Tuesday, September 4, 2007

No Bull

By Mitchell

Well, August was quite a month here. The month began with the 35W bridge collapse, and ended with a runaway bull at the State Fair. In between, there was a drought, tremendous storms, floods, and heat. It's incredible to think that it all actually happened in the space of 31 days.

There was something truly bizarre about this last story. I mean, how can anyone really keep a straight face when reporting about a bull escaping from its handlers at the Minnesota State Fair on Friday, running loose for about a block before it rammed a fire hydrant and died? Now, this could in fact have been a pretty serious story - the area in which the bull escaped is usually pretty crowded. People, especially young children, could have been trampled or gored. As one witness put it, "All we heard was screaming, and then we saw the bull starting to run after people, and then there was an old couple that got away just in time ... and then it started going after a stroller, but for some reason it just stopped," It was a tragedy waiting to happen, and it was fortunate that no one was injured, save the bull.

That being said, the fact that there were no injuries allows one to appreciate the utter absurdity of the whole thing. The press coverage is rife with unindended humor, as demonstrated in the Strib's story of the bull's "short visit to the State Fair." (Check out the headline: "Bull Meets Its Demise After Run Through Crowd at State Fair") "'It just turned on the fire hydrant, put its head down and hit it at a real good pace,' said witness Chris Fry. 'And when it did that, it just dropped.'" A fair spokeswoman said, "Even our fire hydrant is OK and good to go." I dare say that anyone who's seen the Bugs Bunny cartoon pictured above had to have that image pass through their minds within the first ten seconds of hearing the story.

Bishop Sheen once explained why a man slipping on a banana peel is funny. The humor comes even more from the anticipation, from seeing the peel on the sidewalk with the man approaching, than it does from the actual event. Anticipation - the mind painting a picture of what is to come - is what made the Three Stooges funny, what made Laurel & Hardy funny, what makes old jokes continue to work even after you've heard them time after time. And why do so many of us laugh when we watch the running of the bulls? There's just something outrageous about the image it paints. So forgive me if this seems callous, but the idea of a bull being killed after head-butting a fire hydrant is just too much. Go ahead and try it yourself. As one radio station announcer suggested, perhaps the bull mistook the fire hydrant for a matador's cape. Another wondered if PETA would file suit against the hydrant for having maliciously taken an innocent bull's life. The fact that pictures of the offending hydrant soon appeared online just compounded the absurdity.

The owners of the bull, understandably, were thinking more about their losses - someone figured they probably lost between $4,000 and $6,000 due to the accident. But they were more grateful nobody was injured - "Bulls are replaceable," the owner said. One hopes that someday even they might be able to appreciate how absurd the whole thing was. And that's no bull.

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