Barney the Bull May Be Still Out There

Staring into the eye of an angry bull Getty Images

One of the more interesting stories on the East End this summer involved a bull on the loose. It happened in July in Manorville. The bull was being transferred from a pasture to a waiting truck when he decided to move sideways, which pushed open a railing resulting in his making a great escape.

The farmers stared in wonder as the bull rushed away down a residential street, turned left into an empty lot and disappeared into the woods beyond.

Of course, the police were immediately called. They came, made a report and then issued an alert. Everybody in four adjacent villages was told to stay in their homes. This bull could be dangerous. Stay in your homes until he gets caught.

During the next hour or two, numerous sightings were made of the bull, and from the safety of being indoors, photographs and videos were taken and posted online. He was on Montgomery Street. He was crossing Dean Street heading for the highway. Now he was gone again. He was a big bull. Shut down the Sunrise. (And they did!)

The next morning, the bull was still not caught. And he was not even spotted. Where was he? By the end of that day and the next, people feeling brave ventured out, followed eventually by the less brave and finally the timid who did the math and realized the chances were one in a very large number that this yellow-eyed bull would get them. No “all clear” was ever sounded. Soon, it was just forgotten.

Except of course, on Twitter. Why hadn’t they thrown a grappling net over the beast when they had him? Because grappling nets went out of fashion when laser guns came into general use. Why hadn’t they lasered him? Because it would take a forest full of laser darts to bring him down, and the environmentalists said that would be very cruel. And it still might not work.

As June turned into July, more photos got taken of the bull. He was in the Pine Barrens, that 10-by-20-mile stretch of woods that cover much of our underground water supply. Barney was in there nibbling the grass. He had been named Barney on social media.

During this time, the truth was learned about why this bull was being transferred from pasture to truck. It was for a Muslim holiday. On this particular holiday, a fire is built in a clearing and a live bull is brought in and roasted as an offering. Half of the meat goes to the community. The other half goes to the poor. Hymns are sung. It was on this particular farm in Manorville that bulls and other creatures are raised and sold to this religious community. They just didn’t do a very good job in getting Barney into this truck.

On September 22, Barney was captured. Mike Stura — the founder of Skylands Animal Sanctuary And Rescue in Wantage, NJ — put a bucket of feed in the Pine Barrens and surrounded it with a metal fence contraption that swung open when pushed with the nose of a bull, then swung closed behind. And so, just before midnight, there was Barney, caught. He was happy enough to allow himself to be led by rope into a waiting truck which took him, not to a religious ceremony, but to Skylands, where he could live his life peacefully for the rest of his days.

Barney the bull is safe and sound
Barney the bull/steer safe and soundCourtesy Suffolk SPCA

It did remind me of a similar story from years ago involving a chicken. I learned about it from Tate King, (the Tate who had the cookie named after him by his 11-year-old daughter Kathleen King who baked and sold cookies from a farm stand in front of the family’s North Sea farm. Years later, she sold her cookie company for $500 million. But that’s another story.)

Anyway, I visited North Sea Farm and spoke to Tate. He had this special chicken and here’s what he told me:

You know the TV show Survivor? Well, the contestants aren’t supposed to tell anyone about an episode until it’s edited and shown, but there was this woman, who was voted off, who filed a complaint about what was going on at this remote Pacific island.

It seems that in her final episode, a pig was brought to the island and let loose and the contestants had to catch it, kill it, dress it and cook it, which they did, using only the tools at hand, whatever they were. It was horrible.

The big fuss made about this went viral on social media and the big shots took it on the chin and then met and said they were glad that was over. Everyone would calm down.

But no. On an airplane, flying from Los Angeles to the island at that very moment, there was a live chicken which they had intended to let loose, to suffer the same fate.

Turn the plane around and bring that chicken back, someone said. See to it that it gets a good home. And another executive said, “Well, my son knows this farmer in North Sea who could do that.” And so, out of the blue, said Tate, somebody called me and the next thing I know this black limousine pulls up and they show me this beautiful chicken in a cage and tell me to take care of this chicken, pamper him and see to it he gets a good life.

“Want to see him?” Tate asked me.

I said sure, so he took me to an isolated pen with one chicken in it who looked nice and healthy. Tate said that chickens get a lot of diseases and die young, but they gave him this money and he was going to do what they asked him to do.

What is it with people? We’ve got hawks, eagles and osprey that swoop around looking for small animals on the ground they can grab with their claws and eat. It’s nature’s way.

But if it were up to us, every creature we traumatize we name and treasure forever. I don’t get it.

By the way, it’s just been announced that the bull they caught was a steer. Nobody had got around to look under the animal until now, apparently.

But wait a minute. Maybe Barney the Bull is still on the loose and they caught the wrong animal. Lock your doors.

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