Max the Bull/Goodbye, Childhood

Max must have come of age gradually, changing by imperceptible increments over several months. I was caught off guard the day I noticed his gleaming eyes and the testosterone-driven threat he posed, for gone was the cute, playful calf, and here was a powerful mass of muscled, hostile, black and white bull. The idea of a breeding program based on live stock rather than artificial insemination suddenly seemed like a really bad idea: looking at Max, I couldn’t imagine how any human could facilitate courtship between him and the ladies of the barn without risking life and limb. The owner of the farm apparently had come to the same conclusion, because not long after my barn visit, a phone call was made and Max was trucked away to meet his McDonalds.

It was a long time ago – and I’d lived a few more years than Max – when a similar sort of thing had happened to me. One hot, sunny day in 1956, I was lying on my stomach in a pile of straw; facing me was a blonde, sun-tanned boy. The other kids had gone home for lunch, but the two of us stayed, resting under the summer sky at “the fort.” For reasons not understood then, it suddenly felt so good to be near that blonde, sun-tanned boy… Probably – like Max – I had been gradually, imperceptibly changing and didn’t realize it, and – also like Max – my life would never be quite the same again. It was nothing more than a new awareness, but that day marked the end of my childhood, the day the “Tom-boy” I had been for ten years was sent off to meet his McDonalds.

And by the way, this story is true – no bull.



From parent to child the lesson was passed:
The fingers of exploring hands
Touching the forbidden; “Father knows best,”
The unspoken justification.

Gift of the guilty passes down generations,
The mute links of an unbroken chain,
Complicit in deed and denial of what is
Too shameful to speak out loud.

Stunned and disbelieving, silent at first,
The little girl withdraws in hurt and wonder,
Then suddenly runs screaming from what should have been
Bubble bath and rubber duckie grandfather fun.

Police car in the yard, statements taken,
The family shatters in shock and disbelief,
Unaware that Destiny’s child has broken
The painful sequence of perhaps a hundred years.


Yes, Master? I hear you calling me again. I was on my way upstairs, but you stopped me.

I’m busy. You don’t need me right now. I will ignore you. What you want me to do is wrong – I know that – and so this time I will resist. I remind myself that I am strong, but you call again and my steps turn.

I rationalize: it will only take a second…

Master, why do you do this to me? You harm me, you shame me, and I hate you for it. Yet you satisfy me in the strange, incomprehensible way known only to your slaves.

We are the nail-biters (lucky are they), the scab-pickers, the hair-pullers, the hand-washers, the counters and so many others. Like a master puppeteer, you manage us, you direct our movements, you interrupt our lives.

Yes, Master, I will do your bidding again – but just this time. When it is done I will feel shame and anger, and I will vow that it is the last time I will bow to your demand.

Master, will you ever let me go?