Bull versus Bicycle 1890s style — Olympic Cycling Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin

Today, the Olympic Cycling Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers a new story of September 19, 1893 of the Bull versus Bicycle.

Fact or fanciful fiction? You decide.

From the Gettysburg Compiler:


Bull and Bicycle.

In the early autumn of 1892, C. and I were riding our good wheels through Evangeline’s land. We were rolling lazily along a well-kept, level highway and blessing the efficient road makers of Nova Scotia. Ahead of us, across a wide flashing water, the storied expanse at Minas, towered the blue-black bastion of Cape Blomidon, capped with rolling vapors. To our left and behind us rose fair, rounded hills, some thickly wooded, other with orchards and meadows on their slopes, while to our right lay unrolled those rich diked lands which the vanished Acadian farmers of old won back from the sea.

Though another race now held these lovely regions, we felt that the landscape, through whatever vicissitudes, must lie changelessly under the spell of one enchantment, the touch of the beloved poet. We felt that something more than mere beauty of scene, however wonderful, was needed to explain the exalted mood which had taken possession of two hungry and athletic wheelmen like ourselves, and we acknowledged that additional something in the romance of history and song.

Presently we came to a stretch of road which had been treated to a generous top dressing of loose sand. Such ignorance of the principles of good road making soon brought us down both from our lofty mood and from our laboring wheels. We trudged toilsomely for nearly half a mile, saying unkind things now of the Nova Scotian road makers and quite forgetting the melodious sorrows of the Acadian exiles.

Then we came to the village of Port Avon and were much solaced by the sight of the village inn.

In the porch of hte unpretentious hostelry we found a fellow cycler, in a sorely battered condition. Several strips of court-plaster, black and pink, distributed artistically about his forehead, nose and chin, gave a mightily grotesque appearance to his otherwise melancholy countenance. One of his stockings was rolled down about his ankle and he was busy applying arnica to a badly bruised shin.

Against the bench on which he was sitting leaned a bicycle, which looked as if it had been in collision with an earthquake.

The poor fellow’s woebegone countenance brightened up as we entered, and we made ourselves acquainted. He was a solitary tourist from Eastport, Me., and a principal in the important case of Bull versus Bicycle, which had just been decided very much in the favor of Bull. We dined together, and as our appetite diminished our curiosity increased.

Presently Caldwell, as the woebegone cyclist called himself, detailed to us his misadventure as follows:

“It wasn’t more than an hour before you fellows came that I got here myself. I was in a nice mess, I can tell you, but plenty of cold water and Mrs. Brigg’s arnica and court-plaster have pulled me together a lot. I only hope we can do as much after dinner for that poor old wheel of mine.

“This morning I had a fine trip pretty nearly all the way from Hanston. Splendid weather, wasn’t it? and a good had road most of the way, eh? You remember that long smooth hill about two miles back from here and the road that crosses it at the fort nearly at right angles? Well, as I came coasting down that hill, happy as a clam, my feet over the handles, I almost ran into a party of men with ropes and a gun, moving along that crossroad.

“I stopped for a little talk with them and asked what they were up to. It appeared that a very dangerous bull had got loose from a farm up the river and had taken to the road. They were afraid it would gore somebody before they could recapture it. I asked them if they knew which way it had gone, and they told me the ‘critter’ was sure to make right for the dike lands where it used to pasture in its earlier and more amiable days.

“That crossroad was the way to the dikes and they pursued it confidently. I took it into my head that it would be a lark to go along with them and see the capture of the obstreperous animal, but the men, who were intelligent fellows and knew what they were talking about, told me I should find the road too heavy and rough for my wheel. Rather reluctantly I bade them good morning and continued my journey by the highway.

“Now, as a fact, that bull had no notion of going to the dikes. He had turned off the crossroad and sauntered along the highway, just where he could get the most fun and see the most of life. But I’ll venture to say he hadn’t counted on meeting a bicycle.

“I hadn’t gone more than half a mile, or perhaps less, when a little ahead of me I noticed some cattle feeding by the roadside. I thought nothing of that of course, but presently one of the cattle, a tremendous animal, almost pure white—stepped into the middle of the road and began to paw the mud. Certain anxious questions arose within me.

“Then the animal put his great head to the earth and uttered a mighty bellow. With much perturbation of spirit I concluded that the angry bull had not betaken himself to the dikes after all.

“I felt very bitter towards those men for this mistake and for not having suffered me to go along with them on their futile errand. They wanted the bull and wouldn’t find him. I, on the other hand, had found him, and I didn’t want him at all.

