One of Duncan MacLeod’s favourite activities while he was spending the summer at his uncle Dan’s place on River Denys Mountain was his daily teasing of a big black bull that lived on a nearby farm. Duncan and Hughie would walk up to the fence that kept the bull in and make all sorts of noise, with grand gestures just in case the creature didn’t notice their voices (though it always did). The bull may not have understood the insults the boys were throwing at it, but it would be furious within moments, bowing its head and snorting before tearing up the ground and charging towards the fence. It would do this every time, sending the boys leaping from the fence and scurrying away. Duncan and Hughie would get around the corner and tumble into a laughing heap. After catching their breath, they would go back and do it again.
One day the boys were on their way to the farm where the bull lived when they were stopped in their tracks by a fearsome sight. On the road, walking right towards them, was the black bull. As usual, the boys waved their arms, screamed, turned and ran. But this time there was no laughter. Duncan and Hughie MacLeod were running for their lives.
Duncan knew they’d never outrun the bull. He’d seen how fast it could make it to the fence. He didn’t know which one of them would be gored and trampled first, but he knew it would happen in mere seconds. He knew they were both doomed.
The trees. If Duncan could get to the trees, maybe he could climb high enough that the bull couldn’t get him. He veered to the left and leaped at a thick branch that was just low enough for him to reach. He was running so hard he couldn’t yell for Hughie to do the same. He only hoped his brother would be alert enough to follow him. Hughie always followed him.
Hughie followed Duncan, almost pulling him down as he scrambled up into the tree. The boys climbed as fast as they could, stopping only when they were almost to the top. When they looked down, they saw…nothing. For some reason, the bull wasn’t anywhere in sight. The boys looked at each other, still too out of breath to speak, their chests heaving, their eyes wide. Then it appeared.
Through the leaves, Duncan saw the black mass of the bull moving slowly down the road towards the tree. It disappeared from view but then he saw it again, for just a moment. It appeared and reappeared between the leaves maybe once or twice a minute. It was waiting for them.
Hughie started to cry. “What are we gonna do, Dunc? It’s gonna get us!”
“Oh go on,” Duncan said. “We’ll just wait here a little while and it’ll go away. It can’t climb up here. Just wait a few minutes.”
A few minutes turned into a few hours. The bull was still there. Hughie was still crying.
“Dunc, I’m tired!”
Duncan was tired too. Why was the bull still there? Duncan began to think he had completely underestimated the massive animal. This creature, which had before seemed capable of nothing but blind rage, was now playing with them, waiting them out. It was carrying out its revenge. It was pure evil. It was–
“Oh my god!” Duncan yelled. The creature had finally stopped in the space between the leaves and remained there long enough for him to get a good look at it. “It’s…”
It was a cow.
Chronicles of Duncan MacLeod is a series of posts on my MacLeod ancestors, based on a combination of research and stories told to me by my grandfather, Duncan MacLeod. To read other posts in the series, click here.