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My Friend El Toro
by [?]

In that country, which is a hard-working country, there is really very little sport. Further south in California, the ease-loving Spanish people who remain among the Americans still love music and the dance. We worked, and worked hard; only Sundays brought us a little surcease from toil. All our notions of sport centred on our bull. I had many Italian co-workers, some Swedes, and an odd citizen of the United States. All alike agreed in being proud of El Toro. We yearned to match him against any bull in the State. Sometimes of a Sunday morning, after he had devastated the country and was back again, he held a kind of levee. The Italians brought him pears as I sat on him in triumph and combed him in places where he had not been wounded. He always forgot that I had come behind him and laced his tough hide with my stock-whip. He bore no malice, but took his fruit like a good child. I think he was almost as proud of himself as we were. Certainly we were proud of him. As for me, had I not ridden desperate miles after him: had I not interviewed outraged owners of other bulls and broken fences: had I not played the diplomat or the bully according to the treatment which seemed indicated? He was, properly speaking, my bull; I did not care if I had to spend three days mending our home gates and other’s alien fences.

Yes, it was a fine thing to gallop through that warm, bright, Californian air after El Toro, with the brown hills on either side and its patches of green vineyard brightening daily. It was freedom after the toil of axle-greasing and the slow work with sheep. It was better than grinding axes and trying to cut the tough knobs of vine stumps: better than grooming horses and milking cows. It made me think even more of the great Australian plains and of the Texas prairie and the round up. Ay de mi, I remember it now, sometimes, and I wish I was on horseback, swinging my whip and uttering diabolic yells, significant of the freedom of the spirit as I rush after the spirit of El Toro. For my pet, my brindled fighter, my own El Toro, whom I combed so delicately with a bent nail, for whom I gathered buckets of bruised but fat Californian pears, is now no more. They told me, when I visited Los Guilucos seven years ago, that he became difficult, morose, hard to handle, and they sold him. They sold this joyous incarnation of the spirit of battle and the pure joy of life for a mean and miserable thirteen dollars! When I think of it I almost fall to tears. So might some coward son of the seas sell a battleship for ten pounds because it was not suitable for a ferry-boat or a river yacht. I would rather a thousand times have paid the thirteen dollars myself and have taken him out to fight his last Armageddon and then have shot him on the lonely hills from which all other bulls had fled. These mean-souled, conscienceless moneymakers, who could not understand so brave, so fine a spirit, sold him to a Santa Rosa butcher! Shame on them, I say. I am sorry I ever revisited the Valley of the Seven Moons to hear such lamentable news. It made me unhappy then, makes me unhappy now. My only consolation is that once, and twice, and thrice, and yet again, I gave El Toro the chance of finding happiness in the conflict. And when I left Los Guilucos, before I returned to England, I sat upon his huge shoulders and scratched him most thoroughly, while ever and again I offered him a juicy and unbruised pear. On that occasion I pulled him the best fruit, and left windfalls for the ranging, greedy hogs. And as I fed and scratched him he lay on his hunkers in great content, and made pleasant noises as he remembered the day before. On that day, owing to the kindly feeling of me, his true and real friend, he had had a great time three miles towards Glenallen, and had beaten a newly-imported bull out of all sense of self-importance. He was pleased with himself, pleased with me, pleased with the world.