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Sport: Bull with a Delicate Air

3 minute read
TIME

In the chute at Calgary. Alta.. the brindled bull with a big O branded on his left hip stood placidly while the long-legged cowpoke settled gingerly on his back. Benny Reynolds, professional rodeo’s All-Around Champion, was frankly worried: “I couldn’t believe that anything standing that gentle would buck enough to impress the judges.” Then the gate swung open, and Reynolds learned better. Hoofs pounding, the old bull charged wildly into the arena, spun dizzily to his left, then suddenly reversed himself and spun to his right—and Cowboy Reynolds hit the dirt with a thump. “I looked up,” recalls Reynolds, “and one of the clowns was snapping a lead rope on him. Another clown got on his back, and they led him out of the arena. It was downright degrading. But it was sort of comical, too.”

The judge of a bucking bull is his meanness in the arena, and on that count, 14-year-old “Aught”—half Brahman, half Hereford—probably qualifies as the orneriest critter in captivity. Starting his 13th year on the rodeo circuit, he has been saddled with 482 riders—only six have managed to stay on his back for the required eight seconds. “Those six times, he must’ve been colicky.” says one cowboy. The roster of Aught’s conquests is the Who’s Who of rodeo: Harry Tompkins (five-time world champion bull rider), Billy Hand, Gid Garstead, Pete Crump, Tex Martin, Larry Condon. Recalls Tompkins : “He was really spinning, and all of a sudden, after seven seconds, he sort of stopped and flung me right up on his horns. I was in bad shape, helpless—-but he just turned his head, slipped me off, and walked away.”

Tompkins had discovered the Ferdinand side of Aught’s complex personality. Outside of working hours, he likes people. He certainly hates other bulls. “In 1950, when I bought him,” says Aught’s owner, Washington Stock Contractor Joe Kelsey, “I tried putting him in with the other bulls. He tore into them. I tried putting him in a separate corral, but that didn’t work either. Corrals with a low fence, he’d charge right through, and when I put him in an arena with a six-foot fence, he’d jump right over it.” Now Kelsey tethers Aught to a stake in the ground, far away from the bull corral, and there Aught benignly holds court for the youngsters of Tonasket, Wash. He lets them pet him, pull his ears and tail, feed him hay, clamber all over his broad back. “I’m never afraid of Aught getting mean with people,” says Owner Kelsey. “Heck, he’s our family pet.”

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