Toro, The Arena of Honor, and The Promised Land

Once there was a bull named Toro. Actually, when he was born, he was just a calf. Toro would run in the field and play all day long. One day he glanced over at a corral where the older bulls were running in circles. He asked his father what they were doing.

They are preparing for a sacred battle.”  His father said, grimly.

“A what?” Toro squinted and swatted a fly away with his tail.

“Look beyond the corral, my son. That structure that almost touches the sky is called the arena. It is the destiny of every bull to enter the arena.”

“But why?” Toro sneezed and swatted another fly.

“Sit down, my son.”

 Toro suddenly realized his afternoon play time was in jeopardy. His father had that serious look. So Toro rolled over in the grass.

His father began his monologue.

“In the beginning bulls, cows, and calves, would roam the open plains. We were free. Everything we needed was provided for. We all lived a full life, got old, and left the earth only when the Great Spirit in the sky called us home. There was peace and our lives were filled with love and joy. It was a bovine paradise!’

Toro thought to ask what bovine meant. But remembered that questions only lead to more answers and less play time.

“Then what happened Papa?” he said with curious eyes.

His father looked down at the ground. “Then the humans came. They rounded us up and put us in prisons they called corrals. They stole our milk, and in the prime of our lives they would lead us into those giant barns. No one has ever returned.”

Toro saw a tear forming in his father’s eye. He was amazed. He had never seen his father cry. But his father caught himself and drew the tear back and continued in his gruff voice.

“The sacred bovine folklore tells us this went on for a long, long, time. But then the humans made a mistake. We guess that out of boredom and due to the fact that they were just plain mean, they started teasing and harassing us bulls. They would mock us, hold up a red cloth, and get us to chase them around the corral. This gave then great joy. Soon more and more cowboys would come to see the spectacle, and it became an event.”

“That seems dumb! I don’t like cowboy’s” Toro pouted, hoping to get his father’s approval.

His father’s eyes lit up. “Then your great, great, great, great, great, Grandfather Torino did an amazing thing!”

“What?” Toro was into it now. Playtime could wait!

“He gored one of the cowboys with his horn! It was the first time a bull had ever gotten revenge for all the years of suffering the cowboys had caused.”

“Yes! That’ll show em! Did all the boveens go free after that?” Toro stood up excited.

“No, my son.” He exhaled. “They came in the corral with spears and swords and put your great, great, great, great, great, Grandfather Torino to death.

“Aw that sucks!” Toro blurted out.

“No. my son, It was a great honor. It is what the bovine sacred council calls the great sacrifice. Eventually they built that magnificent arena on the horizon. Now the humans come from miles around to watch as the tallest, strongest, and most handsome member of their herd stand in the center of the arena and square off against one of our bulls.”

“That’s not fair, I mean we have giant horns and the humans are…. well, just humans.”

“Sorry to say son, that they don’t give us a fair chance. The system is rigged!”

“How?”

“You see they dress up in tight pants, and a jacket that makes their shoulders look bigger. They put sparkly things all over it, so they can look good while they mock us. The humans are very vain. Then they take a large red cape and wave at us because they know it makes us angry. When we charge them they twirl and spin like a dance. Then we get really angry.”

“Then we gore them, right!” Toro screamed.

“No son, the humans are not only vain, they are cowards as well. It is at our strongest and proudest moment that the treachery begins. We are bulls and we hold our heads up high. The humans jump up on the backs of horses, and from this lofty place they swoop in from every direction and throw little spears at the back of our necks.”

“Why?” Toro was feeling sick.

“To get us to lower our heads. Once a bull lowers his head the fight is pretty much over. We cast our eyes down and after that we are unable to see clearly. We keep charging but now the bullfighter has the advantage. They position themselves and drive a sword directly into our hearts!”

“No!” Toro cried. He stumbled back and lay down with tears streaming down his cheeks. He looked up at his father. “Then why do we do it, Dad?”

“Honor, son, we do it for honor!”

“It’s honorable to get killed?”

“It’s honorable to die for something you believe in, son.”

“What do we believe in, Dad?’”

“We believe in justice.” His father lifted his eyes to the sky.

Toro sat silent thinking for a long, long, time and then said “Do you think we will be able to roam the prairie again, and live to be old and have peace, love, joy, and all that stuff you said?” Toro shook away his tears

“No son, their power is too great. I’m afraid peace and freedom is an impossible dream. Put it out of your head.”

“But if what we’re fighting for is impossible. Then why do we fight?”

“We fight for the chance, to hurt or kill one of the humans, to pay them back, for all they’ve taken from us, and for all the cows and bulls who have died at their hands. And we do it to honor our great, great, great, great, great, Grandfather Torino.”

Chills went up and down Toro’s spine. Up until now this had all been a story. Now he realized that he and his dad would one day be asked to enter the ARENA! Now he was terrified.

“Are we gonna halfta enter the arena, one day? Toro said sheepishly

“That’s what bulls are born to do! In three days I will enter the arena and honor all who gave their lives to bring honor and justice to the entire bovine nation!”

Toro was thinking, “It all seems so pointless?”

