to get past the bull. They stared at the beast and had trouble believing their eyes. Billy Reed’s bull was not twice as big as any other animal on the face of the earth. In fact, he wasn’t much bigger than the cows grazing beside him. He wasn’t roaring and snorting and pawing. He was happily chewing away on the grass around him, not paying any attention to the two frightened boys on the other side of the gate.
But Muck and Finn were taking no chances. Muck said, “There’s only one thing to do!” He backed Maud across to the far side of the gravel highway.
“Hang on,” he shouted to Finn. “Giddyup, Maud.” He had Maud running as hard as she could right at the gate. Finn didn’t have time to think of what could happen. If Maud stumbled they would be thrown off her back, maybe have her land on top of them or, even worse, they might be tossed right to the feet of Billy Reed’s bull.
“Ta rum, ta rum, ta rum.” Maud’s hoofbeats pounded towards the gate. The boys closed their eyes. Then, all went silent. There was no feeling from the running horse as they soared through the air, just total smoothness. Maud had jumped the fence. Muck and Finn opened their eyes and looked around for the bull. That worthy creature was still paying no attention to them. They were safe.
“Ta rum, ta rum, ta rum,” they heard, as Maud galloped to the house so the boys could tell Grace and Faye to get ready to head back to teacher’s college. Faye’s brother walked back with them and opened the gate. They dawdled along going home to the barn, then gave the faithful Maud an extra handful of oats before they turned her loose to enjoy a well-earned rest.
By the time they got back to the house Muck’s mother had heard about them jumping Billy Reed’s gate. “You two boys will turn my hair grey,” she scolded them. “You’ll be the death of me yet!”
Then she made them sit down at the table with big glasses of cold milk and all the cookies they could eat.