A Bull Teaches a Lesson
- February 14, 2023
- Jan Swan Wood
It was time to be gathering bulls after breeding season, but some of the pastures on the ranch made that a challenging job. Also, some of the bulls had gotten big and hard to handle, plus didn’t want to be gathered, so it was some long hard days that resulted.
We’d gotten the “easy” bulls gathered and moved out of the pastures so that left a couple of the tough ones to get. It was decided by the owners that if these bulls could be loaded into the trailer they’d be given a trip to the sale barn. The sticky part of that was the getting them loaded. They were miles from any pens and the pasture they were in was rough, rocky, steep, and with ample thickets to hide in for the bulls. Getting them rousted out of those thickets, which were virtually impenetrable for anything but a bird or a huge Charolais bull, required tough dogs, which we didn’t have. There was one small Heeler who was noisy but not very tough, and alone, couldn’t do more than irritate the bull.
We had located one of the bulls and when he saw us, he had made a break for rougher country. Just as he got within feet of a thicket one of the guys got a loop on him. In spite of the good horse he was on though, the bull managed to get into the brushpile. The bull, weighing close to a ton, couldn’t get away, but the horse, weighing in at 1200 pounds, couldn’t pull him out of the thicket. The plan was to get another loop on the bull’s head or a foot, and then, with him somewhat anchored, maybe the pickup and trailer to could be brought within a reasonable distance and we could get him loaded.
The boss’s wife rode to get the pickup and trailer as she knew the pasture well and thought she could get back close to us. The rest of us would try to get the bull up onto a spot about 100 yards from where he was fuming in his brushpile. We let our horses blow a bit while we strategized. The guy who had the bull roped was on a really good horse. The boss was on a pretty good horse but
he wasn’t very big. I was on a horse who was kind of green, though about six years old. Not the best to be trying to handle a truly nasty bull with, so it was decided that the boss would try to get another loop on the bull and I’d be the bait for the bull. My horse Traveler, was catty and quick, but he had a quirk that didn’t endear him to me at all. Once in a while he would just throw a pout and either buck or sull up and not move. I was sure hoping he didn’t have to pull his act that day.
We heard the pickup and trailer coming from far off, so the effort to extract the bull from the thicket so another loop could be added started. I’d ride into the edge of the thicket, the bulls would make a run at me and stop at the edge. The guy who had him on his rope would remaneuver and take up some slack. The boss was poised and ready with his loop so I rode in once again to bait the bull with my horse. The bull blew snot and came after me, this time mistakenly getting a little too far out of the thicket and the boss stuck another loop on his head. This time he couldn’t withdraw any, so it was bait and charge, take up some slack until they had him free of the brush. Mind you, the rocks there were as big as a kitchen table plus some smaller ones, so it wasn’t just smooth sailing once out of the thicket.
The bait and ride thing kept working as the bull was really on the warpath by this time. Traveler seemed to have the deal all figured out and was reacting perfectly every time I asked him to. We were very close to where the trailer could get to so we let the horses stand a moment. The boss’s wife pulled onto the little open spot between rocks and parked, jumped out, unloaded her horse and tied him off at a distance, then tied the trailer gate open. We were ready for the final assault.
When we baited the bull and Traveler spun around to leave the scene, his brain burped. He was facing the trailer and apparently decided he was done for the day and threw it in park about six feet from the bull, and no amount of encouragement would make him untrack. Even though there were two ropes on that bull, he still lunged hard enough forward and nearly jerked the smaller horse down that the boss was on. He got enough slack to stick his big head between Traveler’s hind legs and lift him up, tossing us about 10 feet when he did it. Traveler landed on his feet, thankfully. That untracked him! When the bull made another lunge, Traveler moved right along to stay ahead of him, going past the back of the trailer and on by.
The other two horses stopped the bull there, where he promptly ran out of air and flopped down. One rope was run up through the trailer quick while the other held the bull. The bull had a foot sticking out, so the boss’s wife took my rope and ran it through the trailer and put it on that foot and we took up the slack. Then the boss had her put his rope up through the trailer on the other side. With all of us pulling and the boss’s wife and the little dog working on the bull, the bull finally lunged to his feet and got snatched into the trailer while his feet were moving. Gate slammed, we had our bull in captivity.
Using a stick, we got our ropes back off the bull, and coiled them up while the horses got cinches loosened and a chance to rest. I was pretty disgusted, and a bit embarrassed, at Traveler’s little scene. He could have gotten us killed. He had landed on his feet, which was what saved us. Ever after, though, Traveler never did the sull up and park thing again. No matter what, he’d keep
moving, even if it was high, wide and handsome bucking. I think of the two, I prefered the bucking. I was usually mad enough to ride him when he did that!
About Jan Swan Wood
Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....