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My Friend El Toro
by [?]

It is not everyone who can make friends with a bull, and it is not every bull that one can make friends with. Yet next to one or two horses, about which I could spin long yarns, El Toro, the big brindled bull of Los Guilucos Ranch, Sonoma County, California, is certainly nearest my heart. He was my friend, and sometimes my companion; he had a noble character for fighting, and in spite of his pugnacity he was amiability itself to most human beings. His final end, too, fills me with a sense of pathos, and enrages me against those who owned him. They were obviously incapable of understanding him as I did.

When I went up to Los Guilucos from San Francisco to take up the position of stableman on that ranche, I had little notion of the full extent of my duties. What these were is perhaps irrelevant in the present connection. And yet it was because I had to work so incredibly hard, being often at it from six in the morning to eight or nine o’clock at night, that I made particular friends with El Toro, to give him his Spanish name. In all that western and south-western part of the United States there are remnants of Spanish or Mexican in the common talk. For California was once part of Mexico. El Toro became my friend and my refuge: when I was driven half-desperate by having ten important things to do at once he often came in and helped me to preserve an equal mind. I have little doubt that I should have discovered how to work this by myself, but as a matter of fact I was put up to some of his uses by the man whose place I took. He showed me all I had to do, and lectured me on the character of the hard-working lady who owned the place; and when I was dazed and stood wondering how one man could do all the stableman was supposed to accomplish between sunrise and sundown, Jack said, “And besides all this there is a bull!” He said it so oddly and so significantly that my heart sank. I imagined a very fierce and ferocious animal fit for a Spanish bull-ring, a sharp-horned Murcian good enough to try the nerve of the best matador who ever faced horns and a vicious charge. Then he took me round the barn and opened a stable. In it El Toro was tied to a manger by a rope and ring through his nose: he greeted us with a strangled whistle as he still lay down. “When you are hard driven good old El Toro will help you,” said Jack, as he sat down on the bull’s big shoulders and started to scratch his curl with a little piece of wood which had a blunt nail in it. As I stood El Toro chewed the cud and was obviously delighted at having his curl combed.

The departing Jack delivered me another lecture on the uses of a mild and amiable but fighting bull on a ranche where a man was likely to be worried to death by a lady who had no notion of how much a man ought to do in a day. When he had finished he invited me to make friends with El Toro by also sitting on his back and scratching him with the blunt nail. I did as I was told, and though El Toro twisted his huge head round to inspect me he lay otherwise perfectly calm while I went on with his toilet. He evidently felt that I was an amiable character, and one well adapted to act as his own man. His views of me were confirmed when I brought him half a bucket of pears from the big orchard. With a parting slap and a sigh of regret which spoke well both for him and the bull, Jack went away to “fix” himself for travel. I was left in charge.