“Now, I have to get back to training for my big day, go on and play son, I’ll see you at the setting sun.” Toro’s father went back to the corral to practice with the other bulls.

Toro didn’t play for the next three days.

On the third day, the day his father was to enter the arena, Toro went to see him. His heart was shattered. After everything his father had told him about the arena, he wasn’t sure he would ever see him again. As Toro approached the corral he saw his father standing nobly, courageously, with his head held high.

“Today is a glorious day, my son, I will bring honor to our name.”

“Aren’t you afraid to die, Papa?” Toro’s voice quivered.

“To be without honor is the only death, now I want you to keep your eye on that door over there. When I kill the man with the tight pants, I will be led through that door and I’ll be walking on my own four feet. I will be a legend to bulls everywhere. It will inspire them to train hard and to be ready for their day of honor in the arena,”

“I love you, Papa.” Toro fought back his tears. He knew his father thought of them as weakness.

“I Love you too, son, keep your chin up!” His father turned and walked away. Toro’s tears fell silently into the mud.

Toro listened to the sounds of the crowd in the arena. He lived and died on every roar. Not knowing what it meant. At last the whole arena shook with a cascade of cheering. Toro imagined his father had killed the man with the fancy clothes. He stared at the dark wooden door waiting to see his father emerge.

Finally the door opened. Toro watched in horror as the men dragged his Father’s lifeless body out of the arena, leaving a trail of blood in the dirt. He experienced an explosive mix of grief and fury come upon him all at once. He now had a reason to train. He would avenge his father’s death!

After many days Toro’s horns began to emerge. He was welcomed into the corral for training. He was shown great respect and every one spoke of his father in hushed reverential tones. The word honor was the chorus of every conversation.

Over the next year, he watched as bull after bull was dragged out of the arena. The fire of anger was dissipated, with each one. It all seemed so empty and meaningless. His mind would wander back to the legendary days on the prairie, when the bovine nations had been free, at peace, and happy. How he longed for that life. He wished he could cut and run. But he knew if he did he would dishonor his father and the family lineage all the way back to is great, great, great, great, great, Grand Father Torino! There was no way out!

Finally his day arrived. He felt calm, unafraid, and apathetic. He had lost any passion one way or another, it all seemed so pointless. There wasn’t a reason to live. There wasn’t a reason to die. All the bulls gathered and murmured the word honor over and over again! Toro was led away towards the arena!

As he stepped into the arena the crowd roared. They began chanting and mocking! The matador stood in the center of the arena. With his tight pants and sparkly jacket, he twirled and spun. Waving his red cape over and over in circles, up and down, from side to side, in an attempt to anger Toro. Toro checked his heart, he didn’t know why, but there was no more fury, it was gone. All he could feel was compassion for this whole sad show. The world fell silent for him. He saw the contorted angry faces, arising from empty hearts, looking to satisfy a blood lust. He stood unmoving and then he just plopped down in the middle of the arena and exclaimed, “This is bullshit!” The crowd gasped. The matador stopped dancing, truly stunned. This had never happened before. At first the crowd was silent. Then slowly their disapproval grew to a crescendo. There had never been such a sea of hatred in the history of bullfighting. Veins were popping from every neck. But Toro sat still. They sent in the clowns and they mocked cajoled Toro with every trick in the clown booklet. Toro would not be moved. The matador was feeling somewhat embarrassed as he continued his hip gyrations into an empty wind, finally in shame he left the arena. Finally, Toro’s owner came out to lead him out of the ring he had disgraced all of bullfighting and its history with his one non action, action. Toro left the arena on his own four feet.

The other bulls cheered when the saw Toro come through the door! Ole’ they shouted in their native bovine tongue. They were overjoyed at the thought of a dead matador being dragged out of the arena on the other side. Toro was taken to the barn. The executioner’s asked his owner what he wanted to do. The owner said, “Well, by rights he should die, he embarrassed us all. But perhaps I can get a return on my investment. I’ll put him out to stud.”

Toro was led out of the barn. His brother’s cheered. They thought they had found a new hero in Toro who had lived up to the legend of his great, great, great, great, great, great, Grandfather Torino. But when he was led past them and released into the field with all the cows and calves, they began to murmur amongst themselves.

They eventually found out the truth that Toro had sat down in the ring. He didn’t even try to fight. He was a disgrace to them and everything they stood for. He had dishonored the bovine nation and was now with the cows and calves were he belonged.

Toro was initially hurt by this rejection, but in time he learned to love his life in the field with the cows and calves. In his heart he had always felt that the bull’s idea of honor was foolish. He had come to the conclusion that victory in the arena was an illusion. He still dreamed of a day when bulls, cows, and calves could roam the plains free, grow old together, be at peace, love one another, and enjoy the simplicity of life, one day at a time.

One day he noticed a break in the fence. He recognized it as the moment he had been waiting for. He silently whispered his plan to those who would listen and the following night he led a large group of cows, calves and a few bulls, through the fence. They traveled through the night and when the sun rose in the sky they had reached the open plain. They reached a field over the hills and far away. They were free! Toro became a legend beyond the legacy of his great, great, great, great, great, Grandfather Torino, for he had led the bovine nation to the promised land.

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