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Bull shot


My daughter Rebecca told me the other day that in the few years she has been snapping pictures, she figures she’s taken a couple of good ones—and one great one.

I happen to have been there when she took the great one. Well, that’s not quite the whole story. I happen to have been the subject of the great one. I’ll show you the shot, and then tell you the story behind it.

bull Last June, Rebecca and I took a three-day road trip. It was going to be one day out, one day there, and one day back. We figured we could make it to Marin County under those constraints.

Tooling around the countryside, we stopped for lunch in Olema, maybe the hippest rural town in the world. It’s about 40 miles west of San Rafael, the seat of Marin County, which is on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge. After lunch, we were wandering around, stretching our limbs, and relaxing. Rebecca came to where I was sitting in the shade behind the inn and told me she had found the coolest thing—a pasture with a special set of stairs to get over the fence and a herd of cattle in it—and that we should go take some pictures.

As I followed her to the special stairs that would get us effortlessly over the barbed wire, I asked what I thought was a simple question: “Are they cows, Rebecca, or bulls?”

She said, “They’re cows. They don’t have horns.”

I’m not the world’s greatest expert on bovine anatomy, but it struck me that she’d answered with information that wasn’t relevant. “It’s not the horns that make the difference,” I said. We kept plodding closer to the 50 or so animals in the herd, and it became apparent that at least one of them wasn’t a cow. It was a bull. And it left little doubt that we were unwelcome around the herd.

Rebecca skedaddled. I wasn’t as quick to move. The bull started doing many of the bull-type things I’d only seen in cartoons—pawing the ground, lowering its head, snorting, and probably a few others that I failed to notice because I wasn’t seeing a happy ending to this little pastoral sitcom. I wasn’t sure what to do. Getting gored by a bull wasn’t on my schedule for that day (or any other). I figured I was best staying exactly where I was.

And that’s when Rebecca snapped her “best” shot.

I was preoccupied with the animal in front of me and not paying any attention to the camera. Each time I took a step down the path, the bull took umbrage. Finally, after I reviewed in my mind the limited options, I made a mad dash through the tall grass. I figured the risk of abrasion from a full face-plant in the pasture, or a sprained ankle from hitting a hidden rut, was preferable to doing anything to make the bull tangle with me.

Thankfully, Rebecca chose not to document my egress.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rebecca February 14, 2014, 12:20 pm

    Rebecca would also like to add that this photo was shot on her father’s Nikon film camera. Meaning, in his panicked state, she was toying with the f-stop, iso, and focus of the camera to ensure the perfect shot. The perfect shot it was!

  • John Wallace February 14, 2014, 12:36 pm

    Ah yes, Paul. The Standing of the Bulls in Olema.
    Spent many fun days there in Nicasio, Inverness, Pt. Reyes. Sir Francis Drake knew where to party!
    I’m sure I saw Ferdinand chewing on some grass. Outstanding in his field.
    Great story, Sir.

  • Jim Ostroff February 14, 2014, 1:09 pm

    Great image, Rebecca, an an even better story.
    Anyone care to join me in Pamplona??

  • Mar Jeffrey February 14, 2014, 4:15 pm


    I can just imagine your facial expression when you finally freed yourself from your predicament! I’m sure you were grinning from ear to ear, basking in the circumstances of your unplanned activity. Surprised you just didn’t light up a Camel unfiltered and try to reason with the old boy! Glad you are around to tell the story. Rebecca has got some camera ‘game’.

  • paul magers February 20, 2014, 10:31 am