In 1996, I was working on a ranch where a Longhorn cow had a calf and would not claim it. Having a bucket calf is a lot of feeding and watching for pneumonia and scourers (diarrhea). A bucket calf is usually slower to develop and other calves will butt it around. One day, I had to fetch him out of a water tank he was butted into. I called this calf Bean.
I started sharing my breakfast of snack cakes, corn chips and soda pop with him after his feed ration. He tagged on to me like a puppy dog. It was hilarious seeing him wrap his tongue around a plastic bottle of soda, tip it in the air and let the soda run down his throat and drool out his mouth. But, it was his gentleness, coupled with those long horns, that was most attractive. He loved a good scratching and those horns scarcely moved while being petted.
Bean made himself at home at the different ranches I worked and loved to shine up to people at the fair where I showed bulls. Bean needed health papers to go to the fair and vets were afraid to get in a trailer to inspect him with those horns.. Every year from 1997 to 2011, Bean was shown in the Big Bull Contest at the Iowa State Fair. He usually placed last in weight in the contest, but those horns, his soda pop tricks, and genuine gentleness was a crowd pleaser. He had a little fan club that checked on him every year.
Bean, in his gentle manner, did fundraising events for people. He played “Cow Pie Bingo” for a cancer fundraiser. “Cow Pie Bingo” is when a grid of a hundred numbers is painted inside a pen on a parking lot. A calf, cow or bull is turned into the pen. Bets are made on numbers the animal is expected to relieve itself on. This may take all day or a few minutes. People will try coaxing the animal into position with treats and petting. Some of the money goes to the winning guesser, but most of it goes to the charity.
A group called MAMA (Motorcycles Against Meth Amphetamines) was raising money for babies born addicted. Bean would let kids sit on his back and have pictures taken. One 3-year-old boy counted to eight because a bull ride in a rodeo is eight seconds long. Bean never hinted of bucking.
A local handicap training center used Bean to win first place with a float in the local parade. The theme was “Past, Present and Future.” We put Bean in a small coral on a flat bed trailer with the students behind the coral on the trailer. A sign read “Taking the Bull by the Horns and Leading the way into the Future.”
One year, Bean and I walked a three mile parade with his nose resting in my hand as I led him. He was nervous because he was not in a pen and there were several thousand people staring at him. Little kids would climb up on their parents laps just as scared of Bean’s horns as bean was of them. In one parade, a little boy yelled, “It’s an elephant! It’s an elephant!” and poked his mother, who was more interested in talking to her friend. When she turned to see Bean, she looked more horrified than if he had been an elephant.
I used Bean to breed heifers because he made small calves for easy birthing. He ruled the herd. One day, the cattle got out on a gravel county road. I found bean and put a halter on him and put him in the trailer. Fifteen or so heifers were grazing in a field and in the road ditch. The farmer across the road offered to put the heifers in his lot so I could load them on the trailer and take them back where they belong. Another farmer driving by and a kid coming home from football practice, seeing the situation, stopped to help. We could not get the heifers together and into the lot. I grabbed Bean out of the trailer and led him down the road, calling like I do when I’m feeding. Every heifer fell in line behind us, following Bean right into the lot. The farmers were amazed. One said, “If I hadn’t have seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Many days, Bean would baby sit the calves, letting the cows go off to graze. He would teach the calves to respect pecking order, chase coyotes away and calm down when around people. The cattle were just happier with Bean around.
This year, Bean got into a fight with a big young breeding bull and Bean was badly injured. He is now retired.
I hope this story about Bean, the bull, will show people that most domestic animals have a personality and can be loving pets, even if they are too big to let in your house. Bean has made a good difference in people’s lives — especially mine. ❖