Post by Jake Wilcox
Bull-riding is not that hard if the bull isn’t very big, but then, I’ve only done it once. It wasn’t really a bull either. It was a bull calf. As I recall, it only weighed 500 or 600 pounds.
The bull-riding event took place one evening when we were visiting the Clegg family, some neighbors who lived near my grandparents in a small community where my dad grew up about ten miles from the nearest town in any direction. We drove over to the Clegg house in the car because my dad was always warning us to watch out for snakes in the fields, which upset Mom so much she wouldn’t walk in the fields after dark. If a sleeping grasshopper woke up and bounced away, she might start screaming and that would upset everybody for miles around.
My dad had turned down an invitation for us to eat supper at the Clegg house, claiming he needed to help Grandpa fix the tractor, but it was really because the Cleggs were so poor. Dan Clegg, the head of the family and a boyhood friend of my father, had died during the winter and my dad had missed his funeral, so the grownups started talking about that and looking at pictures of Dan Clegg in his coffin. I took one quick look and that was enough for me.
My brother and I and the two Clegg boys went outside and wandered into the pasture near the barn. Their barn was a small affair, more of an outbuilding really, with five stalls where they had piled unbaled hay because the building didn't have a loft. There was a chute that ran the length of the building, which I estimate was about 20 feet long. A bull calf had wandered into the barn and was eating some loose hay. One of the Clegg boys suggested we ride that calf and so we did.
We shut the barn door and the stall gates and corralled the bull down at one end of the chute. Three kids held the bull while the fourth kid boarded him. Then those three let go and you took a ride while the calf was trying to get rid of you. There was nothing to hold onto except the calf’s little tuft of mane, but the chute was pretty narrow so you were kept on board by bashing up against the stall gates or the barn wall. When you were about to fly off, you had some wood to grab onto.
It was a noisy business, too. The calf was bellowing and there was us thumping on the sides of the barn. That might have hurt, but the bruises and splinters we got from hitting the walls didn’t feel like they amounted to much. I don’t remember feeling like there was much danger either, except for sliding under the bull and getting stomped or maybe getting knocked out if you cracked your head too hard. Toward the end, the calf kicked down part of the barn wall, but didn’t make a big enough hole for him to escape through, which was probably his intent.
We rode that calf so long, he got tame and wouldn’t buck. The oldest Clegg boy got a piece of rope and wrapped it around the calf at the hind end and jerked on it to make him buck, but after a while even that didn’t work.
We sure did have a lot of fun that night.