“Dad, what is the bull doing on that cow?”

As a five year old child, I used to practice my balance beam skills barefoot on the top board of the cattle pen fence. I felt sympathy for children living in cities who did not share my advantage of honing their skills as professional gymnasts in their own backyards while facing the danger of being trampled by cows in manure. I had motivation they couldn’t possibly grasp. My dad would repeatedly yell, “Get off the fence and go put some shoes on before you fall in.” I never listened. I was way too talented to fall in.

One day my dad introduced a big black Brahma Bull was into the pen with the cows in rut. Of course, dad started with his regular yell that day. I jumped off the fence. My dad was thrilled I finally listened and ran over to him. His face was lit up with joy. I was a pretty precocious child. “Dad, what is that bull doing on that cow?” My dad was not prepared for the barrage of questions he was about to receive. He was trying to get the cows bred. He was happy I was off the fence for once. He gave me his short curt answer of he is breeding the cows for baby calves. Most children would be pleased with this answer and possibly have things to think about. Not me. I already knew in theory where baby calves came from. I was a farm kid. Breeding animals was a large part of the family business. I hadn’t witnessed the process a few feet from me. We had farm cats. I heard them howling in heat etc and witnessed the arrival of kittens, but I was not prepared to see the big bull in action. I had questions. I wanted answers. There was no comparison between a bull and cats. Not for a five year old future gymnast. I was prepared for greatness and I wanted to know about that big red penis that came out of that sheath, dangled in the air, and entered the cow. My dad sent me to the house to “go find your mother”.

I was not happy. I marched into the house and said something like dad won’t tell me what I want to know. He said to come and find you. I proceeded to grill my mom. My mother enjoyed photography and art. She was a high school English and history teacher for years. She had photography books with pictures on how to take nudes that she produced out of thin air. Being a teacher, she knew I was a visual learner. Just show me a picture or a graph and I’ve got it. She knew I was not going to stop asking if men’s penises were hidden in sheaths until they were erect. And by the way, are they bright red like that too when they’re breeding? The proper term, I learned very quickly, is breeding when referring to animals and making love or having sex if you are human. I am not convinced to this day that she was correct about the terminology. I wanted to know if men’s penises grew that much before they had sex. I wanted specifics. It was during that conversation with my mother that I learned about circumcision. My mother was pretty good at answering any and all questions honestly and factually. Several days later, I discovered her hiding place for the photography books. Eventually, there were additional books that appeared from thin air on pregnancy, childbirth, and menstruation. My mother was sneaky.

My mother suffered from migraines while we were kids. No doctor could ever really discover the cause, but I knew. My dad never really took me out to the cattle pens and pastures for several years except to be the gate opener to feed and water them. My older brothers were bent completely out of shape for years as to why I didn’t have to be out with the cattle working like they did. It wasn’t long after this that I asked my mother why my brother’s bedding was wet some mornings and their sheets needed changed so often. They were older than me.

As for the Brahma bull, it got out of the pen a few days after the cows were bred and chased me through the yard. I made it to the garage and into the car. It stood stomping outside the car until my dad got it back into the pen and a few days later into a different pasture with more rutting cows. I wasn’t sure what it wanted when it chased me, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t interested.

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