Tad felt the earth shake beneath him in the dew-drenched pasture seconds before the shouting started.
“Run! Run for your lives!”
Tad’s eyes darted from the page on his lap to the parade of pounding feet racing past him. The tight pack of boys, yelling as they ran, headed straight for the stone fence a few yards away and scrambled over it so frantically they caused a minor rockslide.
It didn’t matter what they were running from; if it was enough to scare the big boys, it was enough to scare Tad, too. He leaped up and dashed toward the fence as fast as his short legs would carry him. He planted the toe of his boot between two solid rocks and hoisted himself halfway up the fence before he remembered.
“My journal. Where’s my journal?” Tad surveyed the tall grass of the pasture. It parted in a path that led back to the patch of giant foxtail where he had been sitting just moments ago. His eyes retraced his steps through the grass to the spine of the slim brown journal, where it had landed, tent-like, when it flew from his lap. Tad had to go back for it.
But what else was out there? The boys ran like they were being chased by the devil himself. Halfway to his journal, Tad got his answer. It wasn’t Satan, it was Samson. The Shaker’s prized bull glared at him from across the pasture.
The bull, usually locked in the barn lot, stood about ten feet away, so close that Tad could almost count the hairs on the bull’s red hide. And Samson was moving—toward him. Samson snorted as he charged at Tad, the only one left in the field.
Tad took off for the fence again without looking back. The rumble of the bull’s barreling hooves shot through the ground and up Tad’s shaking legs. His heart pumped harder than the village’s water wheel. As he got closer to the fence, Tad could hear the other boys hooting and hollering. He was going to make it!
Safety was one giant step away, until Tad stumbled on some loose rocks and fell face down. When he pulled himself to his knees, pain shot from his ankle in all directions, out through his foot and up his leg. Tad winced when he put his weight on it. He realized that now he wouldn’t, couldn’t outrun the bull.
Samson pawed the ground with his short, stubby legs. He lowered his curved horns about Tad-high. The bull tossed its giant head from side to side, sending a spray that sprinkled over the whimpering Tad.
“Hey, hey, hey, you mangy piece of shoe leather. Look over here.”
Of course. Betsy to the rescue, thought Tad. He could always count on his older sister.
The loud taunt caught Tad and Samson off guard. They both turned to see Betsy sweep aside her long dress and apron to scale the fence at the edge of the pasture. She took off the white kerchief hugging her shoulders and waved it wildly while shouting at the bull.
“Here, Samson,” Betsy yelled. “Come this way.”
Samson cocked his huge red head at her.
“Stay still until the bull heads my way, then run,” Betsy called to Tad.
She flapped her arms. She shouted. She whistled. It was working. Samson, distracted, didn’t know which way to charge.
Tad didn’t wait around for the bull to make a choice. He hobbled toward the fence, pulling his injured ankle behind him.
“Tad, wait! Wait until he comes this way,” Betsy warned.
Too late. Tad sensed the bull hurtling toward him as the ground trembled from the galloping hooves. Tad pumped his arms to add speed to his sprint, but his ankle gave way and he went down with a thud. There was just enough time to roll out of the bull’s path, but not completely.
Samson’s horns grazed Tad’s shoulder and lower back, then ripped through his upper thigh. Blood oozed from the wound, staining Tad’s gray linen pants and spreading pain up and down his leg. All Tad wanted was to be back home, his real home, far far away from bulls and bullies and daily rules that left him alone and lonely.
Samson stopped, pivoted, and dropped his head, ready to charge again. Tad curled up in a ball, bracing for the next attack. An eternity passed, or so it seemed, before Tad felt his whole body lifted up, up, up.