This story was chosen by the Columbus Christian Writers Association to represent their organization in the Columbus Invitational Arts Competition.
The Bull Race
I’d rather be fishing or swimming in the water hole right now than here in school. But Miss Beebe ain’t half bad for a teacher, and at least she didn’t laugh at me like my brothers when I said I wanted to be a newspaper man instead of a farmer. Miss Beebe says if I’m going be the next editor at The Banner, then I have to stop telling stories and start writing them. So she said to start a mini Banner right here in this booklet—and to please work on my grammar. Since editors start off with bylines (that’s just your full Christian name), guess I better introduce myself first off. I am Ebenezer Pierson Young. No one can handle that mouthful. One day my little sister blurted out “Ellzy,” and it stuck. Ellzy’s fine with me while I’m a kid, but when I’m editor of The Banner in a few years, I’ll make everyone call by my right and full byline.
My first assignment is to write about a friend. Now, The Banner did run a tiny story on my friend lasting two whole lines, but they didn’t tell it proper.
So say howdy to Seeley Simpkins. Seeley arrived here way back when in 1804, at the age of 9, he says. Came with his pa from Virginia. Right off, the squaws and papooses were tickled pink by the human lute. You see, Seeley can make the noise of anything—varmit, human, or otherwise. Pa says Seeley can out-whistle all creation and could probably convince a wolf to dance if he wanted to. Seeley will start a hoe-down if ya give him a grin’s reward. When there isn’t any trumpet or drum for musters, he’s called and no one knows the difference unless he’s standing in eye-shot range. Why, even Adjutant Stilley, reckoned the best judge of swell music in the country, said Seeley’s something special.
Seeley’s so good he’s called regular to hoe-downs, military get-ups and even races. He was a mite limited though ‘cause he had to go everywhere on foot. But the preacher solved that one Lord’s Day with Numbers 22:21: “And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.” Folks ‘round here quote it a little different: “And Seeley Simpkins went home from meeting, and saddled his bull, and went out whistling.”
You heard right. I said a bull. Normally, this ain’t such a good idea, but Seeley had raised him real gentle and he soon covered Seeley’s route and then some. I first seen him at Norton’s Mill, ‘cause Seeley and Pa get their grain done the same day. Now, Norton’s Mill has a good, flat piece out front. That’s where we usually hold all our races and picnics. It ain’t no high-class track, but we think it’s fine. Anyway, Seeley rides his bull in real slow, and leaves his grain at the mill for grinding, then walks ‘round town whistling and visiting while his bull follows right behind.
Well, sir, Seeley was taking one of his walks when Hugh Neal called out, “Hey, Seeley, your bull’s walking pretty slow! Must be tired. Ain’t he strong enough to carry a grown man more than a mile?”
Now, one of the first rules my Pa taught me was to never make fun of a man’s kinfolk nor his mount. I knew why when I saw Seeley’s face. He stopped so quickly his bull ran into him. Before he could open his mouth, Seeley was plumb lifted and set down a good two to three feet forward. Well, this set everyone to laughing except Seeley. And his bull, of course.