As a small boy, probably five or six years old, I lived in a small English country village called Semington. Semington was a small hamlet situated on the River Avon’s tributary and crossed by the Kennet and Avon canal. A farming community, there was little industry there, just the cows, fields used for growing hay, and the usual smatterings of village life in rural England.
Our home was a small cottage situated between the canal and the river, separated by a large field typically populated by the Friesian cattle which inhabited it. When returning from school, I could sneak through a gap in the fencing which would let me triangulate my path at the bottom of our cottage’s garden. This route could save me a couple of minutes on my walk back from the bus stop.
Usually, this short cut was uneventful, but I was always cautious if the cattle were nearby, as they happened to be this day. I peered through the gap, and even though the herd’s leader seemed to me at least a hundred yards away, she appeared to be particularly interested in me that day.
I decided to take the short cut anyway, assuming the cattle would remain in place. A young boy does not always discern well. As I started to make my progress the herd leader looked hard towards me and started to get up a pace towards me. What was astonishing, even to this day, was all the herd seemed to move in unison, and before I knew what was happening, they were charging towards me.
Decisions had to be made, and quickly. Did I have enough time to make it to the fence at the bottom of our yard, or should I return to whence I came? The cattle, at least 50 in the herd were charging hard towards me.
I could not understand this; my neighbor, who was the herdsman for this group of hooligan cows, never seemed to have problems controlling them. I could not believe they were coming to trample me to death, but they were!
Now, in the middle of the field, I decided to return to safety; the gap in the fence as fast as I could travel. I could feel the sound of their feet on the ground behind me, and they were gaining on me. Heart racing and now terrified, I continued at a pace and finally made it to and through the gap in the fence to safety.
The cows were only 15 or so feet behind me when I made my escape, and I turned around to face my tormentors. They didn’t seem exhausted from their high-speed gallop but somewhat disappointed by their missing their mark.
My fear suddenly vanished and was immediately replaced by my first real encounter with anger. I remember screaming at the cattle at the top of my voice, from the safety of the fence, looking for the most malicious words I could conjure up. Funnily enough, I didn’t have any appropriate ones in my vocabulary at the time, so I just shouted “you are really bad cows,” “you are terrible animals.” It must have been quite a sight if someone was watching, which fortunately for me, they were not.
Today, as an adult, I sometimes go back to that day when I learned what it was to be totally angry. Angry with a situation which was of my own making. One where I had a choice to decide if there was a risk there, and it did. One where I took the chance anyway, just to see if I could make it across, and when I couldn’t, I blamed the cows for what could have been the end of me.
I am still unsure what I learned that day, but I realized that uncontrolled anger is a very dangerous response. Something visited me that day, something which I did not enjoy.
“Do not make friends with one who gives way to anger, make no one quick-tempered a companion of yours,”