Bull Story

It was in mid winter and the dirt road was covered with ice and snow. I led the bull out of Burr Stanford's barn and started walking up Siloam hill. I was 21 and the new owner of a farm and a small herd of dairy cows. Burr had been expecting me. I guess Izzy told him I'd be coming.

It was Izzy's bull and had been on loan to Burr the last few months. Izzy was a calf buyer and cattle dealer who made his living buying, selling and lending livestock. Often, he bought young bulls and left them with various farmers who were to feed and raise them. In return the farmer could keep the bull for breeding purposes as long as he had use for him, and then Izzy would lend him to another farmer. This would go on until the bull was too big and ornery to keep safely around a farm, and then Izzy would sell him for beef. He ended up with a large bull to sell at very low cost to him. The advantage to the farmer was that he had to feed the bull only as long as he needed him. Next season it would be wise to introduce new blood into the herd.

As I started west up Siloam Hill I recalled Burr telling me the bull seemed gentle and would probably lead easily, but to remember the he was about that age when he might turn a little feisty if he felt like it. The bull had long sharp horns that stuck straight out of each side of his head as a Holstein bulls' horns usually do. He would have only to throw his head to one side if he felt like punching a hole in your stomach. As a precaution I had brought a "persuader" with me, a piece of one-inch iron pipe to be used only in case of a serious problem. I named the bull Izzy after his owner.

So Izzy and I hiked along up the hill without incident. We got up the hill and turned north at the corner by the Davis Farm. We passed Frank Rice's place on what is now known as North Butler Road, and were approaching the steep "dip" in the road near Cad Burleson's farm. The road down the "dip" was coated with ice. Izzy was afraid of falling on any slippery surface. Most hoofed animals don't do well on ice and Izzy was no exception. I could feel him start to panic as we started down the hill, and I wondered what I would do if Izzy fell and I was mixed up in a tangle with a panicky thousand-pound bull with sharp horns.

Well, Izzy fell and he took me with him. We slid all the way to the bottom side by side until we hit snow at the bottom. Neither of us was hurt, but Izzy was a much subdued animal when we picked ourselves up, and walked the remaining half or three quarters of a mile home. As we passed Ronald Olcott's farm Izzy saw some cows out in the barnyard, and insisted on turning in there, but I moved him along without too much trouble The rest of the way he walked along beside me, docile as a puppy. I hadn't needed my "persuader".

We kept Izzy for about a year and then his owner [the other "Izzy"] picked him up and either sold him or passed him on to another farmer. I think he sold him because he was getting too big for farmers to handle easily.

In thinking back it now seems strange that a dealer would leave bulls around the countryside with only his memory as a record of where they were. I don't think he even knew my name, and I never knew Izzy's real name or where he came from. He knew only where I lived, that I was the young guy halfway up the hill above Butler's Corners. He had no proof the bull was just a loan and that he owned it. There was nothing only the verbal agreement that I would feed and treat the bull well and return him to Izzy at some later date. Izzy would stop in occasionally to see how the bull was doing and ask if I had any calves to sell.

Izzy was a sharp bargainer when it came to buying and selling. When he stopped in and found I had a calf to sell, he would ask how much I wanted for it, and no matter what price I put on it, it "was too much". The price of calves and veal had dropped off, or the calf was "pretty small". He would then make a much smaller offer, and we would haggle back and forth. Finally when I would go no lower and said I would wait for another buyer to stop in, he would say, "you're an awful tough man to deal with", and walk out of the barn. He would start to get in his truck, and then come back and make me another offer. One or both of us would probably give a little and close the deal. If he didn't come back, I would know he was probably about right that my price was really a little too high. Often he would stop the next day to see if I still had the calf and wanted to deal. It became a familiar game.

"Burr Stanford's House in 2003 [barn is gone]"

Charles E. Page January 2003

 

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