The animal pens contained two bulls, four heifers, nine cows with a number of calves and almost a hundred sheep comprised of lambs, ewes and rams. Twelve sows, many of them with litters, were kept in separate pig pens from the seven boars that had been put up for sale and there were also large quantities of chickens that were making one dickens of a chicken noise from their wooden coops stacked in a line down the side of the pens.
Farmers clustered around the animals and sheepdogs clung to their master’s heels as they weaved their way from pen to pen, meeting old friends and talking about the quality of what was on offer. The pressure from the amount of people in the crowd was becoming acute as Shipley, microphone in hand, walked to the window to address them.
“Ladies and gentlemen we now come to the livestock that we have for sale today, all on view in the pens at the side of the hall as you can see and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a pretty good selection.”
Shipley’s voice was cracking as he spoke, the honey and lemon drink seemed no longer to be helping.
“As you’ve had plenty of time to make your choices we’ll start with lot number two thousand two hundred and seventy six which is the first of the two bulls. Now then, who will open the bidding?”
It was Herpes who started the trouble, ably assisted by the Sheepdog and the Labrador.
The ’Erp was still a bit cheesed off by that business down at the river and by having all these strange dogs suddenly invade his territory and had been looking to reassert himself as King of Little Saddlington.
He took an instant dislike to these two and typically having picked two of the toughest dogs present launched himself into a savage attack upon them. In the heat of their snarling, biting fight they crossed under the rails and into the pen that held the huge Charolais bull that Shipley was trying to sell. The bull had been a perfectly placid animal until that moment, but three fighting, barking dogs entering the close domain of a bull is a recipe for disaster and it was a disaster that happened next as the bull began crashing around in his pen, trying to get at the dogs who were now spilling their desperate fight over into the next pen, which was full of sheep.
“Mind that bull!” shouted Shipley and, for almost the first time since the start of the auction four days previously, he suddenly had absolutely everyone’s attention. However the bull’s attention was firmly fixed on the three fighting dogs and in a shattering blow of solid muscle he demolished the entire side of his pen and began to chase after the three of them as they fought on, seemingly oblivious to the angry hulk that was bearing down upon them.
“Look out! The bull’s loose!”
Shipley could not have shouted anything worse had he tried as, with every person in Little Saddlington echoing his words, the crowd panicked and people began pushing each other as they tried to get away from the area of the pens. To assist matters a large number of sheep ran out through the bull’s now non-existent pen into the terrified throng whilst the bull began demolishing some more railed pen fencing that the three dogs had just vanished through.
The pens had been reasonably strongly built but hardly to withstand the full force of an enraged bull. With just one short shoulder charge most of the pen wall gave way, the bull lowered his head, caught part of the remaining pen rails with one of his horns and lifted them high into the air. Ripping the side off four pens at once the angry Charolais went stamping through into the central pen area with rails cascading around him. As pigs and more sheep mixed with some of the cows and their calves and began to panic as much as the crowds the three dogs fought their way into the passageway between the pens, straight into more dogs who instantly joined the fray. Pen gates gave way as the crowd crushed against them and suddenly a whole host of farm animals were on the loose being chased by all kinds of dogs and together they charged through the crowd into the square.
The second bull, a big Hereford, simply walked out of his newly opened pen and proceeded around the back of the hall and down the other side of it, heading off people who were running in that direction.
The irate Charolais pursued the fighting dogs and careered out towards the square bringing down more than a dozen chicken coops as he went and feathers began to fly as squawking chickens sped about through the panicking crowds.
Screaming people ran in all directions as the huge Charolais and Hereford bulls both rampaged into the square from either side of the village hall and chickens, sheep, pigs, cows and people stampeded for their lives. Shipley could only look on in abject horror at the scene of pandemonium and devastation below him. There was not a hope of anyone bringing the situation under control as the animals fragmented out through the people in the square and onto the village green, where the final of the Little Saddlington Beer Drinking Contest was just getting under way.
Bill Boyd and the eleven other finalists were facing each other down either side of two trestle tables and six referees were ready to scrupulously monitor them. The starting gun fired and they picked up their pints and began to drink. Bill was standing opposite Long Tall Sally and found that her eyes were most disconcertingly looking straight into his. The crowd roared encouragement as they both put their empty second pints down at exactly the same moment. With the crowd screaming at them she kept looking straight at him and started to down the third, delighted to see his eyes opening wide in disbelief as her glass began to tilt upward faster than his. He even pointed at her across the table as he struggled with his pint and the noise became deafening as the crowd urged her on.
But Bill Boyd was no longer trying to beat Long Tall Sally, nor was he pointing at her and nor were the crowds shouting encouragement, for it was a rapidly approaching Charolais bull, attracted by her bright, power red shirt, that was causing all of these things to happen. Bill didn’t want to lose the contest, but, as the bull accelerated towards LT and she threw her empty glass down and yelled her victory, he threw his own glass aside, reached across the table and pulled her straight over it and down on top of him. Whilst she kept loudly proclaiming that she had won along with her surprise at Bill’s impulsiveness, the bull reached the table behind her and Bill, now terrified they were going to be trampled, pointed at it behind her back.
“Bull!” he shouted.
“No, it’s true, I won and you know it!” yelled LT sitting astride him and beginning to pummel him in friendly manner.
“Bull! Bull! Bull!” he yelled, still pointing at the animal as it towered over the table and the two of them.
“True! True! True!” she yelled back, but it did begin to dawn on her that the look on Bill’s face just might not be one of play. As she realised that everything was not quite right the bull gave out a loud snorting sound.
“Bull?” squeaked Bill and Long Tall Sally slowly turned to find that Bill’s identification of what was standing immediately behind her was one hundred percent correct. She screamed, leapt off him and sprinted for cover. Bill, now lying there on his back facing the bull, screamed himself, however the giant Charolais had lost interest now the object that had originally caught his attention was gone and so, as Bill Boyd lay there with his eyes shut tight, praying for deliverance, the bull simply turned and ambled away......