The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Please Don't Shoot Him!

By Gerald Orr © 1996

Issue: Spring, 1996

Late one evening after the clinic had closed, my partner Jim and I were discussing business matters. It had been a busy day. By the time we had gotten through, we were too beat to start right away for home. We sat idly batting the breeze in the office we shared with our other partner. It was relaxing to sit in the rare quiet of our [veterinary] clinic while everything was sleeping.

Jim chuckled to himself and asked, "Did I ever tell you about the time Poag went to Virginia to get a bull for his dad?" I propped my feet on my desk and leaned back in my rump-sprung chair. I was ready to listen to a tale.

Poag Reid was Jim's college roommate and long-time friend who has a large animal practice in a nearby town. This is the story Jim told...

Poag had just got his driver's license; you can get one in South Carolina when you turn fifteen. He had been driving tractors and trucks on his family's farm outside Rock Hill since he was a little kid, and over the years he had earned his dad's trust.

Mr. Reid had told Poag to drive the big cattle hauler up to Virginia to collect a Charolais bull he had agreed to buy. This would be the first Charolais bull in their county. He put $2,000 in Poag's hand to pay for the bull, and some more for gas and meals on the trip. The breeder's farm was just above the North Carolina line.

Poag's pride swelled near to bursting over this responsibility. He felt like a man. The next morning, before it was light, he and his buddy, Brad, set out in the cattle truck. They had barely gotten out of sight of home when the truck overheated. Poag coasted to the grassy shoulder of the two lane highway and parked the truck.

Brad worried that the trip was off. Not Poag. His father had trusted him to bring a bull home, and that's what he was going to do.

"We'll go back and get the other truck," Poag said. He and Brad struck out walking back to the farm. Both of his parents had left for work. Poag got the keys to the battered, 1951 half-ton Chevy pickup the Reids used to haul hay, seed and feed. The sun was barely peeping above the horizon when they set out again for the breeding farm, some four or five hours away.

They enjoyed looking at the magnificent cattle grazing in lush pastures as they drove along through North Carolina and into Virginia. Shortly after they grabbed a quick lunch, they arrived at the Charolais farm. They parked the pickup and walked up the steps to the wrap-around front porch on the sprawling house.

Poag introduced himself and Brad to the man who responded to Poag's knock, and explained that his dad had sent him to collect his new bull. With a sense of importance, he carefully counted the bull's purchase price from the roll of money that burdened his pocket.

The cattleman took the bills, wrote a receipt and handed over the papers on his blooded bull offspring of champions on both sides. Then he looked around, puzzled.

"What are you going to haul him in, son?" the Virginian asked, looking for their cattle truck. Poag pointed at his pickup. "There's the truck."

"You plan to carry that bull to South Carolina in a pickup?" the breeder asked, disbelieving.

Poag, determined to prove he was man enough to handle the situation, nodded and lied confidently, "Yessir! We haul our cattle around in it all the time."

The cattleman didn't argue. He figured it wasn't any of his business if Poag's dad sent his kid off to haul a purebred Charolais bull home in a pickup; but Poag and Brad could tell the man had his doubts. Their fifteen-year-old pride left no room for thoughts of failure.

Nonetheless, the farmer helped them load the bull onto the truck. When the huge animal was on board, the dented, rusted bed of the Chevy sank down almost onto the tires. The back end was lower than the front, and the hood thrust skyward.

Poag looked at the bull in the small truck and thought-to himself of course-that it was possible the bull might come out over the top. So Poag rigged a make-shift halter from a big rope he found in the truck's messy floorboard. He snugged the halter tight, then ran the lead rope back behind the cab and down through a hole in the bed. He pulled the slack out and secured the rope around the half-ton's frame.

The cattleman checked the tie ropes one last time. As Poag drove out of the barnyard, exercising extra caution, the bull's breeder walked alongside the truck a little way, talking through the open window. "You be real careful, boys. You sure, now, you'll be okay?" he asked, as if he was having second thoughts. "You sho' wouldn't want anything to happen to that bull."

