The Roping Of A Bull (The Dumb Things Done For Wages)

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Years ago I was working for an outfit that ran lots of cows with very little management. The gathering of the cows was quite a challenge as the country was rough with gumbo breaks, timbered ridges and oak thickets and nowhere on the whole ranch was a pasture with a decent fence on it. Lots of the cows didn’t get gathered every year and were pretty wild.

My boss was the owner and for the sake of the innocent, I’ll call him Willis. We were in a really rough pasture pushing some of these high headed cows out ahead of us when he mentioned that I ought to keep my eyes open for an old red bull that needed to be gathered. He said that the bull was big and nasty and wouldn’t stay with the cows anymore and he wanted to take him to town and weigh him up. He had last seen him sometime the year before in this area of deep, brushy draws.

As I was riding across to the head of the next draw, lo and behold, down the draw I spotted a big, red bull slipping into a chokecherry thicket. I pushed the cows on west and met up with Willis as we went through the gate and told him what I’d seen. He perked right up and said we’d get these cows on over to the meadows and then bring the pickup and trailer back and try to capture the bull.

Since the cows were traveling at a long trot, it didn’t take long to reach our destination, so we were soon back with the rig on the flat above the draw where I’d seen the bull. I was riding Kelly, one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden and was cautiously optimistic as I cinched up and made sure everything was right with my rig. Thankfully, Willis was riding the biggest, stoutest horse he owned, and I knew he could really rope, so that was a plus.

We went way out around and came into the draw below where I’d seen the bull den up. We came up the draw, one on each side of brush that ran it’s length, and soon we saw the bull moving ahead of us. We had Willis’s good dogs with us, so he sent them in to encourage the bull out of the thickets. Sure enough, with a little bellering and snarling, the bull broke for the head of the draw and we fell in behind him, ropes down and ready to get serious when we hit the flat on top.

When he started across the flat, I saw Willis was ready as could be. I was closest, I stuck a loop on ol’ red’s brawny neck. Kelly and I did manage to slow the bull down and noted right off that the bull was not impressed with us in the least. I looked toward Willis to see why he hadn’t roped him yet and he was just riding along with a loop in his hand. I suggested rather firmly that he ought to rope him and he replied “I can’t, this horse won’t pull at all!”. That little tidbit of information would have been wonderful to have had a few minutes sooner!

We were rapidly approaching the next set of draws, so Kelly and I started trying to slow the freight train down a bit and dodge the bull at the same time. I wasn’t carrying a very long rope, about 40 feet I suppose, so was way too close to the bull. Willis was riding hard to get the pickup and came roaring toward us at high speed. Just before Willis ran over us, the bull choked down and flopped over on his side.

I kept enough tension on the rope to keep the bull from getting too much air while Willis tied the trailer door open and then stuck a loop on the bull’s head with his rope and ran it up through the side of the trailer. I switched ropes while the bull gasped for breath and got set. When the bull got enough air to live on again, he jumped up and started thrashing around like a blue marlin on the end of the rope. Every time his front feet left the ground, Kelly and I took up the slack. We finally had him against the back of the trailer, waiting for the next leap so we could snatch him in. About then Willis smacked the bull with something and the bull lunged toward him instead of up and forward. He then threw himself and slid his front legs under the back of the trailer, all sulled up and out of air again.

While the bull pouted, I gave Kelly a little break and repositioned us. Willis excitedly pointed out that when the bull fell that time, his cajones were flopped out on the ground behind him and just shining in the sun. I could see them from where I was, and started to follow Willis’s train of thought. The two dogs had been waiting for a chance to help some more and were trembling with anticipation. When I indicated that Kelly and I were as ready as we’d ever be, Willis pointed toward the saco de toro and told the dogs “get ahold”. Did they ever!

Mr. Bull let out a beller heard 40 miles away, lunged to his feet (knocking the trailer sideways in the process) and at just that moment, Kelly bellied down and leaned into it with all he had and only stopped when the bull’s head banged against the inside front quarter of the trailer. Willis slammed the gate and chained it shut. I let Kelly walk out to the end of the rope and then stepped off. After loosening the cinch and breast collar, I helped Willis tie the bull’s head to the front brace of the trailer so he couldn’t jump out.

Willis headed back to headquarters while I led his no-pulling big horse home. When I got there, he’d backed the trailer up against the wall of the shop so the bull couldn’t climb out and had untied him. Three days later Willis hauled him to the sale barn on sale day and the bull went straight from the trailer to the sale ring without being penned. Even after a shrink like that, he still weighed 1860 pounds.



Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

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....

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