(ca. 2002) Chuck, the Ox

Chuck was a 1,200 pound ox that lived in the field behind the trailer I was living in. My first encounter with Chuck had me terrified, but as time went on, I was glad to have him as a neighbor. In fact, one night, his very presence provided with much-needed comfort.

I had spent the evening working on a computer in the third floor loft of Dave’s house. It started to get late and I was ready to go home and sleep. Instead of getting a ride from Dave, I decided to just walk the quarter-mile back to the trailer. Foolishly, I had no flashlight, even though it was a full-moon and fairly bright outside, a flashlight would have been a great addition to my trip. I stepped off of the front porch and started walking down the lane. It wasn’t long before Dave’s house was out of my view. As I came around the corner, the trees were gone and there two large fields on either side of me. Just ahead, I saw Chuck lying next to the fence, staring off into the other field. The moonlight gave him a strange blue glow.

As I walked past Chuck, I started down a small hill that led to a creek—and that is when I heard something behind me. I spun around, but I couldn’t see anything. My first thought was that a bear was nearby and it was not that far-fetched of an idea, I was in the middle of the country with mountains all around. I remember looking back towards Chuck and figured that if it was a bear, I could just run over to him and hop the fence as no bear would want to mess with Chuck. He was a solid mass of muscle. I turned back to the lane ahead and started walking faster. I hear the noise getting louder, closer.

I broke into a full-on sprint across the creek on my way to the trailer, trying to get there as fast as I could.  When I finally get to the trailer, I couldn’t get the lock open. I fumbled with the key for what felt like an eternity before it finally popped open. After getting inside I fell to the couch and tried to catch my breath.

My first up-close-and-personal encounter with Chuck happened some time later. Dave and I had been working on replacing a section of electric fencing around his large garden. I spent the day removing the hold lines and stakes and putting new stakes down. After working the bulk of the day, it was time for lunch. Neither of us properly secured the main fence gate to the big field properly, leaving it wide open. We go inside and sat down for a wonderful home-cooked meal with his family. After eating, I stepped outside to have a smoke. When I got on to the porch, there is Chuck standing in the front yard.

I hollered inside to get Dave’s attention. Chuck had a sort air of accomplishment about the way he was standing. It was like he knew that he breached the fence and stood there looking quite pleased as he chomped on the grass while looking up at us. I knew we would have to get him back into the fence, somehow. Dave had me walk out around the far edge of the path, down the hill, and over to the gate. I got over there quickly, quietly, and as cautiously as possible—I didn’t want to get gored today. After I got down the get, Dave instructed me to take-up the slack on the line and be prepared to hook the gate shut after he gets Chuck down to the other side.

Dave went in the house to grab a bowl of oats to lure Chuck back down in to the field. Meanwhile, I’m standing at the bottom of a fairly steep hill staring up at a huge ox. Dave came out of the house and started walking towards Chuck. He held the bowl up to his nose and let him catch a sniff of the fresh oats. He slowly walked around, persuading Chuck to turn around. They were both at the top of the hill facing directly towards me. Next thing I see, Dave turns down the hill and spins around so that he is looking at Chuck. It was rather comical, he stood straight up and basically slid backwards on his feet the entire way down the hill without falling over. When he gets to the bottom he turned around and ran past me, through the gate, and in to the field. I look back to Chuck and he is coming down the hill full-tilt—directly towards me.

At this point, I was pretty terrified. Seeing a 1,200 pound ox with proper horns coming right at you is a bit intimidating. Even though I once sought comfort in the sight of the power animal when I was scared, he was now coming at me with seemingly no desire to stop or simply pay a nice visit. I was convinced that I was about to die. I clench my arms and legs, close my eyes, and prepare for impact. The sound stopped. I couldn’t hear his hooves hitting the ground. I opened my eyes and he was standing right next to me.

I was shaking a bit, not sure what was about to happen. On the porch, Dave’s wife and kids were watching intently. I could hear some feint laughter from the youngest kids. Nobody seemed to expect this turn of events. I looked directly into the eyes of this large animal and I heard Dave shout, “Don’t move!” Those words were not comforting.

I stood as still as I could as Dave approached. Chuck looked towards Dave and the oats and then back at me. Unexpectedly, Chuck leaned down and licked my arm. He then proceeded to walk casually to the gate and went inside without incident. After he was in, Dave dropped the bowl, came out, and I secured the gate. I think we were both very relieved.

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