My cousin, Ross Hendry, was working cows at my Aunt Ouida’s place. The humidity was 100% and the temperature was about 98 degrees – a typical Florida summer day. It was the kind of day that makes a cowboy pray for shade. At Aunt Ouida’s pens, there wasn’t any. They stood out in the middle of the pasture, in the brutal Florida heat.
Black Angus bulls are especially prone to heatstroke. Bulls are bigger than cows and their black hides draw in heat from the sunshine and hold it. Three of the Angus bulls were standing in the corner of a pen, laboring for breath. Ross, a veterinarian, recognized the warning signs: the bulls needed to be cooled off, right away.
Cooling off three two-ton bulls is not the easiest thing in the world. You can’t exactly load them up in the truck and turn the A/C on full blast. Nor can you take them home and let them cool off in your living room (“Oh give me a home, where the Angus bulls roam…”). The only way to get the bulls cool was to get them to a waterhole as soon as possible.
Ross told his son Dane, who is my age, to put those bulls on the trailer and get them to the waterhole. Dane was about sixteen at the time, an age when the pre-frontal cortex (where decisions are made) is not yet mature.
Whoops, hollers, and hot-shots got the bulls moving and Dane got them on the trailer. The bulls had moved all they wanted so they did something unusual: they laid down in the trailer as Dane hauled them to the waterhole.
Dane backed the trailer down to the waterhole, went back and opened the trailer gate. Under normal circumstances, the bulls would have bolted for the opening and splashed into the waterhole. This, however, was not a normal day.
Instead the bulls stayed in the trailer. They were still hot and panting, but at least they had a bit of shade. Dane hollered. The bulls didn’t move. Dane whooped. No movement. Dane applied the hot-shot to the bull’s backside. Even electricity didn’t move the bulls. They just bellowed and resumed panting.
Dane had been on enough vet calls with his Dad to know the bulls were still in danger. He knew the bulls needed to get in that water and cool off. He also could tell the bulls weren’t moving any time soon.
As information was assimilating in Dane’s brain, a thought made its way to his frontal cortex: if the bulls wouldn’t go to the water, he would make the water come to the bulls. With confidence only a sixteen-year-old can muster, Dane got back into the truck and backed the cattle trailer down into the water.
It’s tricky to know how deep you should back a trailer with six thousand pounds of live beef on it. Dane had to make an allowance for the bull in the back of the trailer and the bull in the front of the trailer. When he got the wheels of the trailer about three feet under water, he felt that was sufficient. Dane got out to look, and found his plan had worked: The two bulls in the back of the trailer had stood up (to avoid drowning). The bull in the front of the trailer was still happily laying down, now up to his neck in water. All the bulls seemed relieved.
Waterholes tend to have muddy bottoms. Aunt Ouida’s was no exception. Not only had Dane sunk the bulls in the water, he had sunk the trailer tires in a foot of gooey mud. Dane, the trailer, and the bulls were stuck.
In those pre-cell phone days, there was nothing to do but wait until someone came looking for him. Sure enough, in about 30 minutes, Dane’s dad, Ross, and Tom, one of the hands, came riding out.
Ross could see the bulls in the water and his cattle trailer buried in the mud. Hendrys’, a special offshoot of our family, have a number of unique vocabulary words to express their feelings at times like these. Ross had started to access his vocabulary when Tom stopped him and said, “Ross, now stop and think. The boy did what he was told to do. You told him to get those bulls cooled off and they are. You didn’t tell him they had to be out of the trailer.”
Ross bit his tongue and Dane was eternally grateful to Tom.
It did take two tractors to haul out the truck and trailer. The bulls seemed upset to be leaving their personal pool. But the bulls lived to breed another day.
God knew the greatest clarity comes not from a list of instructions. The greatest clarity comes from being with someone. That is why God sent Jesus – to be with us. There is a great phrase in Galatians: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” When you know Jesus, he lives in you. He whispers to you in the moment. The clarity is not from his words, but from his presence.
Someday you may be faced with a situation and not know exactly how to deal with it. Access Jesus inside of you. His presence, his peace, will give you all the clarity you need. And yes, it may mean you have to back a load of bulls into the waterhole, even if it is not exactly the way someone else would solve the problem.