An Ode to Mick E. Mouse, One of the Most Badass Bulls to Ever Live
No bull rider ever reached the eight-second mark on old Mick E. Mouse, who was euthanized earlier this month after tests revealed a lesion on his back.
Photo courtesy Marlene Henry
Marlene Henry became a first-time mother at age 52. Seven years later, on August 11, her maternal love was put to the ultimate test. She had to let her son go to that great dirt ring in the sky.
"Mick was my life, and I know some people probably think it sounds crazy, but I feel like I've lost a child," says Henry, 59. "After I put him down, I couldn't eat, I was crying all the time... I've never been attached to anything in my life like I was to him."
Mick E. Mouse was Henry's prized bull, undefeated since his debut in 2012. Riders mounted Mick E. Mouse 40 times at various professional levels, not one made it to eight seconds. Hell, only two riders even got over seven seconds. J.W. Harris, a four-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) champion and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) 2014 rookie-of-the-year, has the honor of owning the longest ride at 7.47, but he also got bucked on two other occasions, once in just 2.65 seconds. Harris, of Mullin, Texas, became good friends with Henry over the last few years and vowed to ride her bull to glory, but Mick E. Mouse had other ideas.
"Mick was cool, one of my favorite bulls to ride because he was smarter than most, did something different every time. He was big, just all there, you could feel every bit of him," says Harris, 29. "Every guy wants to be the first to ride him. I wanted to beat Mick E. and be done with it, but I am glad at least he went out on top."
At his peak, Mick E. Mouse weighed 1,960 pounds, which made him big for a bucking bull, but he was quick and agile for his size. In April 2015, he was riding a hot streak of 34 consecutive buckoffs in the Built Ford Tough Series—the major leagues of the PBR featuring the top 35 bulls and 35 riders—with a 6-0 record that year, and a career-best average score of 45.38 points (out of 50) per out. At the 15/15 Bucking Battle in Billings Montana, Mick E. Mouse slipped at the beginning of a ride and Henry noticed he wasn't walking right. She decided to take him back to Texas A&M for x-rays, which showed that had suffered a small fracture on his back. At College Station, her prized bull received acupuncture therapy—to which he responded well—and ate like a champ, packing on more than 50 lbs. Henry was optimistic he would be back and bucking in no time.
Previously, in 2013, Mick E. Mouse had left Henry's nest to go live on the Brownsboro Texas ranch of her good friend and fellow stock contractor (the people who provide the animals for rodeos) Kevin Loudamy. That's where the bull was earlier this summer, running up and down his sand pile. But his health was short-lived. By mid-July, Henry knew Mick E. Mouse wasn't the same.
"I could tell just by looking at him that he wasn't right. Sometimes he'd try to walk and didn't seem to know where his butt end was," says Henry. Further tests revealed a lesion on his back, which renowned vet Dr. Gary Warner suspects was lymphoma, which prevented the bull from properly using his hind legs. Treatment wasn't really an option because getting up and down amounts to bovine torture for an animal that size. Besides, there is no cure. On August 11, Henry decided to have Mick E. Mouse euthanized. She didn't want her beloved bull to be in pain any longer.
"I told Kevin if he ever has to force Mick out of the pen, or use a stick to get him in the chute, then we're never bucking again, but Mick loved what he did," says Henry. "I would never do anything to hurt him. Working in veterinary clinic, I've seen animals suffer. I loved him too much."
It was through her job at the Dayton Vet Clinic, where she's worked as a receptionist for nearly thirty years, that Henry became an accidental stock contractor and future matron of a World Bull Champion contender. (Mick E. Mouse was ranked fourth at the time of his final competition.) In 2003, she bottle-fed a calf of two-time PBR champion Dillinger for a week straight, saving the little feller's life. He repaid her by sneaking off on and breeding with cows on her 40-acre ranch. One of those four heifers was bred with 2006 PBR Finalist Mighty Mouse, and in 2008, her star was calved. At the age of three, Henry entered her bull, then known simply by brand number 81, in a jackpot rodeo (participants pay an entry fee, the "jackpot" elevates the competition) that required her entrant have a name.
Funny thing is, for all of the affection Henry has showered on the bull formerly known as 81 over the years, she gave little thought to was his name. She threw Mickey out there in simpatico with his daddy's name Mighty Mouse, only to get a firm request later to change it at an event in Anaheim. It seems the PBR powers-that-be didn't want to run afoul of a certain highly-litigious cartoon rodent empire. But by that time, Mickey was rolling and superstitions being what they are..."I said, 'I'm not changing his name, that's bad luck," says Henry, who altered the spelling on the fly.
"We were nobodies, people didn't take this hard-workin' country girl seriously," she says of Mick's early days on the circuit. "It was a competitive disadvantage for Mick because I wasn't one of the big-time guys."
Henry couldn't get her bull seen as a three-year-old. For whatever reason his name was never called in the (allegedly) straight draws, so she sent in a video and told the organizers that if Mick E. Mouse lost, she wouldn't bother them again. Henry finally got her chance in Pueblo, Colorado in May 2012. But Henry immediately thought the plan was going to blow up in her face when her bull drew Silvano Alves, a Brazilian rider with three PBR World Titles under his belt buckle.
Mick E. Mouse sent him flying in 1.88 seconds. And the old-boy network hasn't been able to say a damn thing since.
Unlike her brethren, Henry didn't get into the bull riding game to make money. She says the early years were lean, the later years better, but it's an expensive pastime. She paid more than $150,000 a year in expenses to house, feed and transport Mick E. Mouse. She didn't have a slew of animals like most stock contractors, it was just her and Mick E. Mouse, so there was no way to benefit from economies of scale. She could have sold Mick for a big payday two years ago, but Henry never even considered it because she was having too much fun. Henry became the PBR version of the rootin'-tootin' Team Mom. She skipped the luxury boxes to sit with the fans, even if they weren't always rooting for the same species.
"A woman asked me, so I told her, 'I always root for the bulls, never the riders," says Henry. "I found out the hard way that jumping up and cheering for them was frowned upon, so I learned to sit on my hands... a little bit."
She wasn't alone. Mick E. Mouse became a fan favorite, and soon Henry was signing autographs as well. From the 80-year-old-man who climbed down from the rafters to get a hat signed, to the young Native American boy who corralled her for a selfie, to the random people who sent sympathy cards and flowers, posted inspirational messages on her Facebook page, or stopped and let her know how sorry they were, Henry says the ride was humbling, amazing, and overwhelming. Everyone loved Mick E. Mouse. Well, almost everyone...
"Nobody wants to see a bull put down, but Mick E. Mouse was a big ole' treacherous scary sucker, so there's a real love-hate thing that goes on," says Chase Outlaw, 23, a Hamburg, Arkansas native who rode the bull once and got tossed in 2.44 seconds. "He bucked hard. He broke one of my buddy's arms and jaw, whooped him the face, and lacerated another guy's kidney. That's part of the sport, it's not like Mick E. Mouse was trying to hurt the riders, but that's what can happen. I'd love to have that big pretty bull standing out in my yard, but to be honest, I don't think that many guys are sad they won't get to ride him again."
To his adversaries, Mick E. Mouse was more beast than beauty. But in a competitive sense, Outlaw's confession that he'd been bested is the highest form of flattery the bull could receive. Sadly, PBR fans will be deprived of the chance to see if Mick could match, or exceed, two-time-conquered Bushwacker's legendary 42-straight buckoffs record.
"Mick would have beaten him, no doubt in my mind," says Henry. "It doesn't matter though. I'm just glad I got to spend so much time with him. It was a once-in-a-lifetime real-life fairy tale."