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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

El Torito: love and aggro in the cowyard (2)

El Torito, as I said, was fiery and aggressive. This showed up in many ways. When we first acquired him, he looked round for something to beat up. The first thing that caught his eye was a 44 gallon drum partially filled with molasses up near the diary.

   Perhaps he liked the smell, because molasses is what we used as a stock food supplement. His horns were a better shape than the ones on the bull in my previous illustration; more sturdy, wider angled and vicious. Much more like the ones shown here and now gone to the highest bidder on Gumtree, which I'm sure you'd love mounted above your fireplace with your Goya or Picasso bullfighting prints on either side.

   Ripper bewdy.

Classy combos for your fireplace
   So it was with these horns that El Torito set about doing a number on the 44 gallon drum of molasses. First he bunted it all the way up the hill from the dairy as far as the old Toohey's house, and then down again, past the dairy. The speed of the downhill run pleased him enormously so he belted that steel drum right down into the gully, into half a metre or so of water. There his enthusiasm for the project left him, and left Dad with the task of getting the now battered 44 gallon drum back up to the dairy. This did not please him but he was impressed with the fact that the drum didn't yield in the slightest.
Genuine 44 gall drum

   A 44 gallon drum is incredibly versatile but its multitude of uses isn't the subject here. I'm all too familiar with them from working for Shell when a student as a storeman and packer on the Gladstone wharves in university vacations, but maybe another time. Back to El Torito.

   My sister Lyn also tells me that one day in the "pepper" tree as we called the pepperina:
   ... I climbed up the sloping trunk to look at the baby possums in a nest in the first fork of the tree. I went to climb down and there he was looking up at me and shaking his head as if to say 'you come down and I'll toss you over the slip rails'. He would have too, more than likely. I had to yell until Dad heard and came and chased him off.

The pride and joy of the family – the '57 ute
   El Torito must have liked the feel of heavy metal against the horn. The crowning achievement in his relationship with large steel objects came when we bought our first car – a brand spanking new 1957 Holden ute. Dad's pride and joy.

   Yes, you know what's coming so why describe it in detail? I won't. But here's the gist.

   One fine day, El Torito had nothing to do in the romantics department, it seems. Canary daughter of Camembert (aka "Bertie") couldn't care less and Leila daughter of Lila daughter of Lily had a headache.

   El Torito decided on some horn practice now the drumming option had closed, the 44 gallon drum having been put in the shed in case he decided to tango with it again.

   But there was the shiny new car....

   My mother saw the fruits of his labour first. Wisely, she chose to give Dad his lunch before acquainting him with the spectacle, knowing that he'd be so furious and upset that he wouldn't eat, and would remove El Torito's horns with the ring-barking axe, beginning at the neck.

   That lunch probably saved El Torito from being flogged to within an inch of his life. Not being a student of Indian philosophy, Dad didn't always appreciate notions of dharma ("things act according to their nature") in terms of animal relationships with shiny new vehicles, although he did have his own concept of karma – of cause and effect. In this case El Torito had caused the rakings up and down both sides of the new car and the tailgate with horrifying effect, (although the bonnet, it must be said, survived miraculously intact) and Dad's view on the matter was El Torito should have known better.

   He did not get off scot-free. Dad picked up a piece of perished rubber hosing that had been replaced in the milking machines, and belted him with it as many times and as hard as possible before El Torito retreated for the hills. Given the time lag between the vandalism and the flogging attempt, El Torito must have been as puzzled about my father's sudden choler as a puppy is when pee is discovered in the corner of the lounge hours after the deed is done, and Prince gets his nose rubbed in it.

   Nevertheless, Dad couldn't afford to be too harsh on his expensive stud bull, knowing that El Torito had quite a ways to go yet before earning his hubby-price. That probably saved El Torito as well. Dad was nothing if not mindful of money.

   There is a Part 3. I have not quite done with El Torito yet. The last chapter is about what happened when Karl, the red bull, entered the scene.


  1. I am beginning to see how El Torito helped shape your path towards comparative religions. I await Part 3 with bated breath but I hope it has a happy ending. I am liking El Torito - feistyness is very appealing. Anne P

    1. You do? Crumbs! Oh I get it - the bit about dharma and karma. You may well be right. Third one's acomin' – it's all in my head. So that's a lot of bull to deal with.

  2. What a bull! I can't get Tommy Steele's 1959 song, Little White Bull" out of my head. Do you remember it?
    "Once upon a time there was a little white bull.
    Very sad because he was a little white bull etc etc
    ....Charging twice and charging once again
    The matador cried, torro little bull!
    You're not a little bull, you're a brave little bull
    You're gonna be a great little bull
    The best in (Calliope)!"
    I like your El Torito - and like all (most)good, effective, productive farm animals, the feistier, the more love they have to share around - just not towards humans!

    I have recently had to send to god a very beautiful, warm, polite and friendly black rooster because he was was too afraid of the hens to produce even one spring chicken. Of course, my dear old neighbour had to do "it". I was far too fond of him (the rooster, I mean). Realities of animal husbandry, I'm afraid...

    And the 44gallon drum. Ubiquitous in my life. Was it particular to Australian life back in those days, I wonder?
    We used them for everything from storing water, to growing spuds, to keeping grain away from rodents, to playing in empty drums, rolling them down grassy slopes etc etc. Sunny days of childhood.
    (Looking forward to Ch 3.)

    1. I definitely remember that song - even contemplated working it into the piece but then thought I'd better stick to the main plot [rare for me I know]. We used to sing along with it with great gusto when played on the radio. Of course, the irony is, as you know, that being "the best in [Spain]" meant he'd be tortured by the picadors and stabbed through the spinal column and die a painful death.

      Barbarous. I don't care how fond of the romance of bull-fighting Hemingway was. He wasn't the bull.

      The feisty is fun when you don't have 350 kg of bull charging towards you and the fence a long way away! And you are right about the realities of animal husbandry, but I won't go into that here.

      I also thought to go off at a tangent about the multiplicity of uses for the 44 gall drum until it ended its working life as an incinerator. There were nothing quite like them. No, not peculiar to Australia. They were the military 200 litre drum used for everything right up to Av-Gas. But I resisted the temptation. You've saved me a job!

      Thanks once more for your contribution, Ros.


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