Texas Tales -- Big Boy the Big Bad Bull
A bull is a bull is a bull -- BIG BULL!
Umpteen years ago I lost a very good friend to a bull – in the lot behind his own barn. Since that time I’ve never, ever felt comfortable in the presence of a bull of any kind, age or color. It’s one of those things Texans describe as “I cain’t hep it!” Over many years working with cattle, horses and goats it’s inevitable a bull’s going to be in the mix as they’re important to the whole process. I first met “Big Boy” – the bull that’s the prime character in this yarn – on an airplane landing strip at the ranch. He was where the airplane needed to land and I was assigned to convince him to move. We worked that out amicably -- much to my surprise!
A couple of weeks had passed after the airplane saga when it was time to move cattle from one pasture to another. Once we got them moved we were going to introduce Big Boy to that herd of cows and let nature take it’s course. Introducing him to his new wives meant moving him, too and that’s where things got a bit ridiculous.
At the time I didn’t know much about Big Boy. Husband No. 2 knew he’d come from the next ranch over as his daddy (my Pop-In-Law – whom I adored) had purchased the bull. I just knew the huge creature had arrived in a neighbor’s stock trailer, been taken to a pasture by one of the ranch hands, unloaded and supposedly had been living happily ever after – except for the airplane incident two weeks earlier.
Anyway, early that morning we moved all the cows to where they were gonna graze for a while. Just as I was closing the gate I heard Husband No. 2 tell his son – probably 10-12 years old – to ride to the next pasture over and get the new bull started toward the gate. It was his intention to open the gate when Son and Big Boy the Bull got close. Son kicked up his old gray horse (actually Husband No. 2’s roping horse and a ranch horse extraordinaire) and disappeared into the next pasture.
A whole lot of bull -- six feet tall and 3,000 pounds
The last stand of sittin' bull...
In less than 15 minutes Son was back, his horse was sweating like he’d just run the Kentucky Derby and Son was rattled out of his wits. Of course Husband No. 2, being of a down-to-earth nature and oft times short on patience immediately asked, “What the hell you doin’ back here without that bull – couldn’t find him or what?”
Being a kid and wanting to please his father, Son was obviously not only anxious but embarrassed. “Daddy, that ‘ol bull’ll fight ye!” That was a bit more than Husband No. 2 was willing to accept so he replied, “That bull’s a pet. Hell, he was hand-raised by that old couple over on the next ranch. They only parted with him ‘cause they’re sellin’ out and movin’ to town to please their kids. Just turn yore butt around and go get him!”
Tears welled up in Son’s eyes and Husband No. 2 – feeling like a jerk for being so stern – changed his tune. “It’s okay, son – I’ll go with you and we’ll get him together.” Something told me this whole thing wasn’t playing out right so I decided to ride along behind the two of them and just watch. We opened the gate to the next pasture, closed it and at that point Husband No. 2 asked Son, “Where’s the bull at – where’d you leave him?” I nearly fell out of my saddle at Son’s answer: “He’s sittin’ over yonder underneath a tree to keep cool.”
To say Husband No. 2 went western would be an understatement. “What the hell you mean he’s sittin’ under a tree. Bull’s don’t sit!” I watched Son try to stifle a grin when he answered, “This’n does!” About that time we topped a rise and sure enough, at the bottom of the rise, under a tree in the shade -- sat Big Boy. Husband No. 2 was speechless and I was laughing like a loon. Son said, “See, daddy, I told you – he’s just sittin’ there like he owns the place.” Well, that was definitely too much for me and I gave up on keeping my mouth shut. “Ah…well, does appear bulls sit!” Husband No. 2 was in no mood for humor or anything else. It was 102 degrees in the shade and he was hot and tired.
“Y’all stay here – I’ll go get him.” With that he took his rope off the saddle, formed a decent loop and began approaching the bull while slapping the rope against his leg. Now, dear hearts, we’re not talking about a novice roper here – this man’s won a lot of money roping professionally and he and his partner were probably the hottest head and heelers in Central Texas at that time. As he kept popping his leg with the rope he began to talk to the bull: “Get up, Big Boy – get up!” The bull did not move but his eyes were getting wider and wider as Husband No. 2 approached.
Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, Big Boy got up! He not only got up but began to beller like he was furious, downed his big head and charged Husband No. 2 and his horse. The horse was so startled he nearly fell down trying to back up and Husband No. 2 was doing his best to stay on the horse and avoid the bull. By the time his horse had his feet back under him Husband No. 2 was whipping and spurring like the devil himself was after him and I’m not sure that wasn’t the case. I’ve never seen a bull that mad or literally chasing a man on a horse.
Husband No. 2 outran the bull, of course, as big, Hereford bulls aren’t all that speedy but they can be damned determined. When man and horse had outdistanced him the bull stopped and waited and when Husband No. 2 attempted to circle him the bull cut across and took up the chase again. This time there was no attempting to circle him again. Husband No. 2 quit and rode off a distance from the bull. At that point Big Boy lumbered back to his tree, pawed the ground a bit and sat his big butt right back down where he’d been when we’d originally found him.
