Copyright © 2003 by the estate of Klaus de Albuquerque and by Jerome McElroy, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.
The West family was one of the last remaining families from the old plantocracy. Their holdings, though somewhat diminished, were still extensive--120 acres on which they raised beef cattle, mostly Brahma and a few Senepol imported from the Nelthropps in St. Croix. Sir Robert, better known to his friends as "Dickie," was the patriarch of the family. A firebrand politician in his earlier years, at age 70, Sir Robert could still move a crowd. He was a long time stalwart of the Peoples' Progressive Party (PPP), which he co-founded in the 1950's. The Party had been in permanent opposition except for a brief period during the early 1970's when Sir Robert served as Minister of Agriculture and doubled the number of water storage ponds.
Sir Robert's long-standing political rival was teacher turned trade unionist, Cornwall Finch, founder and leader of the United Labour Party (ULP). Now in his late seventies, the Honourable Cornwall Finch had been Prime Minister for so long that people affectionately referred to him as "Papa." Over the years the vitriol and name calling between "Papa" and "Dickie" had subsided as if the two old warriors had an unspoken agreement between them. Dickie would lambast Papa's sons, both ULP ranking members and Ministers, but never criticize Papa in public. Each would quietly inquire about the health of the other.
Sir Robert had reduced his involvement in the PPP but still attended executive meetings. In his salad days, he had decided to go back to his cattle. He loved his Brahmas but did not know what to make of the Senepols his oldest son had imported. "Cattle should have horns" was his favorite expression around the farm.
As it so happened, the Department of Agriculture had imported a prize Brahma bull from Trinidad. All of two thousand five hundred pounds, and with dangerous looking horns, "Goliath" was a sight to behold. Unlike the well deserved reputation of Brahma bulls for being ill tempered, this behemoth was relatively easy to handle. Agricultural Officer Dylan McBride, on secondment from the United Kingdom's Overseas Development Agency, planned to use Goliath to inseminate some of the local cattle. Denied the pleasures of nature, Goliath's only purpose was to provide semen. Dylan put in a call to Sir Robert. "Sir Robert, you must come and have a look at this fine specimen of a Brahma bull we brought in from Trinidad."
Sir Robert could not contain his excitement. He jumped into his Land Rover and headed towards the Agricultural Station. As he drove through the village of Starlings he heard the customary shouts -- "Dickie, Dickie." Sir Robert smiled enjoying the adulation of his constituents.
Goliath was housed in a extremely sturdy pen. There was an outside area but he preferred the coolness of the covered shed on the windward side. The Trinidadians had sent along Premdas Hanomansingh, Goliath's long time handler, to help the bull adjust to his new surroundings. Bull and man understood each other extremely well but moving Goliath required more than understanding. He could be led by his nose ring but would balk if there were too many handlers pushing and pulling.
Sir Robert was awestruck by the size of the bull, and visions of breeding him with his cows began dancing through his head. He spent an hour just looking at Goliath. "Dylan, can I borrow Goliath this weekend so I can inseminate some of my cows in estrus?" Dylan had not quite set up insemination facilities at the Station, but he was loathe to loan out Goliath and was not sure he had the authority to do so. "Speak to John Williams about it," he said to Sir Robert. The Honourable John Williams was the Minister of Agriculture, Lands, and Fisheries, and a senior member of Cabinet as well as an old friend of Sir Robert's.
It was after four pm on Wednesday, and Sir Robert knew John Williams would be at the tennis club. Williams was on a tennis court with the Honourable Laurent Percival, the Minister of Public Works, after a hard fought third set which Williams won. A sweaty but pleased Williams made his way to the clubhouse. "Dickie, what brings you here? Have a drink." The bartender served Williams a Carib beer while Sir Robert asked for a scotch and soda. After some polite chatter, Sir Robert came quickly to the point. "John", he said, "you have a magnificent Brahma bull down at the Station, and I would like to borrow him this coming weekend since a number of my cows are receptive. The Station is not quite set up to extract semen and begin artificial insemination. You know the setup I have. We are ready."
