March 2012
Through the Fence

Brahman Bull vs. Bragging Boss

The boss man’s always right, even when you know he’s wrong. When my friend James was 18, he worked for a large livestock auction barn in west Texas. He had to bite his tongue one day when his boss, Les, insisted on tangling with a big, old Brahman bull.

James helped sort the 15 to 20 thousand sheep and 5,000 cows that they sold each week. There were lots of cowboys and dozens of pens and chutes to be manned. With that many head of livestock being moved in and out, everyone had to be on their toes.

There was a huge Brahman bull bred for rodeo stock, so he came by his jumping skills honestly. When the men moved him into a holding pen to wait for his new owner’s trailer, he began clearing the tall panels as easily as a skinny teenager sailing over track hurdles. But when he’d reach the little pen near the railroad loading area, he’d stop there and start looking around calmly. He made no effort to jump those panels even though they were much lower than the ones he’d just leaped over.

Several guys would work him back into the right pen and he’d start jumping again. Les showed up about that time and advised them to just leave him where he was until he settled down. When the buyer arrived with an open-topped trailer, it took five men to coax him down the chute and into the trailer. But he wasn’t done jumping. He bounded over the trailer into the bed of the truck and then onto the cab. He started flailing his huge front legs, hitting the windshield of the truck. The buyer hopped out of the car yelling for them to get the bull off before he broke through the glass.

One zap from a Hot Shot, and the bull bailed out of the truck and right back to the safety of the railcar pen. Frustrated and a little humiliated by the first attempt at loading, Les grabbed a new nylon lariat out of his truck. Back in those days, nylon was a fairly new invention, so he was sure it was superior to the ropes they normally used, even though it was smaller. He threw a loop around the bull’s head and snubbed him up close to a sturdy panel.

"I’m gonna teach that old rascal a lesson," Les said as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.

He brought out a long 2x4. James and all the other ranch hands shook their heads and braced for the explosion.

They didn’t have to wait long. One whack from the board and the bull snorted and tossed his massive head to one side, snapping the nylon rope like kite string. He turned on Les, hooking him with his horns under the buttocks and tossing him skyward. The man spun in mid-air for a moment before landing with a thud in the dust. When he did, the bull lowered his head and plowed a furrow down the length of his body.

In a flash, several of the men distracted the bull long enough for someone to drag Les to safety and call for an ambulance. One of the older cowboys fetched his thick cotton rope and tossed a loop over the bull’s head. He secured the other end to one of the stout posts in the chute. When the bull made a run for it and hit the end of the line, his rump flew high into the air. He flopped onto the ground, out of breath. In that brief pause, the man untied the rope from that post and moved it to another one nearer the trailer. In the meantime, the buyer had returned with an enclosed trailer.

They eventually got the exhausted bull into the trailer and on his way to his new home, and Les got carted off to the hospital. He stayed three weeks with only several broken ribs to show for his collision. He was eventually well enough to return to the sale barn. When he did, it was another two weeks before he could speak above a whisper. When he did talk, it wasn’t to brag about the virtues of nylon, nor his expert animal husbandry.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. E-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..