The Boy and the Bull

By John Latta
Executive Editor
[email protected]

My wife and I were in Ixtapan De La Sal, a thermal resort about 100 miles from Mexico City, and on this day there was virtually no one on the hotel golf course but me. One hole was alongside a dusty rural road. I hooked my ball deep into some trees by the road. As I started looking for it I noticed a small boy, maybe 8 years old, standing in the empty road, holding a rope attached to a huge bull through the ring in its slobbery nose. The boy was expressionless.

I was in no hurry, so I looked for a while. The boy never moved. The bull stayed asleep. Finally I gave up, dropped another ball, hit the green and walked on, leaving the boy with a smile and wave. I holed out (eventually) and looked up to see the boy, and the bull, standing casually just through the fence.

“Hey mister.” The boy pulled a golf ball from his pocket. His eyes asked if I wanted it, and his small voice cooly asked “one dollar.” Hey, why not? So I tossed him a dollar over the fence. He left the rope dangling from the bull’s nose ring and grabbed the bill, then went back to the rope. I wondered if this was a scam the little rascal used on tourists; after all, I wasn’t about to climb the fence and get my money back from an 8-year-old with 2,000 pounds worth of bull on a very short rope.

The boy threw me the ball, tugged on the rope and began towing the bull through the dust. I wondered if the ball was playable. It was. It was the one I had hit into the trees 120 yards ago.

That often comes back to me when I find myself short of patience. The boy could have tried to sell me the ball when I first, a little impatiently, started looking for it, shortly after he’d hopped the fence to pick it up. But he waited as calmly as El Toro. He knew, eventually, there would be a better time.

Truckers, it seems to me, learn through their everyday job to minimize the problems they run into.

It’s not a forced patience that lets blood pressure build up like steam, but a calm patience that knows there’s no point in letting a bad situation, a crazy driver, a molasses-slow lumper, nitpicking DOT stops, scale confusion, a highway wreck or a disorganized dispatcher upset you if there’s nothing you can do about it.

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I admire drivers who simply let traffic flow. I’m impressed on backed-up freeways and crowded city expressways that, while cars slip and slide from lane to lane looking for an inch of advantage here and an inch there, truckers just roll. Big rigs don’t lane jump the way a Mustang does, granted, but truckers have the knack of just letting it take as much time as it will take. The trucker who knows a backup is going to make him late still seems to have an attitude of not getting hot under the collar. The driver’s been there before. He knows there’s nothing he can do. Ah, but so do the four wheelers, and they’re lane jumping like crazy.

How often do you see a four-wheeler pilot screaming at a driver who cut him off or ran a light in front of him? Not all of them, sure, but a lot of them. But your trucker strikes me as more the sort to simply brake, downshift, then run her back up through the gears and get back to his coffee, his blood pressure ticking up a notch during the moment of danger – then cycling down just as quickly.

But can you do it outside the cab, away from the job? Is the off-duty you just as patient and as cool as you are under road pressure? Truckers talk all the time about “leaving the road behind.” Maybe the key is to leave the sweat and the dirt and the backache and the tiredness and so on behind, but take that part of you that lets pressure roll off of you like water off a duck’s back. I think that the boy with the ball and bull was just as cool at home when something went wrong as he was on that dusty road.

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