Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Belk Bull

In her great book about the history of Charlotte, Mary Kratt mentions that the Belk Mansion (where Presbyterian Hospital is now) once featured farmland and a large pasture where cattle grazed. Of course, it’s hard to imagine bovine beasts roaming that now busy area between Presbyterian and Mercy hospitals, but I can personally verify that fact. I remember it.

We used to walk past that pasture every Saturday morning on our way to the Visualite theatre to see the Kiddie Show, featuring the latest exciting serials…as well as a feature film; sometimes a double feature. Jimmy Weller, Pat Parker, Earl Pope and I were attending Elizabeth School during those years, and the walks from the lower part of East 5th Street provided us with a lot of time to discuss…..whatever 8 or 9 year old kids talk about.

The most exciting part of our journey was always after we crossed Caswell Avenue (Georges Grill would later be built on that corner which, at the time was part of the Belk property.) As I recall, the pasture extended almost all the way up to just across the street from Saint Johns Church.

And Inside the fence surrounding the pasture was what was to be the Belk's last farm animal at that location……a bull!

One thing we “knew” even at our young age about bulls was……they hated the color red. Earl had heard somewhere that the reason bull fighters use red capes is because bulls hate the color red. So we made sure we never wore anything red to the kiddie show. Apparently it worked, because the bull seemed to make a habit of ignoring us.

Then, it happened.

One Saturday as we walked by the pasture I suddenly realized the argyle socks I was wearing were predominantly red! And it was too late to turn back. I was sure the bull would attack me and the offending socks at any moment. That was one of the longest half block walks of my life.

But I was lucky that day. The bull apparently didn’t notice my red socks because he just continued ignoring me.

It wasn’t long afterward that the bull and the pasture disappeared to make room for more “citified” structures. I remember my Daddy telling me that so much construction was going on in Charlotte that by the time I was grown, it would probably look like New York City.

Oh, he told me one other thing; that bull was really a cow.