Son and I were laughing so hard we were crying but decided to give that up when Husband No. 2 rode back to where we’d been watching the show. “Damned bull sure will fight. Sorry I doubted you son,” and with that we returned to the pasture with the cows. I should have known Husband No. 2 was going to bait his best friend and roping partner who’d been helping us that morning. “Chuck – I don’t know what to do about that new bull. He’s one fightin’ S.O.B. and truth be told he scares the hell out of me,” and the trap was laid.
“You talkin’ about that bull your dad got from the Olsens?” It was obvious Chuck knew a bit about the bull and was taking the bait. “Yeah, that’s the one,” Husband No. 2 replied.
“That bull’s a pet. Them old folks raised him by hand and he followed ‘em all over the place. Ain’t no way he’s dangerous,” Chuck said and was still talking as he mounted his horse, “Come on, I’ll get him fer ye,” and we were once again off to the next pasture. When we all topped the rise there was Big Boy, still sitting under his tree.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” said Chuck, “I’ve never in my life seen a bull sittin’,” and we all agreed with him. “Reckon why he does that?” Son spoke up at that point, much to his father’s chagrin, “He’s probably tired ‘cause he chased daddy all over this pasture ‘while ago.” With that he shut up after a very stern look from his father.
“I’ll git him; don’t worry,” and Chuck did the same thing Husband No. 2 had done earlier. He took his rope off the saddle, made a loop and began approaching the bull while slapping his leg with the rope. Again, Big Boy watched and waited with eyes getting bigger and bigger. With no warning whatsoever he was suddenly on his feet and charging Chuck’s horse. The horse, about half asleep, was caught totally unaware and without prompting from Chuck, whirled in an attempt to get out of the bull’s way. Before the horse could run Big Boy ran his head up under the horse’s hindquarters, lifting him totally off the ground and was propelling the horse, with Chuck still in the saddle, along on it’s front legs – kinda like pushing a wheelbarrow.
The situation was no longer humorous at all. If the horse, with only the use of his front legs fell – which he was bound to – Chuck could get stomped to death by the horse or the bull. Husband No. 2 again got his rope out and ran full tilt to Chuck’s rescue. He got close enough to Big Boy to kick him in the side, scream at him and whip him with his rope – but seemed nothing was going to work. Suddenly, and who knows why, the bull just stopped. He was winded and quivering and in that moment Chuck got his horse back on all four feet and out of the way and we all gave the bull all the room he needed. That was the end of trying to herd Big Boy for the day but Husband No. 2 wasn’t about to give up.
We went to the house in the truck and got his daddy who still had the notion the bull was a pet. After hearing about our non-productive and outright dangerous morning with the bull; he got in the truck with us and said he’d take care of it himself. We drove to the top of the ridge and Big Boy had again settled in for a good “sit” as he was as calm and collected as a king surveying his kingdom.
Without a word Pop-In-Law grabbed a rope out of the truck and set out – afoot – toward the bull. Both my husband and Chuck were about to have a fit as they were convinced Big Boy would charge Pop and stomp him to death in front of our eyes. I’ll admit – I kinda had the same thoughts going around in my head. What happened next was undoubtedly the most amazing thing I’d ever seen in my life – up to that point. Pop just walked up to Big Boy, put his rope around the bull’s neck, said “C’mon, Boy – git up,” and that big sucker did just that. Pop led him all the way to the next pasture like you’d lead the family dog on a leash. Once there, he slipped the rope off that old bull’s neck and got in the truck with us after closing the gate.
Husband No. 2 was more than a little ticked off, “You wanna tell us what the hell all that was about? That bull nearly killed me, my son, Chuck and our horses and you just walk up to him and put a rope around his neck like nothin’ happened at all?”
In spite of himself Pop began to laugh. “Son, I didn’t think about it before y’all came to get me or I’d have warned you. That bull was hand-raised by that old couple and they don’t have a horse on the place. He’s used to folks on foot but’s probably never even seen a horse in his whole life and it scared him. He was afraid of y’all’s horses and that’s why he fought you.”
Husband No. 2 was not amused. “I’ll tell you what I’d like to do. You go put yore rope back around that big bastard’s neck, lead him over there by the fire, and I’ll damn Sam guarantee you we’ll have the biggest and best barbeque in Texas ‘fore sundown,” and with that statement the saga of Big Boy the Sittin’ Bull was over – at least for that day.
Big Boy the bull was one of the finest herd bulls we ever had on the ranch. His calves were magnificent and he definitely proved himself to be a prolific old cuss. He never did get used to or even attempt to get along with horses. For some reason they terrified him and it was kind of like he couldn’t help it. When we moved him we’d get the stock trailer pretty close, LAY the rope over his head and lead him in the trailer, take him to where we wanted him, open the end gate and he’d hop right out.
Boy the Bull was one of the most unforgettable animal characters I’ve ever known in my life. The second most unforgettable was a big, old, smooth-mouthed gelding I rode for several years named “John.” John’s big claim to fame was he’d just doze off and nap while you were riding him – but then, that’s another story altogether!
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