The Honourable John Williams was unaware of the bull, so Sir Robert provided him the details. "I see no problem, Dickie. I will call Mr. McBride tomorrow." Sir Robert was very pleased. Given Goliath's obvious pedigree and size, his offspring were bound to be fine specimens, better than those damn Senepols.
The next afternoon Sir Robert put a call through to Dylan McBride. John Williams had called. "Sir Robert, you can pick up Goliath on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, Premdas is going to Trinidad for the weekend so you will have to bring one of your handlers."
Sir Robert instructed his workers to get the bull pen ready. On Friday afternoon he took along his best man, Leroy Henry, and his second son, James. They drove one of the smaller trucks used to transport cows. Goliath was a bit unsettled without Premdas, but Leroy kept talking to him in low tones, and was finally able to lead him up into the truck. However, Goliath did not like the truck. He bellowed and although firmly tethered was able to move his great bulk around sufficiently to make the return trip slow going and snake-like.
It took a number of men prodding and Leroy leading him by his nose ring to get Goliath into his new pen. He was not happy with the new quarters, lumbered about nervously, and tested the fence. It was a wooden corral unlike the reinforced steel bar structure at the Agricultural Station. But suddenly Goliath noticed there were cows grazing in the adjoining pasture. He began to sniff the air and grew amazingly still, and spent the rest of the day against the fence gazing in their direction and lowing. Sir Robert told Leroy to put a little molasses on Goliath's feed to encourage him to eat.
The next morning Sir Robert was awakened by a rather agitated Leroy. Goliath had broken through the fence and was now among the cows. Sir Robert, still in his pajamas, climbed into the Land Rover. Goliath had created quite a bit of havoc. He had tried to mate with many of the receptive cows, but his attempts had been mostly unsuccessful because of his great bulk. Several cows were banged up and requiring attention. Sir Robert instructed Leroy and his other workers to first get Goliath back into his pen and secure the fence and then attend to the cows.
Back at the house, Sir Robert immediately called Veterinarian Rupert Perry. "Rupert, it's Dickie. I have a problem. A big bull got loose among my cows. Some are going to need attention." Dr. Perry responded, "I will send down my partner, Dr.Mabel Browne. She is on call today and specialises in large animals." Within an hour, Dr. Browne arrived, examined, cleaned, and patched up Goliath's not unwilling victims, and recommended that all the cows be moved to a distant pasture.
Goliath remained very quiet the rest of the morning. That afternoon he began to lie down and would not touch his molasses meal. In the evening he seemed to be in some pain. Sir Robert attributed this to Goliath's strenuous activities in the pre-dawn hours and remarked to Leroy, "He should be fine tomorrow."
The next morning, however, when Sir Robert and Mrs. West were on their way to church, Leroy stopped them. "Sir, yu got to luk at de bull, him plenty sick." Panic setting in, Sir Robert drove to the pen. Goliath was still lying down lowing in pain. His testicles, rather large to begin with, had swollen to an enormous size. He obviously had come down with a massive infection. There was no church that morning, just a frantic call to Dr. Perry. "Rupert, the bull's balls have swollen up like balloons--never seen anything like it before. You had better come immediately. It's not something I want Dr. Browne to handle--I need a male vet who understands balls."
In the early afternoon, Dr. Perry pumped antibiotics into Goliath and stayed with him for several hours looking for signs of improvement. Sir Robert and Leroy puttered around nervously. Just before dinner, Dr. Perry finally packed his bag and rendered his prognosis. "Dickie, there is nothing more I can do. Either the antibiotics will work and he will pull through or he will succumb. Try and keep him hydrated as much as possible. Use a tube to get the water in him. I have never seen a case like this before. Have to consult my veterinary books."
Leroy was frantic and wanted to try an old bush remedy his father had told him worked for swollen balls. Sir Robert wearily instructed him to go home--he had done all he could do. That night Sir Robert and Mrs. West prayed hard for Goliath's recovery.
