Friday, September 11, 2009



John Duncklee




In the early sixties, my partner and I bought some registered Brangus cattle from a breeder in Yuma. We leased a bull to service the heifers. The day the cattle arrived via truck from Yuma I was not at the ranch, but doing errands in town.


Seeing the truck parked at the loading chute when I returned, I drove to the corrals eager to see the heifers that we had purchased in order to start a breeding herd to hopefully sell registered bulls to Mexican ranchers from Sonora. The ranch bordered the highway between Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.


There were three people sitting on top rail of the corral, my partner, the truck driver and the man who did the farming for us. They looked around when I got out of my pickup and headed toward the corral gate. The bull stood separately in the middle of the closest corral. The truck driver held up his hand. “That bull is a mean one and will charge you if you go into that corral,” he said.


Lots of cattle truck drivers, because they haul cattle around the country, have the idea that they know everything there is to know about cattle. They acquire a cowboy hat and think they are cowboys. Seeing my partner perched on the corral fence I supposed that he believed everything this “cowboy” had said.


I knew that the man who raised this bull halter-broke all his bulls, so I opened the gate and walked slowly toward this “mean s.o.b”, as the truck driver had referred to him. When I had approached the corral from my pickup I had noticed that the truck driver carried a “hot shot”, a battery-powered prod that jolts an animal in order to make it move in the direction desired by the person using the devise. In those days most cattle truck drivers carried at least one of these “hot shots’ with spare batteries.


As I walked slowly, but deliberately, toward the bull I heard the truck driver tell the others I was crazier than hell. I began talking to the bull as I approached. He snorted a couple of times, shook his head at me and pawed the ground with his front hooves. Knowing that the truck driver had made him mad with the “hot-shot” a wave of anger went through me. I have always believed that animals treated gently will be gentle. Animals treated as wild animals will act like wild animals. “Hot shot” prods do not help make an animal gentle.


When I was about five feet away from the bull I stuck my arm out. The bull hadn’t moved an inch from his command post in the middle of the corral. He reached his head out toward my hand and took a whiff. I moved in closer, touched the top of his nose and with my fingers gave him a little scratching. Moving my hand up his face I smoothed his hair while continuing our conversation.


Finally I had both hands between his ears and gave him a great scratching. I played with his ears a bit. Soon I had moved around and rubbed his neck with both hands. Then I wrapped my arm around his neck and patted him. The bull looked around at me standing at his side.


Without taking my arm from around the bull’s neck I looked over at the men sitting on the corral fence with looks of total surprise on their faces.

“Damn sure is a mean bull,” I said, with all the sarcasm I could muster. “Now if one of you brave souls will go over and open the gate into the corral where the heifers are waiting for their lover, we can do without putting a halter on this mean black bull.


As I walked out of the corral toward my pickup I glanced up at the “cowboy” whose face expressed his chagrin. “You might try leaving that damn “hot shot” in the cab of your truck before someone sticks it in the most appropriate place on your body,” I said.





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