When You Dish Out the Bull, You Get the Horns

longhorn lede
photo credit: Milking the galaxy, one cow at a time via photopin (license)

A dad’s gotta do what a dad’s gotta do.

He’ll work overtime.

He’ll grill in the rain.

He’ll even wrestle a steer in the dust and blood of a Mooresville drive-through zoo if he needs to.

It’s not a story I like to tell. John Wayne doesn’t rehash. I did what any dad would do when his family finds its minivan in the crosshairs of a renegade bovine bent on folding your vehicle in half like an empty can of Lonestar beer.

Anyone who’s seen the damage – the crunched-in door, the handle held by bungee-cords and iron-clad will – will want to know what happened that fateful day at Lazy 5 Ranch.

When the longhorn throws down the challenge

Turns out, when a Texas longhorn’s head meets the metal of a Ford Windstar sliding door, it makes a wicked noise.

The first impact took the family by surprise – the sound of metal crinkled, tires skidded against their tread. My eyes, though, narrowed, my head drifted back, because I knew. I knew a challenge had just been thrown down.

As the dust blew by like turning pages, I turned left, and saw him. I saw a glimmer of green paint on the furrowed uni-brow of a Texas longhorn who’d just barked up the wrong tree.

A second time he charged the van, leaving his hooved feet to achieve maximum impact.

The van rocked.

The steer circled back.

Time for a little Chicano justice.

longhorn 2
photo credit: longhorn via photopin (license)

Only two things come out of Texas

Over my shoulder, I could see the damaged door, and three sets of frightened eyes cowering behind the juice-box stained bucket seat. By my sights were set on the steer before me.

“Only two things come out of Texas,” I said, probably in Spanish, through gritted teeth from a grizzled face with at least two days worth of 5 o’clock shadow. “And I see you have horns.”

A snort. A hoof pawed on the dry, barren earth in reply.

His eyes shone red at the moment he pushed off for his next charge. The muscles of his haunches constricted, setting into motion an angry longhorn’s ill-advised third stab at a fresh new hell.

I dropped my half-drunk bottle of Coke Zero, wiped the Nilla wafers crumbs from my chin, and. turned my Colorado Rockies cap backward.

And, pushing off on my own considerable haunches and Target brand sneakers, engaged a clash of titans that would leave one of us in a Texas-sized world of hurt.

The aftermath

Today, my back still aches a little.

The van? It’s been recycled into paper clips or keys or little dashboard crucifixes. It carries the spirit of the steer and the backache of the dad and the bungee cord that held together the aftermath.

A Texas longhorn, it turns out, makes a tasty steak. Its horns, a head-turning hood ornament. And his hide, a fashionable jacket and stylish belt, once he’s been properly body-slammed and dressed.

And that, friends, is the story of how dad fixed that runaway cow.



“Yes, Grace?”

“Are you writing the story about when you crunched up our van that time?”

“I, um, yeah, I’m telling the story…”

“Don’t forget to tell them you got too close to the giraffe cage and couldn’t drive away without crunching up the door on my side!”

“Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

“Say how Uncle Guy and Uncle Tony had to bend the door back so we could even close it!”

“Honey, you were too young to remember what daddy had to do that day to protect you and your mom and your sisters. How I had to take matters in my own hands. You know how it went.”

“I do remember something like that, daddy.”

“Yeah. Sometimes a daddy has to show nature who’s boss.”

“Like you did at the seafood restaurant afterward?”

”Yes, lovey. If you squint real hard, a flounder’s a lot like a Texas longhorn. And I don’t even remember a giraffe … ”

longhorn quote


  1. Teri says:

    Brave. Very brave. It’s a story that had to be told.

    1. That’s what the longhorn’s family likely would have said to him, too. And he was quite brave. If only he were still around too to tell the tale.

  2. Sounds like an epic battle between longhorn and man. Too bad you ended up with a crunched van.

    When driving to my son’s swimming lessons the other day, there was a moose running up ahead of us. Luckily it did not turn around and crunch our car. I’m not sure I would have been as brave as you. (Clearly Grace was impressed by your courage.)

    1. You can’t make this kind of stuff up. The crunched van is only one casualty in a story like this. Truth, being another.

      Moose are nothing to mess with, I hear. They’re a little more passive, I think, than a blowhard longhorn. The Texas thing and all.

      Grace couldn’t believe how ruthless dad can be with a plate of fried flounder.

  3. Ilene Evans says:

    Oh, I love it! The family friendly version of Rashomon at the Lazy 5 Ranch. Although I am tempted to think that Grace may have the more accurate account on this one. I love how she keeps it real.

    1. Thanks Ilene. I didn’t want to go into how I disposed of said longhorn. When in doubt, go with Grace’s version. Although, this is the kid who put bass on planet Mercury. She does, though, keep it real for me, too.

  4. Tamara says:

    Oh Grace – you have to love her spin. This does remind me of my days at Yellowstone. Bison are also no joke! You are a brave man.

    1. The thing about Grace’s spin is it’s so … truthful.

      I’d rather tell a tale of wrestling an angry bovine, not of a bumbling dad turning his van too close to the giraffe habitat. It just doesn’t sound very bad-ass.

  5. “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway” -John Wayne Of course, he also said stuff about being stupid….kudos on the steak, and thanks for a meaty story! 🙂

    1. John Wayne’s definitely hero material. He was honest, though, and probably resents me telling a steer-wrastlin’ story when he’s more likely to have taken on a steer than I would.

      1. You’re safe…John Wayne is dead (though the legend lives on…just like your story)! 😉

      2. Hopefully it grows – that I vanquished a rhino instead.

  6. laurie27wsmith says:

    Ahhh, the Bull s**t stops here then? A great story told as it should be with no resemblance to the truth whatsoever and you did it well. Makes you wonder about history writers though. This will of course be the official family version of the event and will be told by generations to come of the epic battle between man and longhorn. You could come out of this looking good Mate.

    1. Yes, it stops here. Why let the truth ruin a good tale? I don’t think I’ve done it justice, though. It’s on the record, though, and hopefully the legend will grow.

      In 100 years, it’ll have been a T-Rex I conquered with one hand tied behind my back.

      1. laurie27wsmith says:

        That’s what the journos say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. legend! You’ll be up there with Davy Crockett. Oh with the T-Rex you would have used a dull spoon to put it out of its misery.

  7. Rorybore says:

    I Can’t even. LOL
    just so enjoyed this story.
    having sat in a corn field on the other side of o-so-dark-o’clock and come face to face with a wandering steer in the pick-up’s high beams. Lucky grandpa taught me how to rope ’em.

    1. I can’t either, apparently. But that’s beside the point.

      So long as the story was enjoyable, why muddle it with facts? I think this imaginary animal must have been a Chevy guy. Those allegiances run deep.

      I could have used your ropin’ ability, actually, to pull my van to safety from the giraffe cage. Or at least yank my door back on the track.

  8. Oh man.. This story… MADE MY DAY. I loved it.

    Absolutely LOVED it!


    1. Thanks Kateri – I wish I’d made you a pair of boots from the hide.

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