Something you need to know about me is that at one point I was a fetus bull. This is the story of how I became the old bull.
“No, Austin, you can’t hear The Story because you are a fetus bull,” John says.
“I’m a what?” I ask.
“You have to be at least a young bull before you can hear The Story. There’s fetus bull, young bull, and old bull those are the rankings.”
“But Chris and Russell are freshmen too, why do they get to hear it?”
“Because they have ranked up to young bull status,” Baylor interjects.
John, frustrated, continues, “You’re not ready, Austin. You are not experienced enough to hear The Story.”
And so, I spent the rest of cross-country practice running by myself as Russell and Chris got to hear The Story, while I was a “fetus bull.” My mind wandered and wandered about what exactly The Story could be, and just how could I rank up to the status of a young bull.
The next day at practice, as if to rub it in my face, The Story was all the team talked about. Grant going on about how it’s “the greatest story ever told.” Baylor describing how The Story forever changed his perspective on life itself. I knew they were just messing with me. The Story can’t be that good? It can’t actually change your life. There’s no way. I’d tell myself, “They’re just messing me with me.”
A week later I was practically begging to hear The Story. The fact that I wasn’t allowed to hear it only made me want to hear it even more. Along came John’s point system. If someone during practice said something funny, he’d get a point. If you said something stupid, you lose a point. “If you can get enough points maybe you’ll be able to reach young bull status,” said John.
Somehow after the first day, I had negative twenty-five points. Never really went up after that. Two weeks had gone by, and The Story was still what the team was talking about. John bragging that his dad passed it down to him and that it is a “sacred honor” to hear it. I was still pleading my case that I was ready to be a young bull, but I was still fetus bull. Fetus became my nickname. They’d say, “Good job there, Fetus.” Or “Hey, Fetus.”
The year’s cross-country season ended, my first one, and I was still no where close to young bull status; however, with spring, came track season. At this point it had been six months, The Story wasn’t talked about unless I brought up if I was still a fetus, which they took no qualms in reminding me that I was. One day at track practice, I pushed just enough, describing how much I’d grown since the start of freshman year and that I was ready for The Story.
“Austin, if you can get under two-minutes and thirty seconds in the half mile or five minutes and thirty seconds in the mile, we’ll tell you The Story.”
John had given me a chance. I spent the rest of track conditioning training as hard as ever. I was determined to hear that story at any cost. Along comes the final race of my freshman year track season. I was going to run the half mile, and I was going to run it in under two-minutes and thirty seconds. The boys were hyping me up, telling me I could do it. Grant reminding me just how awesome The Story really was.
I step up to that starting line only focused on one thing: The Story. Nothing else mattered. The gun goes off, starting the race. I did not care about my place. All I cared about was breaking two-minutes and thirty seconds. I made a quick decision at the start of the race to slightly increase my speed to be with the front of the pack. I blinked and I was already in third place. I needed to hold this place. In the last one-hundred meters, I stretch my legs as much as I can towards the finish line with everything I can humanly give, but it wasn’t enough. No matter how much I wanted, no matter how much I needed to run just a little bit faster, I couldn’t. My time comes in 2:30.8. Eight milliseconds were what prevented from hearing The Story, of becoming a young bull. Sure, I didn’t get to hear The Story, but I was ecstatic that I ran that fast because of it. Coach Perry called it my best race of the year.
The next six months through the cross-country season go by in the blink of an eye. Due to unforeseen circumstances that occurred in the summer of freshman and sophomore year, that I won’t go into detail since it doesn’t pertain to this, I didn’t get to train as much as I wanted to. But as soon as I could, I ran like I had never done before. I honestly couldn’t tell if I was training so hard as a genuine love of running or if it really was just an obsession with hearing The Story. When track season started up once again, I was ready.
The first meet of the year at McGavock High School and coach had me slated for the mile race. I had six months of training and it had been a year and a half since I found out about The Story. My sole motivation for this race was The Story. I had to hear it more than ever.
There at the start line, I had mixed feelings: excitement, nervousness, and a surge of energy I have to this day never felt again. The gun goes off. I can’t even remember the first lap. The second lap begins. I have no clue of my place, but I just didn’t care. All I wanted was to hear The Story. The third lap begins, and the race starts taking its toll on me. I can feel myself slowing down. For over a year, I was brought down with the nickname “Fetus” and not allowed to hear this great story everyone was talking about, and I’d let all that go because of a little side stitch? “The pain was temporary, but I’ll never forget The Story,” I’d tell myself repeatedly.
Desire, obsession, and need to prove myself mixed in with a little fatigue, and I have never felt the euphoria that came with that last lap. It wasn’t even a race anymore. It was a chase. I was chasing the bull and I wasn’t going to let it get away no matter how awful I felt. And so, I sprinted faster than I ever had in my life, giving the race every ounce of strength I could muster. I reach the finish line. Five-minutes and twenty-eight seconds.
John and I were running our cool down on the trails surrounding McGavock. I look over to him and ask, “Am I ready?” He says yes and I remember what he says next verbatim.
“A young bull and an old bull are sitting on top of a cliff, overlooking a pasture. In the valley below is a great herd of cows. The young bull says to the old bull, ‘Let’s run down there and fuck one of them.’ And the old bull replies, ‘No, let’s walk down there and fuck all of them.’”
That was The Story. I had spent a year and a half expecting this great story, but that was all. He didn’t even make it up, it’s a famous joke. But I wasn’t disappointed, and just like they said, it did change my life. The lesson I took away from it all was that when rushing through life, you don’t get as much enjoyment than when you take things slowly. Had I been rushed and told The Story as soon as it was brought up, I would have missed out on running such a great race, but because I took things slowly I got more from The Story than probably any of the other guys on the team. I more than ever understand the philosophy of the Old Bull. The Old Bull is wise, he doesn’t rush through life, and ultimately gets more out of it than the immature, reckless young bull who just wants to get things done as quickly as possible. The Story, regardless of its crassness, changed my life as it made me view life differently. No longer was I going to live for the weekend or the next vacation, but instead to take my time and enjoy things as they come. To live in the present. To this day The Story is one of the most memorable and unique experiences I’ve ever had, but most of all it showed me that if I’m dedicated and work hard enough, I can accomplish anything.
Photography by Sumner McMurtry