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The adventure of the five white bulls
A true test of the meaning of friendship. Plus ticks, and how to deal with them.


Blog/book excerpt
Ken Burnett, writer, publisher and occasional fundraising consultant.

These articles are reproduced from
The Field by the River by Ken Burnett, published in hardback and paperback by Anova Books Limited, London.

Now available in Kindle, download and enjoy today.

‘As we set off, his lack of confidence was buzzing in our brains. It seemed just possible that perhaps he knew something we didn’t.’

I knew I couldn’t outrun the bull, but I did think that, just possibly, I could outrun Robert. I started to fabricate an acceptable excuse that I could pass to his widow.’

For more about the field by the river read The deaf dumb and blind kid, Animal intelligence, The onset of Alzheimer’s and rough sex down by the river.

For more on the book
The Field by the River, click here.

Ken Burnett can be followed by clicking the button above.

More blogs on fundraising and communication
• Is it time for Twitter suicide?
• The future of fundraising.
Is direct mail dead?
The donor pyramid isn’t well either.
The fundraising dream team
The indispensable guard book.
Prepare for the fundraising trustee.
The transformational fundraising entrepreneur.

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From chapter 13, August. A visit from five white bulls
The first we heard of it was an urgent ringing of our front doorbell which, when answered, introduced us to a lean, fit, anxious-looking young man unknown to either of us but who turned out to be the son of a local farmer. Quickly, breathlessly, he described how five of his young bulls had escaped that morning. He’d spotted one in Loïc’s field behind the old Dutch barn. Could we help?

Such was the agitation of our young visitor, I suspected the losing of his father’s prize animals might be down to him. He was in a hurry, so the best intelligence we could get from him was that these were show bulls and that they were white. It sounded interesting.

Explaining that we’d seen nothing and that he needed Loïc’s permission rather than ours, nevertheless we – my lifelong pal Robert, who was with us at the time, and me – volunteered to help in the search. Rather than pleasing this young man, though, he tried to dissuade us, explaining with a worried face that young bulls can be dangerous. I think he’d sussed at a glance that two old blokes in our condition wouldn’t be of much use when matched against five bulls.

As we set off, his lack of confidence was buzzing in our brains. It seemed just possible that perhaps he knew something we didn’t. By the time we’d got to the field where the bull was last sighted, Rob and I had fallen a bit behind the men from the farm – there were four of them – and though we hadn’t discussed a plan, I think independently the idea had formed in both of us that maybe it would be best if we could find a safe spot from where to watch proceedings, at a distance.

Gingerly, crouched over like Red Indians in tall grass, Robert and I worked our way down the edge of the field to try to get to a corner of Loïc’s field where we’d be closer to the beast at bay, but still on higher ground from where we could safely spy. We were dangerously over-successful at this and soon regretted our curiosity as, impatient and snorting, the bull popped out from behind a clump of trees at least a hundred metres west of where we’d expected him to be and, suddenly, we were the nearest to him, by far, maybe six metres away or even

He was indeed pure white. And agitated. I sensed rather than saw the exasperation on the four farmhand’s faces as they realised that we were likely to spoil their trap. The huge bull turned to face us, his nearest threat, with what seemed likely to be burning resentment that his new-found liberty might be at risk. It was immediately evident he wasn’t going to be taken without a struggle and even with half a dozen humans ranged against him this bull looked well the stronger, from where we stood. He, meanwhile, appeared to have sussed where the weakest link was in the human chain that had surrounded him. He made to charge.

We could hear him breathing in snorts and pounding the dry earth with his front hoofs. The dry barley rustled as he turned. By God, he was a fearsome, muscular beast, white as snow, gleaming and jittery, prancing, snorting, rippling with sinews that he was ready to put to use at the slightest excuse. Staring death literally in the face, Rob and I did the only thing we could. We turned and legged it.

I knew I couldn’t outrun the bull, but I did think that, just possibly, I could outrun Robert. I started to fabricate an acceptable excuse that I could pass to his widow. Neither of us paused for even a second in our headlong dash so we completely failed to see the beast lassoed and corralled by his owners, then being led meekly away. We were almost neck and neck as we rounded the corner of our house and collapsed
semiconscious at our front door, much to the amusement of Marie and Isobel and the evident merriment of our children.

We never experienced even a sniff of the other four bulls but later learned they were all recaptured without difficulty on the prairie, where white bulls are easy to spot. Their brief bid for freedom ended in failure. Which, we decided, while a shame was just as well.

From pages 426 to 428 of The Field by the River, © Ken Burnett 2009. All illustrations except the bulls are by Juliet Percival.


Ken Burnett’s other books mainly focus on fundraising, communication and the wider universe. They include the classic Relationship Fundraising: a donor-based approach to the business of raising money and The Zen of Fundraising. For information on all Ken’s books, click here. To order your copy of The Field by the River, £12.99 (US$21.00) plus P&P hard cover, £7.99 (US$13.00) paperback, click here.


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‘Are you talkin to me?’. The huge bull turned to face us with what seemed likely to be burning resentment that his new-found liberty might be at risk.

He can move quite quickly when he wants to. Few things are more terrifying at close quarters than an unhappy bull. Even if he’s sitting down.

Ticks, and how to get rid of them (an extra excerpt)
The tick is not so much an inhabitant of Kerkelven, more an inhabitant of some of its inhabitants. Mortimer, biggest of the dogs, gets at least one fat bloated tick every year without fail. Like attracts like, I suppose.

Your actual tick is a small, innocuous-looking mite but it feeds by attaching itself to the soft tissue of a larger animal. It hides in the long grass waiting for a suitable host to pass then, silently, it will spring. It will then wriggle into position unseen, seeking out a warm, moist, sweaty part where it will cling on by fixing its powerful jaws into the bloodstream of its benign but innocent benefactor. Behind the ear of a large dog is apparently ideal, as is the armpit or crotch of a human. Once suitably affixed the tick then proceeds to suck the blood from its host, who will most likely be entirely ignorant of its presence until, that is, someone finds it and tries to remove it. Then all hell can break loose.

The only ways to remove a tick are carefully, or very
quickly. Otherwise, if you pull or jerk them out, the body or bloodsack will come away leaving the head and legs in the screaming host, attached to the tick’s ferocious jaws. This can then go septic, leading not perhaps to a horrid and painful death, but to whatever is the next worst thing. In days gone by we could have singed it off with a halfsmoked cigarette, but we don’t smoke now. One folk remedy is to drench a small handkerchief in whisky and apply same to the body and head of the insect, which then supposedly gets addled with the fumes or the surfeit of alcohol and loses its grip, so the whole thing comes away in your hand.

Reasonable sounding though this may be, in my experience it doesn’t work near as well as simply taking a firm grip on the fiend and giving it a sudden yank. A sharp single movement will wheek it out. This invariably causes Mortimer to emit a sudden yelp, but it works every time.

And saves whisky.