“I checked my course, pedaling very slowly, uncertain what to do. The bull stood watching me. If I turned and made tracks, he would catch me on the hill or on the soft crossroad. If I took to the woods there was little to gain, for there were no fences behind which to take refuge, and if I should climb a tree I knew that the beast would demolish my wheel.

“Straight ahead, however, as far as I could see, the road was level and good, and in the distance I saw farms and fences. I decided to keep right on.

“The road along there is wide and hard, as you know, and bordered with a deep ditch. I put on good speed, and the bull as he saw me approaching, looked a little puzzled. He took the wheel and me, I presume, for some unheard of monster. I guessed his meditations and concluded he was getting frightened.

“But there I was mistaken. He was only getting in a rage. He suddenly concluded that it was his mission to rid the world of monsters, and with a roar he charged down to meet me.

“‘Now,’ thought I, ‘for a trick, and then a race in which I will show a pretty speedy pair of heels!’ I rode straight at the bull, who must have had strange misgivings, though he never flinched. At the last possible moment I swerved sharply aside and swept past the baffled animal in a fine, triumphant curve. Before he could stop himself and turn I was away down the road at a pace that I knew would try his mettle.

“But the brute had a most pernicious energy. He came thundering and pounding along in my tracks at a rate that kept me quite busy. I stayed ahead easily enough, but I did not do much more than that for fear of getting winded.

“There’s where I made the mistake, I think I ought to have done my utmost in order to discourage and distance my pursuer. I didn’t allow for contingencies ahead, but just pedaled along gaily and enjoyed the situation. Of course I kept a sharp lookout in order that I shouldn’t take a header over a stone, but I felt myself master of the situation.

“At last, and in an evil hour, I came to where they had been mending the road with all that abominable sand. Let us pass over my feelings at this spot. They were indescribable. My wheel almost came to a standstill. Then I called fresh energies and bent forward and strained to the task. I went ahead, but it was like wading through a featherbed, and the bull began to draw nearer.

“A little in front the fences began. The first was a high board fence with a gate in it and a hay road leading by a rough bridge into the highway. My whole effort now was to make that gate.

“The perspiration was rolling down my face, half blinding me. My mighty pursuer was getting closer and closer, and I was feeling pretty well pumped. It was as much as a bargain which would win the race. I dared not look behind, but my anxious ears kept me all too well informed.

“I reached the bridge and darted across it. Immediately I hear my pursuer’s feet upon it. I had no time to dismount. I rode straight at the gate, ran upon it and shot over it head first in a magnificent header, landing in a heap of stones and brambles.

“In a glow of triumph, which at first prevented me feeling my wounds, I picked myself up—and beheld the furious beast in the act of trying to gore my unoffending bicycle.

“At first he had stopped in consternation, naturally amazed at seeing the monster divided in two parts. The portion which had shot over the gate he perceived to be very like a man, but the other part remained all the more mysterious. Presently he plunged his horns tentatively into the big wheel, whereupon my brave bicycle reared and struck him in the eye with a handle and set the little wheel crawling up his neck.

“At this the bull was astonished and alarmed—so much so that he backed off a little way. Then seeing that the bicycle lay motionless on the ground he charged upon it again, maltreating it shamefully and tossing it on top of his horns.

“This was too much for me. I ran up, reached over the gate and laid hold on my precious wheel. By strange good fortune I succeeded in detaching it from the brute’s horns and hauling it over the gate. Then I pelted the animal with sticks and stones till he got disgusted and moved away.

“As soon as he was safely off the scene I opened the gate and limped sorrowfully down to this place, dragging my wheel by my side. Do you think we can do anything with it?”

“The first thing necessary,” said I, “is to have an examination and make a diagnosis of its injuries.”

This we forthwith proceeded to do and found the matter pretty serious. After spending an hour in tinkering at the machine we had to give up the job. Then we set forth on a visit to the village blacksmith, who, after being regaled with a full account of Caldwell’s misadventure, addressed himself to his task with vast good will.

He was a skillful man, and before nightfall the wheel was in better traveling shape than its unlucky owner. But Caldwell was good stuff and of a merry heart, so that when on the following day he became our traveling companion, we found that his scars and his lugubrious countenance only heightened the effect of his good fellowship. — Chas. G. D. Roberts.


The Olympic Cycling Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of a bicycle accident, titled “What Happened,” circa 1897.

Olympic Cycling Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin