Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Whole Lot of Bull

    Dateline Panama: The Los Santos Feria comes once a year.  A sort of county fair, it features thousands of exhibits, hundreds of food vendors, lots of merchandising, and plenty of handsome animals.  Participants come for the fun from all over the province, and from all over Panama.
    My friends and I wandered through displays of pretend cane fields, cornucopias of piled papayas and mangoes and guayabanas and other tropical deliciousness, past a complex agricultural display tucked behind a truly remarkable fence made from corn dried on the cob in the shapes of pinwheels, flowers and geometric shapes, and on to the rows upon rows of prize bulls neatly tethered at precise distances from each other beneath a very long cow-port.
    I was particularly charmed by the bulls.  Cattle here tend to be extremely lean. Skinny, even. Not to digress, but nearly any meat you can buy at the store is lean and stringy. It doesn't make a good burger. (TIP: I often have the butcher regrind the meat with some fat. When I do that the meat makes incredibly tasty burgers, and costs me half as much.)
    These bulls would not need to be re-ground with extra fat.  But who would be crazy enough to do that? These big boys are valuable for their flesh in a different venue - their sexual prowess. They are breeders, at around $10,000 per ton, give or take.
    A variety of Brahma cattle, they are usually a gorgeous cream-rich-in-butterfat color, and so large that were I to dare the act, we could stand shoulder to shoulder.  They have the Brahma hump, and beautiful big brown eyes. They are magnificent.
    But I will state categorically that those bulls had to have been drugged. There is otherwise no way that much testosterone could stand around in the same place, placidly tethered and chewing its cud.
I watched one mammoth beast salute the bull next to him. Possibly their drugs were wearing off a bit. They butted heads, gently slamming together the flat planes across the fronts of their skulls. A bit of desultory pushing that didn't involve either of them moving half an inch, then they mutually decided eating would be more fun, and so returned their individual attentions to the bin in front of them.