His name is Sherman, which is appropriate because he’s about the size of a tank.
But he’s actually a young Simmental-Angus mix bull who’s spending some time at the remote Texas County outpost my wife and I call home in order to be separated from a friend’s cows.
When his owner suggested Sherman’s vacation at our place, he told us the big boy was pretty calm and we thought it would be an interesting experience. Nevertheless, we all took the safer, no doubt wiser approach and did some preparation (both physical and mental) prior to the bull’s arrival a couple of weeks ago.
A few days earlier, my friend and I checked every inch of the fence line surrounding the main pasture. We replaced a couple of worn out wooden posts with metal t-posts, ran some new electric strands and installed a more powerful fencer to increase the juice flowing in the electrified sections on the north line.
On the morning Sherman was to begin his extended holiday, my friend not only trailered the big bovine visitor to our property, but also brought a cow and her calf just in case the bull was nervous and needed some company. When the big moment came to release him, we figured we had covered every base we could think of, and were basically ready for anything (or as ready as possible, anyway, when a ton of completely male beef on the hoof is involved).
But in keeping with the unpredictable nature of animals, Sherman’s transition was surprisingly smooth.
The trailer that had transported him from familiar surroundings to his autumn hideaway had been strategically backed up to the gate to the corral, and when he got off, he walked slowly and assuredly inside, as if he’d done it before a hundred times. We had outpost boss Big Sur in the round pen waiting to greet the newcomer and we really weren’t sure what would result from the first contact between the old Arabian and the young bull. But Sherman just walked right in – again as if nothing was out of the ordinary – and the General didn’t throw a tantrum.
There was a short confrontation, but it was minor compared to the possibilities we had imagined. When Sur looked closely at Sherman and seemed to be say, “I did not authorize this,” the bull lowered his head and made a move toward the highest-ranking quadruped in the area. Sur responded by doing a quick 180 and aiming his big guns at the upstart, but his retaliation consisted of nothing more than what could be best described as a mini-buck, and the bull stood down, seemingly satisfied to have made its presence known.
And that was that. Moments later, the General, his Tennessee Walker Lt. Bennie (who was recently promoted) and PFC Sherman were all eating grass together.
“Welcome to the unit, soldier,” Sur said, through a mouthful of greenery. “We’re small outfit and we could use a little beefing up. But remember one thing, I’m the first and last word around here. Act accordingly and you’ll do fine.”
“Fir yef mfir,” Sherman said, through a much bigger mouthful of greenery.
Since that day, we’ve learned a lot about Sherman. We’ve confirmed what his owner said, and seen first hand that he’s not nearly as similar to the “animal athletes” that toss guys around like rag dolls at professional bull riding competitions as he is the subject of the 1936 book “The Story of Ferdinand” who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights (a tale that was made into a short animated film called “Ferdinand the Bull” by Walt Disney in 1938).
We know Sherman likes variety, too, and he spends time being a bull in almost every possible location in the acreage at his disposal. But he has also picked out a few favorite spots, and when he doesn’t feel led to be eating, he seems to enjoy both group time and quiet, solitary time (sometimes we’ll see him alone in the dark, forested area of the dry wash at the bottom of the pasture, and sometimes he joins the horses in the corral area or in their “room” on the side of one of the old barns).
Even though his tendency is to maintain good behavior, we realize the Sherm-meister is to some extent a big situation waiting to happen, so we definitely want to keep tabs on him. When we haven’t seen him for a while, we’ll begin to wonder “where’s the beef?” and we’ll scout around till we have the answer.
Despite his burly appearance, Sherman very approachable, likes eating treats, and sometimes makes the coolest sound that resembles a donkey with a respiratory condition. Our donkey, Abe, seems to pay little to no attention to his massive neighbor, and the Corgis bark at him now and then, but generally “steer” way clear.
Speaking of burs, Sherman donned an awesome cocklebur hairdo the other day after apparently lowering his curly-capped head to munch in a bushy quadrant of the occupied zone. Since we aren’t planning to do any bull grooming any time soon, I guess he’ll be wearing his prickly “piece” until it falls apart on its own.
Not surprisingly, my wife and I have quickly grown to like our hefty guest (as have most of the members of our menagerie), and so far having him around has been pretty pleasant. But he’s scheduled to continue boarding with us for several more weeks, so there’s still plenty of time for a whole lot of bull to happen.
I’m not anticipating anything overly undesirable, but as I mentioned, there’s a ton of potential.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: email@example.com.