Mr. Rice’s Bull



walking to Inishkeel at low tide

I’ve walked over to Inishkeel (Inis Caol) off the coast of Donegal Ireland when the tide is almost at its lowest. several times.  Each time,I read this sign and I imagine hopping over the wire fence. It looks so beautiful  ThenI wonder if there really is a huge bull on the other side.  I’m stopped by the story of Mr. Rice’s bull told to me by my dad. 

Mr. Rice was a farmer that kept a bull in a large field. One day a fellow was traipsing through the field to shorten his walk home and the bull charged him, tossing him up high in the air with his horns. The man didn’t live. I don’t if my father was a witness to the event or heard about it as a cautionary tale. I’ve been careful about bulls ever since I heard that story.  

On the Beara Peninsula, I climbed up long field strewn hill to a dolmen several times through the years.. Once I even rested atop the dolmen and fell asleep, dreaming. Several years ago I returned with a friend and we began the journey up the hill, following the marked trail. The furthest field held some cows that were so far away they looked the size of a smallest toe. But as soon as we got to the dolmen the cows trotted down with great purpose. They looked like a pack of kids looking for trouble. As they got closer they seemed to thunder and growl in a pack, led by a huge punk bull. 

I don’t know nothing of cow etiquette, so I  guessed. First I tried not looking at that bull in the eye. Then I turned away. It had no effect; he continued to glare aggressively. The other cows clearly seemed pleased with their leader and pushed forward aggressively, glaring at us with a cowish stare. 



I had another idea, to become smaller, not worthy of notice. Thus I crept into the center of the now empty tomb, which was opened at both ends. I was hoping out of sight, out of mind.  Soon a great cow nose snuffled in to smell me. Then two cow heads, one at each end of the tomb, beheld me with curiosity. My friend remained outside and walked ten steps away clapping and shouting. That had the gang of bully cows back up a bit, and we began to walk back down to where the gate to the field was. Soon the cow gang was behind us, escorting us out of their territory. We kept a steady pace the whole way and didn’t breathe easy until we were out the field. I’ve heard, since then, that some other hikers had great difficulty with that bull.

So that is why, when I’ve been on this beautiful Island, far from West Cork and The Beara geographically, and far as eighty years perhaps from the time of Mr. Rice’s bull,   I always just look at the sign that says ‘Beware of Bull‘, never cross the short fence. Perhaps there’s nothing larger than a rabbit there, but I don’t want to take a chance.

The island has the remains of an old hermitage where Conall, the bishop that took over when Patrick died,  lived during the sixth century and is buried. Ruins & two medieval church remain. If you go, remember to keep your eyes for the tide to turn so you can safely return to the mainland. On the trip back to the mainland, the water was thigh deep. and came in fast.







About elainereardon

Poet, writer, gardener, herbalist, pottery, painting—bumping into magic, peeking around new corners.
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