This story appeared in the 2021 summer issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener in response to the theme “Neighbors.”
It was black fly season. To keep the flies away while working in the garden, my husband and I would build a fire in our smudge pot and then throw green plant matter on top to create smoke to drive the bugs away. The metal pot had to be big enough to keep a decent fire going, but small enough to haul around as we worked in different locations, and the green matter was generally weeds pulled from the garden beds we were preparing.
We had a homesteading neighbor a mile down the road who kept a horse and chickens and sometimes raised a pig or beef cow for meat. At some point he got a bull, I can’t remember why. And the bull had its horns. I do remember my husband, who had worked on dairy farms in the past, talked with him about the dangers of bulls.
One weekend morning, around 6 a.m., I woke to the sounds of an animal snorting and rooting around in the yard outside the house. I thought it was probably a moose and got up to see what was going on. I went downstairs and looked out the window to see our neighbor’s bull in my flower bed. The smudge pot from the day before was sitting by the path to the front door emitting a tiny stream of smoke when the wind blew over it. Sometimes there was a bed of embers built up in the bottom of the pot that made it easier to start up the smudge from day to day.
The bull got curious about the pot, maybe it reminded him of the vessel his grain was brought in. He stuck his nose in the pot, and his snout got stuck. No doubt he felt the heat, but as he tried to bawl and his jaw opened a bit, it made the pot hold fast. The bull yelped and swung his head up and down and all around with the hot pot on it. I got on the phone and called the neighbor.
Luckily on one breath, the pot loosened and flew off. The bull took off through thick brush in the direction he had come from. The neighbor came, we hunted the bull down, and then he took him home.