Jersey Bull Adjustment
- June 6, 2023
- Jan Swan Wood
My dad was born in 1925, and the oldest of two boys. His brother Keith was several years younger than him. They were raised hard, in that there was a great deal expected of them by a stern father. My dad, especially, had a lot of responsibility as a very small boy, since he was the oldest. This story is about how they did something they were probably, nowadays, way too young to do.
Dad and Keith were responsible for riding out and checking on a bunch of cows and calves, that were on some leased ground northeast of town about seven miles or so, and about 18 miles from home. It was in early May, so after school, they’d ride out to this pasture and check on things, making sure there was water at the windmill and that there weren’t any strays in with them. Then they’d ride home.
Being the oldest, Dad would often be riding some trader horse that Grandad had gotten, and they were usually real gems. Keith would be riding a good little horse named Dicky. In the accompanying photo, Dad is on the little horse or pony, and Keith is on the bigger horse who I assume was Dicky. Dad was bigger than Keith, though the picture doesn’t show that. Dad’s saddle had the horn broken off the tree and it hung by the leather that covered it, so it was no good for anything. He told me that when he’d meet someone when riding, he’d poke that horn back onto the swells and hold it there with his wrist so he’d look like a cowboy. Mind you, he often wore bib overalls and usually just shoes, but sometimes had a hat.
On the day in question, Dad and Keith had ridden out to the pasture and, as had become a regular occurance, a neighbor’s Jersey bull was in with the cows. Having those ranch cows bred to a Jersey bull was somewhat worse than them getting snakebit, so it was critical that the bull be removed as soon as possible. The bull was older and had sharp, nasty horns, and was working the resident bulls over pretty bad, besides breeding some of the cows. He’d fight the young boys every step and try to hit their horses,
so sure wasn’t fun to handle either.
The neighbor who owned the bull was actually even nastier than the bull, and he had two Jersey bulls to breed his milk cows with. The bigger one was the traveler though, and Dad and Keith were very tired of fighting him out of the cows and taking him back several miles to the neighbor, who would yell at them and sic his dogs on them every time.
On this day, the two boys, who were maybe 11 and 8 years old, decided to fix the problem. So, Dad tied his rope through the gullet of his saddle and after a couple of tries, roped this nasty bull around the horns. Keith threw many loops before snagging the heels, and they got the bull down. Dad got off of his horse, which must have been the reliable Pepper, not a trader dink. He dug his pocket knife out, and of course, it was as dull as a knife could be, and proceeded to castrate the bull.
After a great deal of sawing on the end of the bag, with the bull protesting loudly, Dad finally had the cajones exposed for his removal. He had watched his Dad castrate hundreds of bulls, so he knew how to pull one nut out, and shave it back. When he had the first one removed, he gave it a fling, and lo and behold, the cord caught around the bull’s horn and did a wrap and hung there. It was a pretty big nut, of course. The boys thought that was pretty nifty, so when Dad had the second one out, he hung it on the
They had a big laugh about how the bull looked wearing them on his horns, then Dad hurried pulled his head loop off and got back on his horse. When Keith let the heels loose, that bull was longing for home! They made good time to the neighbor’s place, but then got nervous about facing this guy with his former bull decorated as he was.
Dad said the guy absolutely came uncorked! He cussed the boys up one side and down the other then was going to jerk them off their horses and give them a thrashing. At that, they decided they’d better skedaddle out of there and hit a lope with the guy screaming insults and siccing his dogs on them all the way to the road.
When they got home, they confessed to their Dad what they’d done. I’m sure, behind his stern demeanor, he was absolutely delighted with their operation on the bull, but he scolded them a little and told them he’d go talk to the man about what he’d said to them and about threatening to beat them.
Apparently their Dad gave the guy a good talking to, and the guy didn’t follow up with any threats. The next time they rode by the neighbor’s place, they could see the other Jersey, who was still intact, was on a picket chain, as the guy sure didn’t want to take a chance on having yet another big, nasty, staggy steer.
Dad said that watching that bull trot home with his nuts swinging on his horns was one of the most satisfying things he’d ever seen up to that point. I’ll just bet it was.
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....