The Great Escape

Delta Winds cover 1999Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


The Great Escape

Dianne Marie Andre

My first experience rounding up my husband's 2000-pound bull, Norman, by myself was frightening, humorous, and magical. It was one of those fast-flowing moments that sent my blood soaring through my veins, yet it seemed to last forever. It was something I prayed would never happen, but knew it would some day. That day came when Steve Mertz, the cabinetmaker I hired, was installing a custom-built computer table and cabinet in my home-office, once our oldest son Jerry's bedroom.

Many hours of planning and work advanced the reality of my five-year-old dream. My husband Joe put a window--at my insistence--in the south wall. It was important for me to see outside: to enjoy the rolling hills, to smell the scent of wind-blown eucalyptus leaves through the screen, to observe a bird nest under construction beneath the eaves, or to watch the details of darkness steal the daylight. I painted the woodwork chalky white and rolled dark green on the heavily textured ceiling and a lighter shade on the walls. Joe and I banded the walls with a rose and green-colored border that portrayed the outdoors. New carpet, splashed with a delicate leaf design, was installed. My sister hung the new valances we chose together while on one of our shopping crusades.

I could hardly wait for my office to be complete. It was a warm summer morning when Steve came to the Lodi Chamber of Commerce, where I worked at the time, to pick up my house keys. Before leaving he asked, "Do you have any dogs?"

"One. But he won't bother you. Besides, he's penned up. Now our bull Norman may. But that's only if he breaks through the fence," I said teasingly.

When I returned from lunch that afternoon, I had a message to call Steve. The receptionist said Norman got out. I didn't take her comment seriously. Why should I? My earlier remark was only a joke. While punching my home telephone number, I explored possible reasons for his call. Perhaps I gave him the wrong measurements and the table was longer than the wall. Or maybe he couldn't maneuver its eleven-foot length around the narrow jog in the hallway. Reaching him, I was relieved to hear the work was going well, but stunned when he finally convinced me that Norman was out and freely roaming the yard.

"I took the screen off, bent down to pick up my level, and when I stood up I found myself nose to nose with this enormous bull," Steve said. "I wasn't expecting to see a bull's head poking in the window."

Joe was out of town. Jerry and our neighbors were at work. Our youngest son Jason worked the night shift, so I called him at his house, hoping for help.

"Gosh, Mom, can't you get a bull in a pen? I don't have time to drive all the way out there," Jason said.

"Do you know how big that bull is?" I asked him. "How am I going to do this by myself?"

"All right, I'll meet you there," he replied before hanging up the receiver.

This is it, I thought. My day of herding Norman had come. Could I handle it? Thirty minutes from home, I was concerned how far Norman would roam before I got there. What would I do if he took off down the highway? Or ate his way through one of our neighbors' yards? While driving home I tried to establish a plan. First change my clothes, pull my hair out of my way, into a ponytail. Next, find the whip and the electric shocker. Maybe I can use a pail of grain to lure him into the pen. Forget that idea. I'm not getting that close to him. Maybe I can fill the tractor bucket with grain, and slowly lead him into the field. That won't work. I can't remember how to start the darn tractor. Pulling into the driveway, I saw my "Goliath" grazing on the front grass, his heavy hooves imprinting our lawn. By the time I changed into old jeans, a sweater, and my knee-high rubber boots, Norman was heading down the driveway. There he goes, my husband's pride and joy, with his big rump swaying side to side, running to visit the neighboring cows calling him from across the road. They're probably the reason for his escape.

I couldn't wait for Jason so I ran to the barn: no grain. I ran to the holding pen: no whip or shocker. I ran to the garage. The whip stood in the corner. The shocker was sandwiched between the spider-webbed wall and two long nails serving as hooks. I decided to take the car, use it to block the road so Norman wouldn't go onto the highway. I threw the whip and shocker in the back seat, drove to the private road where I found Norman flirting with the girls. Parking parallel, about one foot from Norman, I took stock of the situation. I decided to open both doors, just in case I had to run for safety. So I quickly ran behind the car, opened the passenger door, ran back around, grabbed the whip and the shocker. I edged around the left door, tools in hand. Norman lowered his head. He snorted. His nostrils flared. He stomped his right huff into the weeds. Frightened, I quickly jumped into the car, threw my tools on the car seat and closed both doors. After calming down, I decided the strong verbal approach would be best. Again, shielding myself behind the car door I shouted, "N o r m a n, g o h o m e!" It was useless. He ignored me. Repeatedly. I honked the horn. Then very slowly--the way bulls do--he turned his head toward me, snorted, phlegmatically turned away, then broke into a trot. After closing the car doors, I followed him, repeated the same useless, unranch-like cow-herding procedure.

Then out of nowhere a white pickup truck appeared at the side of the road. While Norman trotted cross the road between our vehicles, the passenger got out of the truck. The driver, an older man, leaned out of his window to tell me his friend would help. I watched the passenger. He was very handsome, well groomed, his face freshly shaved. Dressed in what looked like a new black Stetson hat, boots, sharp dark-blue Jeans, a crisp shirt and black vest. I couldn't help wondering if he set out to rescue a princess that day.

Suddenly aware of myself, I became concerned about my unruly hair and orphaned-like clothes. I hoped he wouldn't notice. And I sure didn't want him to see my hot pink snarly sweater and holey rubber boots. Maybe if I appear temperate, he wouldn't notice my sloppy appearance. I relaxed my shoulders and resisted the temptation to fix my hair.

I watched from my car seat, glued to his every move. He reached into the cab for a rope. I can't believe it! He's going to rope Norman! How's he going to rope that huge thing? Swinging his lasso, he causally walked across the road, slowly propelling fearless confidence. I couldn't help noticing how well his clothes formed to his lean body. Where did this cowboy come from? It almost seemed unreal, like I was in a young girl's fantasy. Approaching Norman from behind, the cowboy continued to swing his lasso. Norman looked back, then with a quick lunge that big, red-haired beast headed home.

I never saw the cowboy again.

Following behind Norman, in the car, I vowed to get a lasso, some guts, and be careful about what I say: it may come true. Steve was waiting by the house; he opened the gate, but stood back for me to direct Norman into the corral. I did it! I herded him into the corral--a whole three feet! Just then, Jason arrived. "See, I told you there's nothing to it," he said sarcastically.

Looking back, I remember my hands shaking, and the adrenaline in my body racing, leaving me high most of the evening. When I finally calmed down and was able to reflect on Norman's great escape, I wondered if the cowboy was just an illusion. A fairy tale. Like the ones my girlfriends and I dreamed about on a Saturday night sleep-over: a handsome knight or a mighty warrior or a gentle prince bending down from his white horse, swooping one of us into his arms. Unlike my friends I stopped believing. Brusque boys and pimples dotting my face ended those storybook dreams. But that evening, when the young girl in me quickened, I realized there really is a knight in shining armor.

Even if it is a cowboy.