I am active duty Soldier in the US Army. I get to travel the world and have fantastic adventures in exotic places. Death and danger are two too-common themes in these adventures, but the worst was the time I was almost raped by an angry adult bull.
I was on a business trip to northern Tucson, to attend a conference on the role of culture in the Middle East. I’ve been running a lot this last year, averaging 40 miles per week, putting in the miles wherever my days found me. On this Tucson trip, I flew in Saturday night late and headed out to Saguaro National Park? – West on Sunday for a 6.5 mile run through the park. A friend from the area had recommended the park, and the six and a half miles was a nice trail and hill run, but I was wanting and needing a longer run; little 6.5 mile runs weren’t going to cut it on this business trip.
So, I checked the web. Not far from my hotel was Catalina State Park and the trailhead for the 50 Year Trail. From what I could see (Google Earth and Google Maps), and what I’d read from the various accounts (like on Everytrail), it was a nice long trail with some but not too much elevation change, running South to North and parallel to the mountains. Sounded great. I made some mental notes of the park boundaries, other trails in the areas that people had used, where the roads were, and some markers I could use as turn around points (I sometimes get carried away and run out too far, or father than I intended).
So, after our seminar ended, I laced up and headed to the park. The trailhead was at the equestrian center, and was easy to find. There was a short, steep ascent right away, and then it leveled off. Great running, great views, and all around beautiful.
At the 2 mile mark, I got to the edge of Catalina State Park. How did I know this? There was a gate with a sign signaling that I was leaving the park and entering Arizona State land, that a usage permit was required, and that would I please be so kind as to close the gate behind me to keep the cattle out of the State Park.
Ha ha. Cattle inside the State Park. That’d be funny.
I kept running. It was a great trail. I was really enjoying myself. I stuck to the official trail, even though I had spotted the primitive dirt road that I knew (from the maps and satellite photos) ran just about due-north from the gate.
3 miles. Still having fun. Should I turn around? You know what, I’m feeling good, the trail is what I expected, and my legs feel strong. I’ll run out 6.6 miles, turn around, and make it a half-marathon. The cross trails and ranches and other things I’m seeing are all matching up with my mental notes, I’m feeling good, so I’ll just do the 13.1 or so miles.
La dee da dee da.
By the 4 and 5 mile mark, it was less open desert and was now a mix of cacti and small trees. No worry. I have my Garmin, I have my iPod, I’m well hydrated and it’s not too hot. Things are good.
At the 5.98 mile mark, everything falls apart.
I spot an adult bull, off to my left.
Now, by “off to my left,” I don’t mean way ahead of me and a little to the left. I mean within grenade range, and at my 8 o’clock — to my left and a bit behind me. I’m running north on the 50 Year Trail, and he’s behind a tree and pointing south.
His horns are so big, my first thought it that I have stumbled upon Hellboy.
As I am snickering at my own jokes, I just about soil myself. He has taken off running — south — to come around that tree after me.
And he has this look in his eye that I won’t forget any time soon. It was more than anger. It was more than hatred. I knew in an instant what he wanted.
So, I did what anyone would have done. I screamed, “RAPE!” at the top of my lungs and took of running like a bat out of hell. Like a bat out of hell who’d already run 6 miles that day. Like a bat out of hell who’d already run 6 miles that day but that had an adult bull chasing him with the clear intent of making him his bitch. This was no Tossed Salad Man chasing me. This was right out of Oz.
I went back later and looked at my GPS. I hit 38 mph. On my dinosaur shoes, on which I’d already run 985 miles (no shit — really), after having run 6 miles already, when I’m averaging about 40 miles per week of running, I’m suddenly sprinting from an adult bull.
And I’ll be honest. As he came around that tree and fell in line behind me, I looked over my shoulder thinking, “Really? You’re going to chase me?” Sure as shit, there he was — and movin’ damn fast. He clearly thought he was within striking range.
I turned to look forward, that wave of panic hitting me. That fight or flight response? Oh, hell yeah — it kicked in. Whoosh, my brain dumped at least 4 gallons on adrenaline into my blood stream. I am shucking and jivin’, trying to plot a course that will get me the hell out of the way and will save my anal virginity.
But, me being me, I decided I’d better try something stupid. While I tried to turn on my camera with my right hand, I looked over my shoulder one more time to see what kind of photo or video I’d get if I managed to turn my camera on.
You know how idiots run with the bulls in Pamplona?
I was that idiot.
Objects in mirror are larger than they appear? Great, I was being chased by a bull the size of a T Rex then.
I stopped screwing around with my camera and went back to looking at the road ahead of me, while trying to keep my bowels under control.
How close was he, when I was fiddling with my camera and thinking about YouTube?
If he’d turned his head to the side, I could easily have reached back and touched his horn.
Yep. I was that idiot.
I stopped running when I got to Montana. Well, it seemed like I was in Montana. Really, it had been a full quarter mile, my Garmin later told me.
Yes, I was drag racing an adult bull. Best part? I won. Worst part? No pink slip.
I eased off the gas when I got to the trail intersection that I knew was up ahead. The trail cut back to the SW, and would take me to what looked like a dirt road — bigger, better than the one by the gate I came through. Great, I thought. Perfect. I am north of the angry adult bull, and my car is 6 miles south of the angry adult bull. I need to get around the angry adult bull, so maybe I can use the road to cut south before linking up with a cross-trail I remembered.
