Everybody knows the parable of the two bulls – one old, the other young – standing on a hill overlooking a pasture full of cows.
Everybody knows how the young bull says they ought run down the hill and each fuck themselves a cow.
And everybody knows how the older bull turns to his protégé and says, “Let’s stroll on down there and fuck ourselves the whole herd.”
What’s left out of that story is the part about the third bull – the oldest, grey one with dull, worn-down horns – a Charolais – that was down there walking among those cows too.
It gets left out how, strolling down the hill, the younger bull turns to his red-spotted mentor, asking about the really old one.
“Never mind him,” the middle bull says. “He’s mad.”
“But he’s competition,” the young one says.
“No,” the spotted one says. “He doesn’t care about cows. Least he pretends not too. Just stay away. Ya don’t need his crazy ideas filling your head.”
So the two bulls – the young and the older – stroll on down that hill to mix with all the cows and the old grey bull wandering among them.
On the way down, the spotted bull advises his companion,” When we’re down there, try to get yourself a heifer.”
“Why?” the young bull asks.
“They’re easier to fool cause they’re still naive. That way you don’t waste your time. And they stick around longer.”
“Cause they haven’t had any experience.”
The two bulls reach the foot of the hill and fold themselves into the herd. They mingle a while – even crossing paths with the elderly, grey bull.
The young bull, curious about the eccentricities of this strange, carefree elder, begins wandering behind him, hearing him snort and watching him scratch as he passes the cows and heifers.
The spotted bull doesn’t acknowledge this really old one one with the worn and stubby horns. But, noticing the curiosity of the one at his rear, the eldest finally stops and offers greetings.
“Hello,” the old, grey bull says.
“Hello,” the youngest one replies.
The young bull looks to his mentor who’s chatting up a naive Angus heifer. He stops chatting long enough to catch his charge closing in on the eldest. He shakes his head no, but the younger one rebels to step forward and stand alongside this eccentric senior.
“Any luck?” the youngest one asks.
The youth whispers, “You know, the heifers.”
The grey bull laughs.
“No,” he says. “I’m over that.”
“You don’t like heifers?”
“Sure,” the old one says. “But I was never very good with ’em. So I sorta gave up and moved on.”
This doesn’t make sense to the youth.
“If you’ve given up, then what are you doing down here now?”
“Just walking around,” he says. “It’s good to walk around and see what’s happening.”
“So what’s happening?”
“You’re happening. Your friend that came down the hill with ya – he’s happening. Me and these cows and the spring blossoms are happening. How all this plays out is what’s happening.”
The young one thinks that this very old bull could be truly mad.
“But there isn’t much to life if you’re not chasing heifers. Ain’t much happening if you’re just wandering around looking at flowers and lazily grazing.”
“There can be.”
The young one’s tail swats.
“Like what? Like gorging on hay and grass? That’s what my friend over there says. ‘It’s all about heifers and hay’, he says.”
“Yes,” the old one says. “That’s what they’ll tell you.”
“What else will they tell you?” the young one asks.
“They’ll tell you whatever you do, it’s gotta be about heifers or hay. They’ll tell you there’s nothing to be done for the good of it, in and of itself.”
“Then it’s heifers and hay? That’s it? They’re right?”
The eldest one pauses to think.
“Praise. Attention. Those are good too. They like those.”
“You don’t go for that?”
“As necessities, yes. As priorities, no.”
“Then what are your priorities?”
“Watching what’s happening.”
“How else you gonna learn if you don’t pay attention?”
“You could pay attention from up on the hillside. It’s even a better view from up there.”
“Yes. Sometimes I do. But I like it down here too.”
“But they think you’re crazy, down here wandering among these heifers and cows for no reason.”
“Yes,” he old one says. “But it’s lonely up there. You can lose yer mind if ya spend too much time alone. Multiple perspectives can help ya stave off the madness. Though too many perspectives can be a source of madness in and of themselves too. It’s tricky.”
The middle bull had been wandering around, chatting up more heifers and stopping from time to time to scowl at his charge from across the pasture.
“My friend says you get more heifers by being subtle.”
“Yes. More flies with honey than vinegar,” the grey bull says. “But also more flies with dung than with vinegar. Problem is, they catch on sooner or later. They catch on to your tricks.”
“So then what? Just a more clever trick again, right?”
“Of course. There’s endless tricks. Or you could try not being a trickster. But that’s hard. And sometimes you’ll go wrong that way, which will make you look and feel like a failure. So sometimes it’s just easier to keep playing tricks on them while playing tricks on yourself too.”
“I don’t understand,” the young one says.
“For example, your friend over there, he’ll wander around here all week before he gets what he wants. He’ll go all week thinking about one thing while there’s lots and lots more things around to see and think about and try to understand, but he’ll completely ignore most of it. And then he’ll repeat the same routine again next week. That’s a lot of wasted time.”
“He’d say you’re wasting your time,” the young Angus says. “Out here wandering around with no purpose.”
“Then we’d both be right. Ya gotta waste your time on something. It’s just a matter of choice.”
“And tormenting yourself with all these lovely heifers you’re too old to attract or do anything with. That doesn’t seem right,” the young bull adds.
“It’s not torture,” the old one says. “On the contrary, it’s lovely.”
“How can it be lovely?”
“I can admire them without wanting them. Desire for what ya can’t have is foolish. You gotta work at getting rid of the desire. That is, when the time’s right for giving it up and moving on. Trouble is, it’s pretty hard to move on and know when the time’s right.”
The two bulls stand in the sun, flicking their tails in time to the moos of the herd.
“I thank you for your time,” the young one says.
“Anytime. And thank you too. I wish you well in whatever you choose.”
The young one shuffles back into the heard. His friend trots over to him.
“What he say?”
“Strange things. Like there might be more than just heifers and hay.”
“Well, he didn’t make that real clear.”
“That’s why he’s crazy. I told you to stay away. Next thing you know you’ll be standing up there on the hillside looking down on all this in madness.”
The young one doesn’t reply.
“What did he say about me?”
“You sure? I’m sure he looks down on me.”
“Nothing,” the younger one says. “I’m not sure he even cares that much.”
“Of course he cares. Everybody cares.”
“No. Not me specifically. But about everybody else. It’s only natural.”
The young one turns around to see where the old, grey bull has gone. He spots him leaving the heard, heading toward his hill.
“There he goes,” the spotted bull says. “Completely mad.”
“Maybe,” the young says, then starts grazing.