The massive weight in the truck bed raised the front end, and steering was difficult. Their pace home was a lot slower than it had been earlier in the morning.

Little did the teenagers realize what an amazing sight they and their bull were. The bull's massive head jutted over the cab; he looked as if he were resting his chin on the thin roof. His muscular body stretched the length of the bed of the pickup so that his tail hung over the tailgate. The boys tooled along, oblivious to the startled looks they drew from occupants in passing vehicles.

The sun was getting low; their shadow ran along the ground beside them in the fading light as they hit the outskirts of Charlotte. Brad told Poag that he knew a shortcut through town that would save them some time. The route he directed took them through a residential area. They could see people sitting on porches or loitering on the crumbly, littered sidewalks turning to look at the huge cargo in the ratty old truck. Other drivers stared.

"We're like a parade!" Brad hooted. "Look at everybody watching us!"

They stopped as a traffic light turned red. The bull was tired after standing in the same spot for several hours, wind and bugs whiffing against his face. He stamped his feet fretfully, and the truck swayed.

"I'll be glad when we get home. An hour ought to do it," Poag said. He checked the side mirror to get a better view of his precious freight.

Suddenly, the truck lurched wildly, followed by a foghorn blast that issued from the dark recesses of the bull's chest, then a hiss. The stink of burning hair spewed in the windows. Poag cut the engine. He and Brad sprang out into the street and ran around to look at the bull. Their faces paled: one of the bull's hind legs had punched a hole through the half-rotted plank and was trapped against the hot exhaust pipe.

As soon as Poag saw the bull's predicament, he sprang into action. His top priority was to get the bull's leg away from the pipe. He shouted to Brad to open the tailgate as he jumped into the bed of the truck with the bull. Poag yanked out his pocket knife and slashed the rope attached to the bull's halter. The bed of the truck bounced and bucked as the bull tried to stomp the truck into the pavement.

Free from the restraining rope, the bull pulled his hoof free. With a great leap, the bull hurled himself out of the pickup, pieces of rope dangling from each side of the leather halter. The Charolais landed with a great thud, scrambled to get his balance, then thundered off into the not-so-wide-open spaces of downtown Charlotte.

Howling bystanders scattered. Mamas and grandmammas snagged little children from the cluttered yards and raced through doorways of the houses, the babies screaming with the sudden shock of being carted from play like sacks of potatoes.

Poag and Brad raced frantically after the bull. It dodged cars, bikes, tricycles and trampled through flower beds, hedges and postage-stamp sized gardens. Poag and his pal stayed hot on the bull's heels. As he ran, Poag tried to piece together the rope he had cut, his fingers fumbling as he attempted to make a lasso.

People left cars in the street to join the chase. The posse streamed behind the two teenagers, their whooping and hollering adding to the bull's panic. The pursuers shouted contradictory instructions to one another.

Poag heard a siren blaring its way toward them and caught sight of flashing lights against the growing dusk. A police car screeched to a halt in the middle of the street where spectators had gathered. Just as Poag shot out from behind a house, he saw the policeman step out of the patrol car. The huge Charolais galloped across the street directly in front of the vehicle. The cop reacted instinctively. He bent his knees and ran, stooping low, toward the panicking animal, pulling his gun from the holster on his hip.

"Don't shoot him!" Poag screamed at the top of his lungs. "Don't shoot him!"

The cop froze, looking around, and saw a terrified teenager running toward him.

"I got to shoot him," the young cop hollered back.

"Please, sir! Please don't shoot him! That's my daddy's bull! I gotta get him home! My dad will kill me if you shoot that bull!" Poag was near tears. The policeman, a rookie only a few years older than Poag, looked around, realized the bull had disappeared anyway, and put his gun back in the holster.

Just then, a hullabaloo went up behind a nearby house. Poag and the policeman ran in tandem toward the screamers. Poag was in the lead and hot on the bull's trail as it fled behind a house. It was time for Poag's luck to turn, and it did. He swung the rope around the bull's neck as it swiveled around, uncertain how to get out of the trap of a fenced yard. Poag flipped the other end of the rope around the metal frame of a child's swing set, and figured that he had the bull under control.

