You just wait and see!” a large man yelled viciously, one beefy arm raised as he wagged a thick finger threateningly just a hair's breadth away from the face of an old woman who stood calmly and quietly in front of him.
“My herd will not go with you,” Magdalene found herself saying, then she paused unsure of how to continue, why had she said that?
Of course they would, they were animals that could be led anywhere. But she was weary right down to her frail bones that ached when she moved, and she was tired of arguing. She would not sell her farm, and she would not give in to this bully of a man.
“Do you think we will ask them?” he spat laughingly in her face, stepping closer so that his six foot frame would intimidate even more, “Hey cattle, do you want to come with us? We’re going…”
A long, and eerily loud low from one of the bulls grazing outside on the fresh sweet grass cut the heated exchange short. The man, Elias, whipped around expecting to see the bull right behind him with how loud it had sounded, then turned back to Magdalene, raising his finger and opening his mouth ready to go on the attack again when…
There it was again. And now Elias turned exasperatedly, picked up a clump of hard dirt and threw it angrily at the beast, hitting it on the rump. As the bull cantered slowly away, ambling unsteadily from side to side owing to its incredible size, Elias stormed off too. He’d gather his gang and be back. He’d show this stubborn old woman she should have taken the money and left like most of her neighbours had. He’d drive her and these stupid cattle off this land, this land beneath which lay minerals worth millions.
Magdalene sighed, watching him stomp away, the threat visible even in his retreating back. She was thankful for once for her noisy cattle, she’d been getting a headache, standing there in the sharp golden evening light listening to Elias cajole, yell, then turn menacing.
She stepped back into her one room cabin, its lofty ceiling and minimal design giving it an airy, spacious, yet cozy feel, put her kettle on a small stove top and started to make some tea. She thought best when she had a cup of tea in her hands. What would she do? She wrung her bony fingers and twisted them in worry.
Her neighbours, the three of them who were left, were young, tough and daring enough to have stood up to Elias so far, and they would come to her aid. But it would be dark before she could go over to the nearest one, and she was sure her herd would be gone when she returned with help.
“Oh,” Magdalene got up with a start as her kettle boiled over and hot water hissed as it hit the hot stove. She turned it off and stood listlessly, staring at the mess. She didn’t want tea anymore. Instead she went over to a short, roughly built cupboard and pulled out a bottle filled with a golden, amber liquid. A potent barley beer her grandfather had taught her to brew. She was on her second glass when after a long, deep draught, an idea struck her.
Elias wasn’t cold, in spite of the biting cold wind which was whipping his long coat about his sturdy legs. He stood on the crest of a hill bordering Magdalene’s farm, six of his men pacing eagerly around him.
Did the old woman think that by lighting no fire tonight, he’d somehow be deterred? He scoffed, visualising how easy this ‘relocation’ was going to be. Waving his men silently to attention, they crept down into the dark. They couldn’t see much but they could hear the low lows of the cattle as they neared, until the dark shape of Magdalene’s cabin came into view.
Remembering they only had an old woman to deal with, who was probably cowering somewhere, the men were emboldened and begun to roughly round up the animals.
“Hiya!” Elias cried, shooting his pistol into the air with a crack that reverberated in the silence.
Whooping and hollering, his cronies joined in but lo and behold, the cattle refused to move. They lay lazily lowing contently in small groups, some snoring deep in sleep, or tottered giddily in circles, falling, getting up and falling again. Even as the men fired round after round into the navy sky prickled with stars, they showed no fear. They simply sat or slept or rollicked like drunk sailors on a rocking boat.
“Hey!” one man called out to Elias as an all too friendly cow nuzzled his arm despite his rough shoves to get her to move, “What’s going on?!”
Elias bit his tongue and paused uncertainly. The old woman had said her animals would not leave, but he was not about to start getting silly over superstitious thoughts. He spun suddenly and strode towards the cabin. He was done playing nice, Magdalene would leave or die.
But just as he lifted his booted foot to kick in the door, a hail of bullets rained down on him and his friends as Magdalene arrived with her neighbours in tow, each of them armed and primed for a fight.
Elias was almost out of bullets, and so he turned and ran, his coat flapping in the wind as bullets nipped at his feet.