Four young lads fishing in the Reserve section of the River Stour, close to the entrance of the south marsh. When they spot me walking towards them, they are up and over the siphon pipe-bridge framework like monkeys racing up a tree. Once safely over the other side of the river, they bombarded me with questions: Do you have a bald head under that hat, mister? Any fish in this river, mister? How much did your camera cost and where did you get it from? Will you let us fish this river? Have you photographed us? Are you going to report us? The questioning went on and on, non stop; I tried to answer them all. The smallest lad said he’d fished the river all day and had caught some big ones. We walked towards a bend in the river, they on one side and me on the other. I shouted that they should not go any further because there is a herd of cattle and a bull ahead that might chase them. One of the lads shouted back that I was telling lies because the cows where on my side of the river. I mentioned the cattle a few times, but they ignored my advice and accused me of trying to frighten them.
As we approached the bend in the river, the cattle spotted the lads. What followed was the most energetic and amusing stampede I’ve seen outside of a cowboy movie. The lads suddenly realising the cattle were on their side of the river after all, beat a hasty retreat. With the beasts rapidly gaining on them, the boys took refuge behind a tree on the edge of the riverbank.
Soon the lads found that the cattle backed off if they shouted and waved their hands. “Don’t do that!” I shouted, but they were not in the mood to listen. Laughing like hyenas, they harangued the cattle whilst jumping up and down and waving their arms. The cattle, further stimulated by the boy’s over excited movements, charged again, cutting the lads off from their escape route to the riverbank tree. Having no other option, the boys ran as fast as their little legs would carry them for the nearest fence. They all dived over the barbed wire stock fence in a desperate attempt to escape the beasts from hell. The cattle immediately lost interest in the urchins, and with heads down returned to grazing.
The boys picked themselves up, still laughing like idiots. Brushing the horse poop from his clothes the oldest shouted, “You should control your cattle, mister. I hurt my jaw when I landed on the ground after jumping the fence, and I’m now covered in horse s..t!” “You should have listened to me then,” I shouted back.
As they walked away towards the canal, the older boy turned and announced proudly, “See that place over there?” He pointed at the scrap yard. “My uncle owns that!” So I now know who he belongs to. He also said, “Those are not cows, mister. They are bullocks!” “How do you know that?” I asked. “My father is a farmer!” he replied.
Boys will be boys, I suppose.