Not so. The bull strained against the restraining rope; its weight and momentum pulled the swing set's metal frame and its cement footings from the ground. the bull set off in search of freedom.

The bull-chasers and spectators scattered in all directions, spilling on top of each other, shouting fearfully. The policeman pulled his gun again, aiming at the bellowing bull as it lumbered down the sidewalk with the swing set clanking and tossing sparks. Poag grabbed the policeman's arm. "Please! I beg you! Don't shoot my daddy's bull!"

Car horn's began bleeping, hellish cacophony at the intersection, where traffic had come to a sudden halt - hoods, fenders and bumpers perilously close to total chaos. The swing's frame had wedged against a fire hydrant. He struggled and snorted, but to no avail. The bull had finally, literally, come to the end of its rope.

Poag and Brad kept pace with the policeman as they came close to the panting, trapped animal.

"Mister, just help me get some planks for the truck and some rope, and we'll get that bull back on the truck and leave," Poag promised. "We don't have far to go."

Poag's earnest plea struck a sympathetic cord with the policeman. Once again, he holstered his pistol. Then the cop glanced around and asked the crowd if anyone knew where they could get a few planks and some rope.

As if of one mind, the people of the neighborhood rallied. Someone found a sheet of plywood that exactly fit the bed of the truck. Others brought bits of lumber, hammers, and strands of rope. Their efforts bound together by chords of laughter, the volunteers restored the truck to service, the bull to the truck, and the neighborhood to a jolly, high-spirited peace.

Poag looked sadly at the exhausted Charolais leg. It had a nasty burn. But the Bull was alive! The weary bull laid his head on the cab of the truck and blinked his eyes in the unfamiliar glow of city lights.

Poag and Brad shook hands with the cop, touched the nearest hands of those who had helped through the crisis, and got back in the pickup.

Once again, the Chevy's hood tilted and its tail dragged. Poag and his friend waved to the crowd. Many waved back; most looked at each other and grinned. For half an hour, it had been marvelous mayhem, a change in the dull routine of a summer evening.

A police car followed the truck to the city limits, blinked its lights, then did a U-turn, heading back into the busy city.

An everlastingly long hour later, Poag and Brad wheeled into the darkened farm, silent with fatigue. Despite their troubles, Poag was glad that he had not totally let his dad down. The bull was home.

Still he was afraid to let his dad see the bull in its injured condition. The teenagers unloaded the Charolais into a back pasture and stood watching the creamy white hide fade to gray as he wandered away toward a small branch trickling under a grove of trees. The cows resting nearby would keep the bull company.

Brad went home. Poag decided not to awaken his parents. He went to bed. Things surely would be better and a lot easier to explain in the clear light of day.

Poag awakened, dressed slowly - full of dread - and went to the kitchen. His father was eating breakfast. His mother sipped coffee. A curtain of silence seemed to hang over the table.

Finally, Mr. Reid looked up from his paper and said, "Poag, did you get the bull yesterday?"

"Yessir," Poag answered, hoping that the fact that the new bull was home would be enough information to satisfy his father's curiosity.

"How did it get here? I saw the truck sitting on the side of the highway," Mr. Reid said.

Poag never lied to his dad and wasn't about to start now.

"I hauled him back in the Chevy pickup," he replied.

"You did what?"

The whole incredible story poured out in a torrent, and to Poag's great surprise, his father listened calmly, if bemusedly - at the end saying only that they should go and check on the bull. After inspecting the bull's burned leg, both understood that, like youthful foibles, it would heal in time.

Editor's Note: This story is from the book "Don't Kiss Your Turtle Goodbye: True Tales of a Hill Country Vet," by Gerald Orr with Ann Tankersley. The book is soft cover, has illustrations, and is 180 pages. It can be ordered from - Down Home Press, P.O. Box 4126, Asheboro, NC 27204.