From the Archives: 1994 – Modest farmhand saves Quebec farmer from attacking bull

Photo by Bruce Patton/Sherbrooke Record.  Carnegie Hero Michael Naylor poses for a photograph appearing in the Nov. 28, 1995, edition of the Sherbrooke Record. Naylor, 23, received the Carnegie Medal in 1996 for his actions in using a hammer multiple times to attempt to drive an enraged bull away from his employer on a Quebec farm.

Warren Deacon, a 47-year-old beef farmer from Waterville, Quebec, had begun Nov. 25, 1994, like any other, as he took responsibility for rounding up the cattle on his farm. Located in Ascot, Québec, Deacon owned many cattle that ranged on his pastures. Among them was a fully grown, 2,600-pound purebred Simmental bull that Deacon purchased four months prior. The hornless 4-year-old bull had taken part in local parades, thought to have a quiet and easy to handle personality.

Early that morning, Deacon used a rope to lead the bull across the pastures to house it in the barn. Deacon’s 23-year-old hired hand, Michael Naylor, was repairing a fence near the barn. The young man from Compton, Québec, had been on hand for 6 weeks. Although he had worked on dairy farms previously, he had never worked with bulls.

The 500 feet of land between the two men was slightly elevated making it impossible for Naylor to see Deacon. As Deacon led his prized Simmental, the bull suddenly became enraged and butted Deacon in the back, knocking him to the ground. Deacon later told Hero Fund investigator Marlin Ross that he assumed the sudden attack from the bull was because Deacon had recently separated it from the calves and cows it normally ranged among freely. As Deacon lay stunned on the ground from the first blow, the bull began to maul and stomp on his torso. Even after Deacon tried to play dead for a moment, the bull kept attacking him. He then called out to Naylor for help.

Photo by Bruce Patton/Sherbrooke Record. Warren and Linda Deacon speak to reporters in a photo that appeared in the Nov. 28, 1995, edition of the Sherbrooke Record. After her husband was attacked a year earlier by an enraged bull on his farm and saved by farmhand Michael Naylor, a thankful Linda Deacon submitted Naylor’s name for consideration for a Quebec bravery award.

Hearing Deacon’s cries but unable to see what was happening, Naylor went toward the scene. Seeing Deacon on the ground, Naylor ran at the bull, screaming, and wielding the hammer he still held from repairing the fence. He tried to divert the bull’s attention away from Deacon.

“The first thing I saw was the bull rolling him around like a rag doll,” Naylor told Sherbrooke Record reporters. 

“I had a carpenter’s hammer in my hand and I just started poking the bull in the head and yelling at him to distract him,” he said.

The bull showed no immediate interest in Naylor, continuing to focus its efforts on the injured Deacon. Even after Naylor reached the bull and struck it over the head with his hammer, managing to move it a short distance away, the target of the animal’s rage remained unchanged. It immediately refocused its attention toward Deacon, continuing its assault on him.

“He didn’t want me, he wanted Warren,” Naylor said in a media account of the incident.

Urgent to get the bull away from Deacon, Naylor came back a second time and used the hammer again to hit the unnerved animal. It produced similar results, the bull following him a short distance, but going right back to Deacon. Not willing to concede, Naylor returned again and hit the bull a third time with his tool, finally getting it to move about 5 feet away from Deacon, when it stopped in its tracks. Seeing a momentary opportunity, Naylor yelled for Deacon to crawl 25 feet into a portable cattle feeder – a steel cage, measuring 12 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 4 feet high, that was used to hold bales of hay from which multiple cows could feed. Made of steel tubing, the rectangular feeder provided enough protection to separate Deacon from the raging bull. At least, temporarily.

Linda Deacon submitted several photos to Hero Fund Investigator Marlin Ross during his investigation of farmhand Michael Naylor, who rescued her husband from an attacking bull in Quebec in 1994 including this photo that depicts the metal bale feeder that sheltered Warren Deacon temporarily from a bull after he was mauled by the enraged animal.

With Deacon in the feeder, Naylor went back toward the barn to retrieve Deacon’s parked pickup truck, giving the hammer to Deacon in the feeder before leaving. 

But during his absence, the bull returned.

It resumed its attack on Deacon within the feeder, butting at the spaces between the side bars. The relentless bull nearly managed to maneuver itself beneath the bottomless feeder, almost lifting it. It would not stop at trying to get to Deacon.

Naylor returned with the truck and used the vehicle as a battering ram to push the bull away from the feeder. With Deacon moving slowly from his injuries, Naylor opened the passenger side door, helped him in the cab, and drove back to the barn where they then called for help. Naylor left the situation unscathed, but Deacon had extensive injuries. 

“At first I didn’t think I was that bad,” Deacon told reporters later. “But then when I laid down I couldn’t breathe.”

An ambulance crew and police officer responded to the scene to take Deacon to the hospital. He was treated for internal bleeding, broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a laceration to his liver that required surgery. He spent 29 days in the hospital, and even after being released from the hospital, Deacon was unfit to do work on the farm for more than two months.

“I will never be back to full capacity,” Deacon said. “I’m at about 75 percent, but I get tired faster.”

In the weeks that followed the incident, Naylor and Deacon’s wife, Linda, took over responsibilities on the farm. They also had help from family and friends that supported them taking on Deacon’s duties. 

Another photo submitted by Linda Deacon to Hero Fund investigator Marlin Ross to assist in his investigation. This photo depicts a similarly sized bull purchased to replace the bull that attacked Warren Deacon.

“I was lucky — everybody helped me when I was down,” he said.

It was ultimately decided that the bull would be butchered.

Several months after the bull’s attack, Linda Deacon heard about the Quebec government’s award for bravery, and she immediately thought of Naylor. According to the Sherbrooke Record, Naylor was uncomfortable with the attention he gained for his actions and was more focused on forgetting what happened.

“I don’t figure I was doing anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done,” Naylor said in the Nov. 28, 1995 article. 

“I’m sure Warren would have done the same for me … I’m a quiet person, I don’t like too much action … Now I’m going to Quebec City to get an award or a plaque or something,” he said.

Despite his modesty, Naylor was awarded with the medal from Quebec City and recognized for what he had done to save Deacon. A year later, he was awarded with the Carnegie Medal and a $2,500 grant.

“For a young fella he handled himself pretty good,” Deacon said about Naylor. “If I hadn’t had a good hired man, I would have had to sell [the farm].”

— Griffin Erdely, communications intern