Thursday, July 24, 2014

Short Story: Billy and the Calf, by John A. Roof

Star the Calf

It was an unusually warm spring in Texas in the year of 1955. The pecan trees were blooming early and so were the spiderwarts and other wild flowers.

Our Father, Russell Roof, was busy in his shop building furniture for one of his customers. My brother, Bill, was with his friend, Troy, riding his new bicycle he had gotten for his birthday.

We lived in a small village called Staples, not far from San Marcos. The boys headed down the road towards the San Marcos River on FM1977. Here is where the story begins about my brother’s big adventure.

As Bill and Troy rode past the Swift Ranch, they looked at all the new calves in the pasture with their mothers. Bill spotted one small calf looking at him. He watched as it followed them closely with her eyes, and then out of the blue, the calf tore off from her mother at a full run right towards them.

As they continued down the road on their bikes, the calf followed them til she had to stop at the fence line. Bill and Troy rode on up to Mr. Swift’s barn to ask Rancher Swift about the calf.

He told them that she had been born during the night under a shooting star and she had a perfect white star on her face, so he named her Star. Rancher Swift told the boys that Star was different from the other calves. He had never seen a newborn calf stand so fast and she was so eager to run.

Every day after school, Bill and Troy rode their bikes by the pasture and Star would run to the fence and follow them. No matter how fast they rode their bikes, Star stayed right alongside them till the end of the pasture. Then Bill would come home and tell us about the strange calf named Star, and how she seemed to wait for them every day and come running.

One day, Bill and Troy approached the fence and gave Star a rub on her nose. She looked at them with her big brown eyes, turned herself in circles, then ran down the fence line and then back up again. She repeated this until Bill and Troy got on their bikes and rode on down the road towards home.

“Troy, don’t you think that was strange, how Star would run down the fence line, return, and then run down the fence line again?” Bill asked.

“Yeah, I know. I've never seen a calf do anything like that before.” answered Troy.

“I wonder if Star is trying to tell us something.” Bill said.

“I don’t know, Bill. Maybe."

The following day, they returned to the pasture. As they walked to the fence, Star again welcomed them. Then she repeated everything just like she had done the day before. That night at home, my brother was especially silent. At the dinner table, mom asked him if he was feeling okay.

“Yes I'm fine. I'm just thinking about Star and wondering why she's acting so funny.” he said.

Bill told us all about how Star would run to them, turn in circles, and then run down the fence line and how she repeated it over and over. He said she wouldn't stop till he and Troy got on their bikes and rode on down the road beside the fence.

“Dad, do you think Star is okay? Do you think something is wrong with her?” Asked Bill.

“I don’t know, son, but I do know this. We're all put here for a reason, man or animal, and I'm sure the Lord has a reason for Star to do what she does. You just need to find out what that is. That's your job.” His Dad answered.

The next day was Saturday and Bill and Troy spent the whole day sitting across from Star’s pasture and watching her. She would look at them, come over to the fence, turn in circles, and run and then come back. Time passed and after a while, Troy said, “Let's go I'm bored and hungry.”

As they walked over to their bikes, Bill noticed something. Star's ears perked up and she became very excited. As Bill approached her and leaned his bike against the fence, Star seemed very interested in it. She came right over, poked her head between the fence boards to nose and lick the bike.

“That’s it!” Bill yelled. “She wants to ride our bikes!”

“What?" Troy yelled back.

“I'm telling ya, she wants to ride our bikes! She wants to go faster than any cow has ever gone.” Bill explained.

“Okay, let’s say that's what she wants to do -- ride our bikes -- how do you get a calf on a bicycle?” asked Troy.

“I don’t know yet, but I do know that's what Star wants. We have to think of a way.” Said Bill.

For a few days after, Bill and Troy tried to think of a way to put Star on their bikes, when finally it came to them. Let’s make a trailer! We can pull it behind our bikes, just like you would behind a truck. Bill went to his father and asked if there was any old lumber he could have.

“What do you need wood for?” asked his Father.

“Troy and I are going to build a tree house in the woods by the river for the summer.” Bill fibbed.

“There's some old lumber in the back shed you can use.” said his father.

The next day, Troy and Bill began to build the trailer. They found a couple of old wheels in a shed on the Lowman’s popcorn farm and they asked if they could buy them. Mr. Lowman told the boys the wheels were from an old wagon his son had and they could just have them.

The plan was to be finished on Friday and take Star for a ride early Saturday morning. Friday night, Bill couldn't sit still. He kept asking if it was time to go to bed yet. He told his father to make sure he was up early so he and Troy could go work on the tree house.

Saturday morning, they went to the pasture and opened the gate. They found Star and put a halter on her and led her out of the pasture. Star’s mother was not too pleased and she raised quite a ruckus. The boys took Star to their bikes where the trailer was already attached and checked the ropes one more time. When star saw the bikes and the trailer, she immediately walked to the back and climbed into the trailer.

“Are you ready, Troy? Are you ready, Star?” asked Bill.

With that, they were off. Knowing Star was far heavier than what they were used to, they put their bikes on a little hill near the pasture. In the background, Star’s mother was still raising a ruckus and here was Star, mooing for joy as Bill and Troy were peddling.

The two bikes hauling the trailer began to move down the road. Rancher Swift heard all the noise and came running and what he saw was something that took his breath away. Before him were two boys on their bikes peddling as fast and as hard as they could down the road with a calf riding in a trailer behind them.

To this day, Rancher Swift tells everyone that Star, the calf, was yelling "Yipppppppeee!" all the way down the road.

When the ride was over, they saw a small crowd had gathered, including the boys' fathers. The boys saw that Star was returned to her mother, who calmed down immediately. Both Bill and Troy knew there was going to be heck to pay. They saw Rancher Swift and their fathers talking. They had taken a calf out of the pasture without permission.

Rancher Swift came over to the boys. He looked at them with a frown on his face -- but there was a smile in his eyes. Rancher Swift and their fathers had already decided that Bill and Troy were going to have to be punished. They would have to work for Rancher Swift all summer helping keep his barn clean -- and they would have to take Star for a ride every day.

That summer, people from miles around came every afternoon to watch the bike-riding calf. Rancher Swift never sold Star. She stayed in Staples TX and watched my brother and Troy ride up and down the road for many years.

About the Author

John and Betsy Roof
John Roof graduated from Texas Tech in December, 1973, with a BFA in studio painting.

Bill the Calf and the Ride Down the Road

The Walk: Short Stories of a Teenage Boy in the 60's

Visit John's Website

John and his wife, Betsy, live in their home amid  the wildflowers and fruit trees in Staples, Texas, where they are accomplished artists and photographers.  They also love to build and restore antique furniture together.

He's one of the nicest and most regular guys you'll ever want to meet.

John is fond of saying, he has found his garden ...

**Thanks, John!  Hugs to you both ~CJ

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

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