Why does my ankle hurt?
Oh, that’s right — while running from the angry adult bull, I was running kinda fast and loose and ended up with a piece of cactus embedded in my ankle.
OK, so Army training kicks in. Let me get to a secure location, away from the enemy / threat, and I can do some self-aid before moving on to my next tasks.
But first, I do in fact do something stupid. I sneak back closer to the bull, and I take his photo. He had this look in his eye that said, “Me and my boys are gonna frak you up.” But I stayed out of his striking range, and he just snarled at me. I am an idiot sometimes. Actually, I am an idiot quite often, now that I think about it.
So, I get to the road, and I look around. The angry adult bull is now to my left — to my East — and I face south and start to look for a safe place to address my cactus issue, and as I check the area for other angry adult bulls.
Cha ching. A whole herd.
What? You think I’m making this stuff up? Not a chance. A whole herd, with some cows and some youngsters. South of me. Between me and my car. With the original angry adult bull off to my left. I run up to the single high point in the area, look around and trying to spot all of the enemy and then I pulled out the many cactus barbs that were embedded in my flesh.
Yeah, that sucked, too. Not as much as an ass-raping by an angry adult bull would, but it still sucked. There’s no way to get those barbs out without pulling your skin to the point where you think it might come off, like you’re at Popeye’s or something, or without also sticking those damn things in your fingers / hands, too.
So, cactus removed. I thought about it. I’m on high ground, with the original angry adult bull off to my left and just north of me, and a herd of cattle, of unknown size and strength, arrayed before me to my south.
Great. The angry adult bull wasn’t even the Advanced Guard. He was Main Body. Damnit.
Between me and the herd itself, running from my hilltop location off to the East, it a little ridge. The draw to the north of it would separate me from the original angry adult bull, and maybe the ridge would give me enough concealment to let me sneak around the herd and back to my original trail.
Uh huh. No.
As I made my way, low and slow — and no, I was not actually low-crawling — behind that ridge, another angry adult bull sticks his head over the ridge and gives me the evil eye. I stop. I start to walk back to my hill top. He does not pursue me. I was out of striking range, or maybe he just wasn’t that into me.
Which, now that I think about it, is kind of upsetting. I mean, I think I was looking pretty damn good that day. Nice running shorts, a nice black running top. Shaved head. Why didn’t he like me?
Anyway, I digress. I make my way back past the dirt road to my hilltop, in order to think things over. If I take the road north, it should make a hard left and head out to the state highway. Will there be another herd along the way? Likely. Once I get to the state highway, am I going to have to run it back to the State Park? Yep. Can I do that? Sure — it might be an 18 mile day, but hey, I’ve had worse. An intact rectum can be a great motivator.
And just as I am getting ready to move out and north on that road, along comes a PT Cruiser heading north. Remember the secretary from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? She was driving the PT Cruiser.
You gotta help me, that angry adult bull over there (as I point to it, because it’s still that close) wanted to…. kill me.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that, no, really, the angry adult bull wanted to rape me, or that I’d screamed RAPE at the top of my lungs. I was hoping she didn’t hear that, or that she didn’t bring it up if she did. I did my best to try and act it out — I need to win her support.
She confirms that there is indeed a big ol’ herd of cattle south of my location, and that it does indeed contain a number of angry adult bulls as well as cows and little ones. I need to survive, evade, resist and escape — can you help smuggle me past the herd so I can make it back to my car?
She is utterly dumbfounded when I tell her that my car is at Catalina State Park, that I’d run there, and that I was going to run back.
Never mind that I had just acted out my Pamplona-running-with-the-bulls for her. never mind that I had just told her my most magnificent tale of nearly being killed by the angry adult bull. No, no — she’s amazed that I had run 6 miles, and was planning to run 6 more.
I guess this type of rape happens a lot more often in Arizona than we’re led to believe. Wait ten years — once this Catholic Church scandal blows over, I bet reports of angry adult bull rapes start to creep into the press.
So, I end up hopping in the car and she smuggles me past the herd. It was a big herd, too. She drops me at a crossroad on the other side, one I recognize and one I can use to get back to my trail. I thank her, and I head off.
I head off, like it’s 2004 and I’m running naked through Baghdad wrapped in an American flag. Every cactus looks like an angry adult bull. Every rock formation looks like an angry adult bull. Zarqawi is everywhere, and I’m sure I’m going to be ambushed again. I’m trying to tell myself that I’m fine, I’m past the herd, everything is OK, but I still have this sinking feeling that I’m still at risk for being raped by an angry adult bull.
And you know what? I come up to the top of a small ridge, and guess what’s on the other side, off to my left just outside of striking range? Another herd — yes, with angry adult bulls.
Oh, I know how to sprint from angry adult bulls. Brave, brave Sir Robin, Sir Robin ran away.
I hauled ass back to that lesser dirt road, the one that goes right to the gate of the state park. In complete paranoia, I ran the last few miles back to that gate, through that gate, and I made damn sure to secure that gate.
So, yeah — I was almost raped by an angry adult bull.
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