Bullfighting in Central Texas

I see YouTube videos of Spanish bullfighters, the mounted ones. Like Pablo Hermoso, they face off a bull in a confined area and as the bull charges they duck off sideways, narrowly avoiding the deadly horns as they sweep by their horse’s flank.

The event begins with a fast, agile, horse and a rider carrying a long lance, called a garrocha, that he uses to control the bull.

These pictures flashed through my mind as three of us confronted a tee’d off and powerful young eighteen hundred pound brangus bull at Cedar creek this week.

We couldn’t convince the bull to move, much less to go into the corral. I was mounted on my Andalusian-Quarter horse cross, Cyrus.

He and the bull stood facing one another, saliva dripping from the bull’s muzzle.  

Any movement drew his piercing gaze, daring us to get closer.

Chuck said “get a loop on him Doc! This horse won’t get close to him, he’s been hooked before!”

Then, Curly said “if you get him, I’m ready with a second loop!”

So I moved in, lariat at the ready, and made a toss. The first loop caught only an ear.

But on the second shot my loop fell around his neck. He was in the net!

Just as I started to pull slack and dally, he attacked!

His charge was like lightning!

He piled into Cyrus just as we swapped ends. I felt like I’d been shot up by a catapult.

I lost my hold on the lariat in favor of scratching leather!

We bounced back to earth.

I sure didn’t want to fall, as I had no chance at all on the ground with El Toro. I’d seen what these bulls can do to a man on foot.

Chuck said “When that bull hit yore horse, Ol Cyrus double barrelled him in the face! He got a good dose of horse shoe!”

I’ve concluded that the Spaniards are right. Our lariats are not stiff enough.

Next time I’m taking a garrocha!

Ludwig’s Studio

As I drove to work down highway thirty six, I was surprised to see heavy equipment at work on a building in the metropolis of Lyons, Texas (pop 150).

It was tearing down a venerable brick building.

The structure had stood empty for years, but it had been the studio of a friend, so I had always noticed it because of a stained glass art nouveau window as I passed.

Ludwig Schermer, my friend, had died years before. He was a liturgical artist, which means he designed places of worship and stained glass windows.

He was of the “Great Generation”, but he was not American. Of course by the time I knew him he had become a naturalized American citizen.

As a young man, however, he had been a member of the German army, during World War II.

At that time Germany and America were enemies.

After the war Ludwig had immigrated to the USA. He once told me of a time when he had been on the Russian front in winter. They were short of rations, clothing, ammunition and even tobacco. He said they were stripping the bark off of fence posts to crumble and roll up in paper to smoke.

When he came to the United States in the ‘fifties he attended college in Chicago to study liturgical art.

Religion and humanism were very important to Ludwig.

In time he did art work and design work for great cathedrals in Chicago. He became a major American stained glass artist.

Late in life he married and moved to Texas.

Finally he established a studio in Lyons, in Burleson county, which had once been a depot for the Santa Fe railroad.

Santa Fe, in Spanish, means Holy Faith.

Now, Lyons is a mere crossroads of FM 60 and State 36, with a post office, a restaurant, and a filling station.

Among other projects in Texas, Ludwig built stained glass windows for the Harmony Baptist Church, and helped redesign the sanctuary and windows for St Mary’s Catholic Church in Caldwell.

He put a small stained glass window high up on the wall of his shop in Lyons, which faced the highway.

It was something that I always looked for as a reminder of my friend, Ludwig, long after his death.

Now, the window is gone, along with the building. But my memories of that exciting little German artist remain, a man whose faith bridged two war torn countries, and whose legacy is one of beauty in my county.

Frio & Frisky

And it came to pass, as it always has, that the mercury took a nosedive!

The north wind swept all the dry hay out of the barn. Unless you’ve experienced it you wouldn’t believe the effect that the first blue Norther has on central Texas!

Furthermore, you wouldn’t believe the effect that it has on the behavior of a young horse in training.

Yesterday, when winter had suddenly replaced summer, I rode three horses (one at a time, of course). I was hoping to get to the back pasture to check some mares and cattle that I hadn’t seen all week.

Well, student number one reverted to pre-training behavior. As soon as I got in the saddle she began to shake. Her ears started to vibrate. Her back “collected” under the saddle, raising the back of a roping saddle enough to insert one whole Charleston Gray watermelon.

Normally, the narrative would go rapidly downhill from there!

But I encouraged her to back up a few steps, and turned her around, at which point she launched off into a lope around the pen. After several revolutions she came down to a trot, and finally a walk. By some miracle we got the gate open, with a certain amount of snorting.

Then off we went to the crossing. Finding it once again running ten feet deep in cafe au lait, we turned around and ground our way back up the hill to the barn.

Amazing how a forty degree temperature drop overnight cures lethargy in a young horse!

And not so amazing how it causes me to want to get back in the house and throw another log in the fireplace!

To Kaybob (my first horse)

My father thrilled at the ocean’s swell

And his father sailed the main

And though I sought the hill and dell

My son was called to the sea again.

But to me, the deck of a mighty galleon

Took second to a Spanish steed

And the sea of grass and a snorting stallion

Did my heart’s fancy feed!

As if from the womb a dream was mine

To sail the mountains and prairie

On the deck of a native cayuse fine

Who’s heart bore the whims of a fairie

Whose hooves were his wings and keel

And his flowing mane his sail

And the wind of the west my face did feel

My rudder his midnight tail

My kingdom is of clouds and cattle and grass

My throne of Iberian leather

And when you hear hoofbeats as I pass

You’ll know that my heart is a feather