Palabras Pintorescas - Bullfighting compared to ballet

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By Editha Bartley

There is a new kid in the corral, a different kid to some. To us who live on a ranch, he is a welcome addition. He is a shiny black yearling black Angus bull. He has a fancy background, and a fairly light birth weight, very important when one has a working ranch, as in a cow/calf operation.

He jumped out of the trailer, ready to take on that old bull that has served this ranch so well for a long time. The old bull probably outweighs him by a thousand pounds, so it didn’t take long for him to realize he’d just be friends, fighting is for another day and time.

And the two mother cows with their newborn calves pay little attention to him. They have better things to do like munch down on the fresh hay in their feeders.

Part of the success in calving lies in the weight and the heritage of both the cow and the bull. A calf born with a small head and a light birth-weight usually thrives because of the birthing process is so much traumatic on both the mother and the child.

Bulls definitely have strong personalities, and we have had a few that were almost dangerous.  I learned early on in the cattle business to figure out an escape route when in a corral with a bull who resented my presence. Dairy bulls, both Holstein and Jersey, are almost always easily irritated.

The Valmora Dairy and the Bartley Dairy near Montezuma both had these big bulls, always corralled in a strong, tight space. On a very good day one needed to have pitchfork in hand to go into their pens. And if two of them happened to get in a fight, beware! Because of their size and strength they can knock down a fence or gate when fighting.

A neighbors bull got into a fight with another bull here last fall during roundup and before that fracas was over, they had hit a corral gate so hard it broke off a heavily welded latch and sent it flying. So much for Big Boss Jim’s double duty welding job for 50 years (and many bull fights ago).

When I was touring Spain a long time ago, I learned first-hand how Spaniards (and Mexicans) learned how to make lemonade out of lemons, so to speak. I spent a whole afternoon in Barcelona at their famous Corrida, their bullfighting ring. I didn’t think I’d like bullfighting, but I had never seen a real, well-orchestrated bull fight.

What an experience that was! My friends who had never been to a bullfight thought I was crazy for sure, I think. Sure, there is blood and gore, but I compared it to ballet in many ways. The matadors are intense, very artistic, and have a love for a sport that can be fatal with just one misstep. Yes, the bull ends up dead, and many a matador is maimed or killed as well. And, no it isn’t a sport that belongs here in America, but I always say it is best to be open-minded when traveling in foreign countries.

Our bulls will join our lady cows about the first week in June. And nine months or so later we will learn how well our new bull performs. Will he carry on the small calf, small calf head genes needed to make our calving cows deliver effortlessly? We hope so. It is not fun having to assist in a delivery, to pull a calf in bitter winds, snow and cold. We’ve been there and done that, many times.

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.