Large, muscular animals scare me! I rode a horse… once in my life, and then it was only because Francisco borrowed one when he invited us to hike across the island. I didn’t want to offend him because I knew he went to a lot of trouble to borrow the horse. Actually, I think it was a donkey, but it was still larger and more muscular than me!
I was overcome with trepidation when our neighbors asked if they could tether their new bull to one of our trees. What if..he gets loose..charges after me..butts me with his head…steps on me…tramples me to death? After much reassurance that the young bull was only seeking green grass ( only gringos have grass in the dry season because we water it daily), I relented…reluctantly.
Julio coaxed the bull into our green grass by offering him soft mangoes that had fallen from our trees. I hid in the kitchen and watched, as Julio tethered the bull to one of our mango trees. After several hours, I noticed that the bull had eaten a large circle of grass around the tree. “Maybe this isn’t as bad as I thought,” I reassured myself. He was going to make an excellent lawn mower.
In Nicaragua, only the very wealthy own lawnmowers. In fact, I have only seen one lawnmower on the island. Instead, sharp machetes are the choice of the macho in the art of grass cutting. For five dollars a day, we hire two strong men to machete our two and a half acres. I doubt that I will ever be able to convince Ron to buy a lawnmower, especially after he saw the fine job that the bull was doing.
In less than a week, our field began to resemble a neatly chewed pattern of crop circles. My fears of a large, muscular animal were slowly dissipating. He was kind of cute with the beginnings of little furry horns sprouting from his head like stocks of celery. He would bat his long eyelashes, and give me a flirtatious wink. And those ears…those precious, long flapping ears. A bull that winks…yes, that’s it…you are now Bullwinkle the bull.
Naming a large, muscular animal changes everything. Bullwinkle was no longer something to fear. He was a magnificent creature. A gentle bull that enjoyed smelling the flowers, relaxing in the shade of a mango tree, and eating soft mangoes. He was Ferdinand, in Nicaragua.
I gathered the nerve to reach out and pet him, then scratch him behind his ears.He loved that! Bullwinkle and I were developing a good working relationship. I fed him soft mangoes daily, and in turn he supplied us with manure for the garden, while he munched circles through our tall grass.
One day, when I was gathering wheelbarrows of rotten mangoes, I noticed that Bullwinkle was trying to duck under the barbed wire fence that separated our property from Don Jose’s property. He smelled mangoes! Where else, but in Nicaragua can one find mango fed cattle?
I usually only fed Bullwinkle one soft mango at a time, but since I had a wheelbarrow full of mangoes, I dumped them over the fence. Bullwinkle buried his snout into the pile. He was in mango heaven! He drooled thick gooey chains of mango saliva, while gorging on several mangoes at once.
Suddenly, I heard Bullwinkle coughing. He was choking on a mango lodged in his throat. Hack, cough, hack, cough! Frantic with fear, I jumped the barbed wire fence to find Julio. He would know what to do. Julio and two friends tied Bullwinkle to a tree. Oh my God, Oh, my God! Bullwinkle is choking to death! How do you perform the Heimlich maneuver on a bull? It’s all my fault! I killed Bullwinkle!
Two guys forced Bullwinkle’s mouth open, while Julio ran to the closest plantain tree and chopped it down with his sharp machete. He stripped the soft green outer layer from the trunk of the plantain. My mind was reeling. What is he going to do with that slippery plantain pole? I watched in horror when Julio shoved the slippery trunk down Bullwinkle’s throat.
It was over in a matter of seconds. With my eyes clamped shut, I listened to the gurgling, the frantic shouting of directions, the swishing of the slippery pole thrust into Bullwinkle’s throat, then the eery silence that followed. Bullwinkle is dead, I whimpered. I killed Bullwinkle. I’m so sorry.
I cracked open my eyes just enough to see the boys untying the rope from around Bullwinkle’s neck. He was breathing steadily. No coughing, no hacking. It was a miracle! Bullwinkle was alive. The slippery plantain trunk forced into Bullwinkle’s esophagus had dislodged the mango.
Several months later, Julio sold Bullwinkle to a farmer in San José. He reassured me that Bullwinkle had lots of new girlfriends. Bullwinkle was growing up, and it was time for him to breed. I miss him!
The mangoes are starting to get ripe again. Julio just bought another young bull. Although, this bull can never replace Bullwinkle, I have developed a soft spot in my heart for these magnificent, strong, and very muscular creatures. I hope this bull is a gentle giant like Bullwinkle. I haven’t named him, yet. However, I know that when I do, our relationship will flourish. Names change everything. And, if you are wondering….this bull will never get any mangoes from me. That ain’t no bull!