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We were staying for two weeks in the bucolic Devon countryside, nestled in a remote cottage perched on the edge of Dartmoor. This legendary, perhaps haunted, bog was made famous in works such as The Hound of the Baskervilles. Our visions of long walks down sun-dappled country lanes were washed out by two weeks of rain during the wettest spring on record; which, for England, is saying something. Determined to “keep calm and carry on,” we donned our raincoats and stiff upper lips, and explored the soggy countryside. What we didn’t know was that we were about to encounter killer cows in England.
Maps in England highlight public rights-of-way where anyone can take a stroll. We brought along such a map and assumed that with it we wouldn’t get lost. That was our first mistake.
Larissa rethinks her choice of jacket color when trying not to be noticed by a bull in England.
After an hour we found ourselves somehow in a farmer’s pasture sinking ankle-deep in mud (and whatever other mud-like substance might be deposited in a cow pasture). We stared up a rise at a herd of longhorn bulls none too happy about our presence. That’s when we realized we were on the wrong side of the fence and the only way out was through an electrified gate. Oh, and there was a bull with horns six feet long (okay, maybe three feet long) blocking it and staring at us ominously, as bulls so often do.
Like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the bulls started pawing the ground and glaring at us. We froze, not wanting to antagonize our new friends. After 20 minutes of playing statue in the drenching rain and sinking deeper into the muck (Michael sank quicker, weighed down by his discovery, earlier in the week, of donuts pumped full with Devonshire cream), he heroically told Larissa to run for it while he distracted the bulls with his umbrella. (Hey, it’s all he had.)
Larissa thwacked across the muddy field in her hiking sandals while Michael charged up the hill, his souvenir umbrella from the Louvre in Paris leading the way. Unfortunately it didn’t open since he had forgotten to undo the strap. Once that was all sorted out he charged again, counting on the enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa to frighten the bulls.
While Michael held the confused bulls at bay, Larissa employed the dexterity of a bomb squad engineer to unhook the electric fence from the car battery that powered it. We scrambled over the fence, proud that just one of us tore their pants, only to run into the neighboring farm’s tenacious sheep dogs who promptly started biting Michael in the ankle.
If this is a bucolic walk in the English countryside you can keep it.
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