Legend has it that each year the running of the bulls occurs throughout valley’s in southern Alberta. Like the westerly Chinook winds they say the bulls arrive from the vast forestry’s in the Rocky Mountains. They stay hidden from human belief and verdict, remaining camouflaged within the tree lines of the forests. Legend conveys that no fence or ground level guards stop the bulls, yet all account, no fence or guard has ever been found damaged following the runs. Historians throughout the valleys portray the legends, suggesting the bulls run in silence through the forests; never startling the livestock as they pass through the hills and valleys. Few Historians attest to witnessing the runs. They speak of the majestic animals having horns sculptured to frame their faces as warriors and patriots for their herds, painted in a landscape so that only Mother Nature could accept rewards.
Local galleries portray the renderings and beauty of the valleys, the mountains and the forests, yet no canvas documents the spirit of the legends.
Spring had finally arrived in the Foothills, the winds whistling through the trees and down the valley’s, the birds weaving and dodging, the horses cantering and calling into the skies, all grateful for springtime, especially in the Rockies.
Mother Nature always tells you of a danger or an unknown; the birds will stop singing and take shelter, the horses will stir and race for safer ground, but nothing today, this glorious day continued with the unique Alberta blue sky’s’ reflecting down onto the valley.
It was late afternoon and the shadows, always arriving from the forest, lay still on the grass. Only the breeze and your footprints could be heard, there was complete stillness. The horses, resting at the pond paid no heed to my presence. My calls remained unimportant to their interests.
Each day, before the stillness of night, we are treated to a waltz of shadows. With the winds rolling through the trees the shadows, of all different shapes, slowly extend and move, up and down the ground covers and seemingly want to stretch in order to reach the reflective images in the pond.
This night the reflections from the pond included much more than the intricacies of the willows, all the young leaves and limbs of the great aspens all rolling in the breeze. Without movement there were reflective images of what appeared to be the heads of cattle. Their reflections span the length of the pond indicating more than a dozen. They stood in strength and silence. The horses not at all rattled by this reflection they turned and walked towards the stable. They moved calmly into their stalls reflecting no regard for what we left behind at the pond.
Perhaps the reflection was nothing more than cattle from the adjoining pasture coming into the valley. The evening advanced and allowed time to reflect on the folklore of the legends and the running of the bulls. It shall all be sorted in the morning.
Yet in the morning there was no evidence of any trespassers, neither bulls nor cattle, nor was there evidence of damaged fencing.
The gates opened and the horses left the stable, gazing over the valley undisturbed. Visitors to their valley, including the forsaken coyote crisscrossing in pursuit of rodents; the lonely wolf sitting under a cluster of pine trees, or the calf of the masterful moose still trying to lift himself over the fence, have all known the thunder of the horses hooves as they pursue the trespassers, charging with raised heads, flared nostrils and not retreating until the trespassers have escaped over the fence.
With no reaction from the horses, other than their mandate this morning to seek the moist spring grass awaiting them in the valley, I gave no further thought to the chameleon shadows of last evening.
This day offered sunshine, fresh air, birds singing and the chinook breezes. Grabbing the cutters I walked through the valley so to get to the willows, which, with all winters moisture were in splendid bloom. Like a patchwork quilt the long natural grass surrounding the willows had been bent and pushed to the ground, like when the deer take shelter in the grass creating beds for themselves. Unlike the area needed for the deer, these were much larger in diameter. I remember seeing a herd of elk so they must have slept here.
Now early evening I walk to the valley to call the horses to the stable. The shadows were rolling along the grasslands, the leaves singing in the breeze. Again the horses resting at the pond showed no interest in my presence. As I walk to the pond everything remained still, other than the faint snapping of ground cover you hear when walking. I peek across the pond and tonight it only reflects the waltz of the aspens. Halters now on the lead horses, we turn towards the stable and meet with the majesty of a long horned bull. The horses show no hesitancy moving forward past the vast essence of this beast. His coloring was deliberate and powerful, yet he allowed us to pass and move into the stable. After the horses were settled, I looked out onto the valley, paying attention to the pathway just taken, yet I saw nothing.
The next morning, the horses released into the valley, the sun again holding great warmth and the birds singing; but this morning laying in the shade of the aspens and the pines were the bulls, free of tags, of branding. Any concern that I had for the safety of the horses was quickly set aside. The bulls lay in peace, hiding from the heat of the sun, the horses seeking the dew covered grasses. The valley remained in harmony. Not until the afternoon breeze came down into the valley was there movement from the visiting bulls and only to the pond for water. Their majesty was silencing, their colors were taken from a pallet. Then in spirit and body they rose, walked into the forest and they were gone. Unlike the two previous nights, the horses waited at the stable door for my arrival no longer interested in their reflections at the pond.
The pond again, now only holds the shadows of the great aspens and the willows. Again the long wild grasses roll in the breezes of the Alberta Rockies.
You don’t speak of the Spirits, or attempt to add to the folklore of the Valley, but I see the evidence of their presence when I travel to the forestry and see the young long horned calves, with only colors that would match their great ancestors.