On Monday morning, Leroy waited until Sir Robert had finished his breakfast to break the news. "Sir, de bull him dead." A little tear developed in the feisty old man's right eye. He had contributed to the death of so fine an animal. How was he going to explain this to Dylan McBride--a healthy prize 2500-pound bull dying in his custody? Steeling himself, he telephoned. "Dylan, a terribly tragedy has occurred. Goliath broke through the pen early Saturday morning and ran amok among my cows. Late that afternoon he started lying down. Yesterday morning his testicles had swollen enormously. Rupert stayed with him for hours and did everything he could." There was silence at the other end of the line until an obviously shocked Dylan McBride responded, -- "I am going to have to communicate this to the Director of Agriculture and the Minister." Sir Robert, embarrassed but doing his best to be helpful, replied, "I will explain things to John. I am going to come down this morning so we can talk about proper disposal."
Word of the Goliath's death spread like wild fire. The workers on the farm were the first to see the dead bull, and talked in disbelief among themselves, "De bull fock he self to death. Mess up a whole heap of cows too." It wasn't long before the village of Starlings heard "De bull fock he self to death" story. Ms. Candia Walker, the Director of Agriculture's Secretary, overheard Dylan McBride telling the Director that the bull had died. She communicated this to her cousin who worked in the Prime Minister's Office. Government Offices were soon abuzz with questions -- who was this bull and why had it died? Dylan McBride had to tell the workers at the Agricultural Station that Goliath would not be returning. But the town had not heard the story. That part filtered in from Starlings. By noon there were several versions floating around the island, and with each retelling the story got embellished. Not only did "de bull fock he self to death," but he also "fock many cow to death." "His balls swell so, luk like watermelon."
On his way to the Agricultural Station, Sir Robert stopped to get petrol at Starlings. The attendant asked, as Sir Robert was signing his receipt, "Mr. West, de bull dead?" Sir Robert did not respond -- this was a story that would resonate for a while and would become the stuff of island legend. Sir Robert and Dylan had to discuss the painful details regarding the disposal of the carcass. Rendering was out of the question as were other forms of disposal like burning. It was decided that Goliath deserved a proper burial at the Agricultural Station. Dylan asked some of the workers to dig a large grave on the little hill behind the station.
Sir Robert was faced with the problem of transporting 2500 pounds of prized bull back to the station. Eventually Dylan hit upon the idea of using a tow truck to hoist the bull up and then somehow swing him onto a flatbed truck. It took most of Sir Robert's workers to accomplish this maneuver and strap Goliath down. Sir Robert and Leroy had to drive through the market area of town en route. It was late afternoon and many people were getting off work and making their way to the minibus terminal opposite the market. Traffic as usual was at a crawl. The sight of a dead bull on a flatbed truck provoked much comment. Those who had heard the story were able to explain its presence. They were taking it to the Prime Minister's residence. Papa wanted to "see de size of de balls of de bull dat fock he self to death." No, they were taking it for burial "in de cemetery." "Wat nonsense, dey taking de bull to Butcher Johnson shop." And so it continued. Some youths shouted out, "Dickie, wha happen to de bull?"
Sir Robert was glad to be clear of the traffic and sped through town. He drove up to the hill at the station towards a small gathering of workers. The tow truck was pressed into service again. It proved a difficult task trying to lower the 2500-pound behemoth into the grave. One of the workers went to call Mr. McBride. Sir Robert was surprised to see Dylan walking up the hill with the Director of Agriculture, Minister Williams, the Deputy Prime Minister, Russell Finch, and most of the office staff. Minister Williams said a few words. "It is a sad day we have to bury this wonderful animal we hardly got to know. Our beef industry has suffered a severe blow." The Deputy Prime Minister conveyed Papa's condolences.
The next morning The Daily Reporter's headline read: "Prize bull dies on West Farm. Given solemn burial at Ag. Station." The story followed with quotes from Dr. Perry and from a grief-struck Premdas. The paper diplomatically suggested that "the bull's over exertion had led to complications that caused his death." In the rum shops that night, men intoned, "Wat foolishness de paper print. Why not say de bull fock he self to death?" To prolong the moment, most men had a "swollen balls" story to tell.
Parliament was sitting later that same Tuesday morning. The Sergeant at Arms called Parliament to Order. The Deputy Prime Minister, sitting in for his father, recognised Finance Minister Cedric Humphreys. Minister Humphreys cleared his throat and said, "Gentlemen, I call you to rise and observe a minute of silence for the bull."