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By JIM ADKINS
I was born in Gary and spent the first 11 years of my life as a city boy, dodging traffic and the many street gangs. My mother had relatives in Perry County fortunately, so we moved to Tell City to get away from the crime and grime of the big city.
Saddened upon leaving my friends and neighborhood, I tried to man-up, or boy-up as was the case, but upon arriving in Perry County I soon became a victim of culture shock.
Gary was a bustling metropolis and the home of U.S. Steel. Tell City was well, Mayberry and I was a fish out of water.
I remember asking the guys at recess if they wanted to play soccer, my favorite sport. They looked at me as if I had just stepped off a UFO and then proceeded to shoot basketballs as if their lives depended on making the next hoop.
Hard to believe in Indiana, but I had never played basketball before in my young life and didn’t know anyone who did. Frustration hardly describes my feelings. I tried to fit in even to the point of occasionally saying y’all, although it didn’t roll off of my tongue the way it does now.
Our first house in Tell City was adjacent to a pasture inhabited by a herd of cows. I found the creatures curious but soon realized that they led rather dull lives. Eat and moo, eat and moo.
Back then, one of my favorite pastimes was shooting my BB gun. This was where a small town worked in my favor.
Across the pasture were a creek and a woodsy spot where I could find targets and shoot as long as I wanted; no frumpy neighbors to complain. I had a place of my own.
It was my habit back then to wolf down breakfast, load my BB gun, then cross the pasture and creek and enter the woods. One day, as I was climbing across the fence, I sensed that there was something unusual. Clamoring down from the rusty barbed wire enclosure, I stopped and looked around.
Within the bovine mix was one who was different. This individual was bigger and muscular and oh yeah, he had horns.
He hadn’t been there before and my young mind was trying to figure out what to do about a bull in the pasture.
Biting my lower lip, I turned, gazing at the beckoning woods about 200 hundred yards away. I’m going, I thought, and no cow, or bull, is going to stop me.
Taking my first timid step, I shaded my eyes with my right hand, squinting against the morning sun and focused on the bull. No response. Good, I thought, he’s only interested in eating just like the rest of them.
I started whistling so as to appear relaxed. I boldly took another step and then two more. This guy couldn’t care less. I began walking with all the aplomb of Wyatt Earp on the main drag in Tombstone wondering if my buddy Mark was going to meet me so we could shoot targets together.
I was near the center of the field when an inner voice began screaming. Hearing ominous clomping sounds behind me I turned and saw the bull glaring at me menacingly while robustly stomping his left foot.
The body language was obvious; I was trespassing and he was mad.
At a loss, and with panic surging wildly through my trembling body, the options ran through my head like the flash cards in third grade. I knew I was a fast runner, and at that moment it was all I had.
Flinging my beloved Daisy aside, and with a shrill, wild whoop I tore off toward the woods, my ears laid back in a full-throttle run. It took the bull a moment to turn his half-ton self around and during those precious seconds I set the trail alight.
My eyes were wild in terror as I heard him chasing me. I dared not look back for that would slow me and to tell you the truth, I really didn’t want to know how close he was. Soon I was able to gauge his proximity by the tromping of his hooves. He was getting nearer.
Giving it my all, I changed my pace, and began an adrenaline fueled sprint, but alas, I believe the brute changed his, too, for I could sense that he was still gaining on me. My chest heaved and my arms pumped mightily and I realized that it would be close.
If I could dive into the creek from the bank, I was sure the animal would not follow. That was the plan and as we neared the stream I took a wild chance and swept my head around to see where he was.
Great bloodshot eyes stared coldly at me amid his sinister scowling features as the beast lumbered ten feet away. Time was frozen. I shrieked so loud that my voice cracked and came out weird like some wounded Jurassic Park critter. I realized that there was no way that I was going to reach the creek before this animal caught up and gored me to death. His massive bulk would squash me if he did nothing else.
It was at that moment that the monster and I raced under several sycamore trees perched near the creek.
Spotting a low hanging branch I leapt and caught it firmly in my outstretched hands swinging my legs up just as the bull ran underneath, his dark heaving mass brushing my heels. I could still feel his hot breath on my back as I monkeyed up the limbs and breathlessly watched from my aerie retreat.
My heart galloped thunderously in my chest as I watched him quickly lose interest and meander back to the herd. I was safe.
Many years have passed since my encounter in the pasture. Today, the scene of the drama is the Frank Clemens ball field by the swimming pool and the cows are long gone. I laugh when I recall my terrified flight so long ago.
Yes, many things have changed but one thing has remained with me; to this day when I pass a herd of cows, I always scan the field looking for the bull. Some lessons stay with you.
Adkins lives in Tell City.