Bronc tale grows

Rodeo Hall of Famer: Runaway bull would have reached the fair if not for cowboy hero

Rodeo Hall of Famer: Runaway bull would have reached the fair if not for cowboy hero

You don't Taser a bull. They don't put that in police manuals, but any cowboy worth his stirrups knows that's about as sound an idea as petting a rattlesnake.

When National Rodeo Hall of Fame inductee Cotton Rosser heard that the Houston police had tried to Taser the runaway bull at the rodeo, he knew his protege and worker Bronc Boehnlein was in for a wild, high-stakes ride — one where either Bronc won or innocent people on the Houston Livestock & Rodeo show grounds lost big time.

"Tasering a bull just makes that bull a lot more mad and a lot more out of control," Rosser told CultureMap in an exclusive phone interview today. "When they told me about the Taser ... oh boy, Bronc had his work cut out for him."

Bronc did that work while getting dragged across a parking lot on a borrowed horse, with the animal's hooves struggling to gain traction on the unforgiving parking lot surface while the 1,400-plus-pound bull Hardball tried to get away from Bronc's lasso. "(Bronc) told me that he was pulled across the parking lot," Rosser said, revealing more untold details about the night that rocked the Houston rodeo and turned a previously unknown rodeo grunt into a quasi celebrity cowboy hero.

"He was on asphalt," Rosser continued."That's not a good surface for wrangling an angry bull."

Bronc still managed to stop Hardball — knowing he had little other choice. After all, "20-30 police officers," according to Houston rodeo CEO Leroy Shafer had been unsuccessful in trying to halt Hardball.

"At one point, Bronc told me that it was basically just him and the bull," Rosser said. "And that bull was heading for the fair. It's not that he wanted to hurt anyone. He's a bull. He just had to go somewhere and the fair was where he could go. Bronc really saved them from a bad scene."

Bronc himself also told a Sacramento TV station that Hardball seemed to be running toward the fair and the huge crowds there.

Rosser holds a unique perspective on the incident that happened Sunday evening, with the rodeo grounds crawling with tween girls there for the Jonas Brothers concert. The 81-year-old Rosser is not just Bronc's boss at the Flying U Rodeo Company in Marysville, Calif. He knew Bronc's grandfather, an old-school cowboy by the name of C.J. Jones. Rosser also knows the owner of Hardball, Don Hudson, who runs a ranch in Washington.

"That's a mean bull," Rosser said. "They said he was (more than) 1,400 pounds, but I think he's around 1,800 to 2,000 pounds. He's not a small bull."

Hardball was set to compete in the Houston rodeo last night — after having two days to calm down from his escape.

Rosser — who was inducted into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame last year — planned to call up Shafer (an old friend of Rosser's) to give the Houston rodeo CEO a little ribbing over what type of cowboy managed to prevent a bull tragedy in the nation's fourth largest city.

"I'll give him a little grief about Texas needing a California cowboy to save it," Rosser said. "Just a little joshing."

Rosser laughed when asked if a rivalry existed between Texas and California cowboys though.

"No, no, not anymore," he said. "All the cowboys in California are moving to Texas. A cowboy can sell his small place here and go buy an acre in Texas. There's a lot more horses in Texas than California now."

Sudden Cowboy Celebrity

Bronc Boehnlein lived a pretty simple modern cowboy life before word of his runaway bull heroics started spreading. This isn't one of the rodeo circuit's high-paid competitors. Bronc worked as a wrangler in Houston, a spot that's ordinarily far from the spotlight.

Rosser estimates that Bronc makes around $2,000 a month raising show horses. And Bronc hasn't stopped moving since he stopped Hardball. After immediately leaving Houston (before Shafer could even thank him) for two days in Sacramento to help his barrel racing cowgirl wife in another rodeo, Bronc spent today driving to Palm Springs for yet another rodeo.

After reading a story on CultureMap that detailed Bronc's exploits, a reporter from Sacramento's local ABC affiliate did interview Bronc on the air.

"Yeah, he's getting some grief about that from the other cowboys," Rosser said. "He's the new local celebrity."

By Rosser's seasoned estimation, Bronc deserves every bit of it though.

It's not just Bronc's instant decision to borrow a horse and a rope from a nearby calf roper that impresses Rosser.

"What people don't realize is that he didn't even have a chance to cinch his saddle," Rosser said. "Bronc just took off before anyone could tie his saddle. He was out there, bouncing all around on a uncinched saddle, trying to stop a 2,000-pound bull. On pavement. I don't think people who aren't in our business realize just how tough that is.

"That's some serious roping."

Rosser would know. He used to be one of the top cowboys in the country. Rosser won the Grand National Rodeo in 1951 before a tractor accident left him unable to compete. Bronc isn't nearly on Rosser's old level. But then again, Rosser never stopped a runaway bull in a parking lot either.

Bronc halted Hardball by getting him into a corner of the parking lot. Once the bull realized he was hemmed in, the beast calmed down.

"When Bronc first came to work for me, I was surprised by his skills," Rosser said. "Even though he comes from a rodeo family, you don't see skills like that in California often anymore. He's still just a kid (23). My goodness."

It turns out, there's at least one true cowboy left.

"I told the kid," Rosser said, laughing. "Nobody else is ever going to have a story like yours."

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Rodeo Hall of Famer Cotton Rosser knows how difficult roping an angry bull in a parking lot is. Courtesy of Rodeo Hall of Fame
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Cotton Rosser hired the cowboy who saved Houston and knows the bull that got away. Courtesy of Cotton Rosser
News_placeholder_rodeo_cowboy_saddle_knockout_Cleburne Saddle Shop
Bronc didn't even have time to cinch his saddle before going bull chasing. Courtesy of Cleburne Saddle Shop