A 55-year-old memory trotted through my brain a while back…
©Richard Drebert ——
I huffed clouds of breath as I pedaled to McFee’s Dairy before school. I was 10 years old, and proud to clear 35-cents-an-hour PLUS a bowl of Malt-O-Meal and crunchy cheese toast — my pay for scrubbing concrete floors in the milking-barn.
Then the old bull gored Mr. McFee.
His name was Peerless, and he never looked you dead in the eye unless he wanted something that you denied him, like a few more minutes chomping hay at the feed trough. Or freedom to mount one of Mr. McFee’s registered Jersey cows.
In his dapper tan suit Peerless lumbered about his exclusive pen like an overloaded grain truck, while fertile cows inhaled pure, sweet bull. Peerless was a Jersey too, raised from calf-hood by McFee’s sturdy, unmarried daughter. His brown eyes were rimmed with black, offering admirers the aspect of Egyptian royalty. Splashes of ebony suffused his dish-shaped face, shoulders, hips, and legs.
Standing about 13 hands at the shoulder, Peerless wasn’t the largest bull in Josephine County, but he was the only one on McFee’s 40-acre dairy. And no one could have been prouder of his beefy Jersey bull than Mr. McFee.
One morning after milking, Peerless ambled to the breeding pasture with McFee at his shoulder. They had shared this pastoral walk for years. A stout chain ran through a ring piercing Peerless’s tender septum, and it swung to and fro in McFee’s calloused hands.
To Peerless, the chain was more like a watch fob than a sign of subordination. Female bovines ceased chewing their cud when the gate to the breeding field swung wide…
Why Peerless felt disrespected by the old dairyman no one knows — or perhaps a frisky glee seized him — but Peerless swung his great head in an arc, and caught McFee in the side with one shiny brown horn.
McFee’s fedora tumbled to the grass, while temptation kicked up its heels in Peerless’s tiny brain… Why not one more time?
And Peerless yielded.
He gored the old man in the belly, which freed the Jersey to try what he had come to do, chain jangling. McFee’s panicked cows scattered, with the old bull hot on their heels.
Peerless never had the chance to confess to or deny the deed. A .22 caliber bullet between the eyes muzzled any credible defense. McFee’s ample daughter, dressed in coveralls and rubber boots, fired the tearful shot that ended the Jersey’s carnal reign.
It took months for old McFee to hobble back to the milking barn.
And though runaway passions ended Peerless in the prime of his life, not even his majestic name could match the flavor of his tenderloin.