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Feather's Miscellany: Gerald Bates And The Bull

Overweight Gerald Bates could be said to be prone to accidents, as John Waddington-Feather reveals in this tale. Gerald finishes off his friend – then hooks more than he bargains for when he goes fishing.

At over twenty five stones, Gerald Bates was the heaviest man in Keighworth. That’s over 350 lbs and those of you who work metrically can work out his weight in kilos for yourselves. I would say he was puffed up with self-pride at time but not like Alderman Joe Oxenhead, one-time mayor of Keighworth. For one thing, Gerald didn’t go shooting off his mouth like Joe Oxenhead did at every opportunity. Nevertheless, Gerald did like to brag about how much money he made– and he wasn’t the only one given to bragging about money in Keighworth. Where some men bragged about their prowess at sport or which expensive cruise they’d been on, Keighley business men bragged about how much they’d made, especially if they’d done someone down in the process.

However, slick though he might have been in business, Gerald was prone to making dreadful gaffs; and one of his gaffs actually finished off an old pal who was very ill and at home in bed on oxygen . Tom Pritchard had been a heavy smoker all his life and eventually it caught up with him, so that for years he had to rely on a portable oxygen cylinder which he carried about wherever he went. In time he became so ill he was bedfast and permanently connected to his oxygen supply.

The day Gerald finished him off had been very bad for Tom, who could barely speak and found it difficult to hold any conversation when Gerald went to visit him. What talking there was all came from Gerald as Tom wore an oxygen mask and scribbled the odd comment on a notepad by his side. All of a sudden, Tom went blue in the face, frantically reached for his notepad, scribbled something on it – then snuffed it! Gerald alerted Tom’s wife, who rushed in and tried to resuscitate Tom – but to no effect. He’d gone.

When the doctor arrived he pronounced him dead and poor Tom was taken away by the funeral people to their chapel of rest. Then when all had quietened down the next day, Gerald called and mentioned the final note Tom had scribbled to him. After all, he might have been leaving him summat. Elsie Pritchard scrabbled about among all the paraphernalia by his bed and found the notepad with Tom’s last words on it and without a second glance at it passed it to Gerald. He could hardly make out Tom’s handwriting, but when he’d deciphered it the note read: “Gerald, you’re sitting on my oxygen line!”

He said never a word, but pocketed the note quietly and went home whistling innocently to himself after he’d taken his leave; but ever after when visiting sick friends, he made sure all was clear before he parked his bum.

Gerald became renowned in Keighworth for swimming the river to escape an enraged bull. It came about like this. Heedless to advice as ever, he’d gone fishing in the River Aire which flowed past the town and which divided the urban suburbs from the rural farmland in Keighworth. Gerald was fishing on the farmland side one day in spite of the fact he’d been told that a bull was running with a herd of cows on that side of the river, and it would be better to wait till the farmer had moved them to pastures new.

But the stretch of the river which ran alongside the pasturage of the bull and herd was particularly rich in fish, lying as it did upstream from the effluent of the mills and factories further down which fouled the river.

Though cloudy, it was a warm day with plenty of insects hovering over the surface of the river and a few miles upstream the fly-fishers were having the time of their lives catching trout. However, Gerald was a coarse fisherman, preferring to plonk his bulk on a well made stool and stay there throwing in bait before casting into the river; for no way would his huge body allow him to walk for miles in the shallower river upstream casting for fish like the fly-fishermen.

When he arrived, the first thing Gerald did was make sure that the bull and cows were a couple of fields away before he settled down to fish and very soon he was totally absorbed in his angling. Time ticked on; it was warm and comfortable and life was at its best after he’d made some good catches; so he was very pleased with life indeed. Then it happened.

So engrossed was he fishing that he didn’t notice the herd wander into the pasture where he was fishing. And had he but glanced over his shoulder he’d have frightened himself to death seeing the bull grazing quietly but a few yards behind him. It looked a good-natured bull and stood placidly grazing with its back towards him. I’m sure it wouldn’t have troubled him at all had it not been roused; but roused it was in a very painful way when Gerald, quite unaware of the bull, made a cast behind him - and his fishing hook got caught up in the bull’s vital parts!

Gerald tugged his line; then looked over his shoulder to see what was snagging his hook. The hook bit deeper and the bull roared with pain. Then it turned, pawed the ground, bellowed and charged straight at Gerald. There was only one way he could go to escape the infuriated animal – the river.

In he went abandoning his rod, line and tackle. He escaped just in time and the bull stopped at the river’s edge snorting and bellowing, scattering Gerald’s gear and tossing his stool into the river. Mercifully the fishing line snapped, easing its pain. The farmer removed it later when it followed the cows in to be milked and he made Gerald foot a hefty vet’s bill when the hook was removed under sedation.

Meanwhile, wet through, Gerald limped back to where he’d parked his car and later when he’d dried out returned to recover his fishing gear or what was left of it. His stool was never recovered. It floated downstream till it met all the other detritus and was washed away.

The worst bit of the whole business was having to eat humble pie with the farmer and apologise to the fishing club committee, whom the farmer complained to. It was only a hefty sweetener from Gerald’s wallet that stopped the old farmer from taking him to court. Soon it was all round the town where Gerald for the rest of his life became the object of some rather crude jokes in Keighworth about bulls’ and their balls.

John Waddington-Feather ©

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