When Tom Teague first got involved with the PBR, it was obvious
which bull was the best.
Little Yellow Jacket had yet to win the first of his three World Champion Bull titles, but no matter who Teague asked - Ross Coleman, Jim Sharp, Adriano Moraes, or PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert - they all told him the same thing.
Thursday afternoon, while celebrating the life of a bull he said will forever be his hero, Teague recalled how he sought to become partners on the bucking legend.
Early in 2002, Teague was in Denver when he approached Joe Berger.
He told the lifelong bull man that he had heard great things about his young bull Little Yellow Jacket, and wanted to buy a half-interest in him. Berger laughed. He told the Teague that he wasn't interest in selling any part of his bull until he had won a world title.
Later that year, Little Yellow Jacket won.
No sooner had he claimed the title than Teague approached Berger for a second time. "He named a price," Teague said, "and I bought in just like that."
Little Yellow Jacket passed away last Monday morning at 9:19 a.m., in Graham, N.C.
"He was a great bull," said Teague, who bought the remaining 50-percent interest in Little Yellow Jacket after his retirement from the PBR, "and I am forever grateful to the Bergers.
"I feel honored that they would sell him to me, and at the same time, I feel honored to have the sense to buy him."
Little Yellow Jacket won two more titles in 2003 and 2004 after Teague partnered with the Bergers.
"He walked around like he was hot stuff, and he was."
Throughout his career, the bull was known for always being relaxed at any venue, lying down in his pen and patiently waiting his turn. He was also comfortable with the large crowds, bright lights and pyrotechnics of the Built Ford Tough Series.
He had an impressive 84.4-percent buckoff rate, and the 14 riders who managed to make the whistle on him averaged 93 points. After bucking off a rider, he would stand in the middle of the arena with his chest bowed out. According to Teague, it was if he was asking, "Who's next?"
Michael Gaffney rode him in Nampa, Idaho, during the 2004 season, tying the all-time record in the PBR with 96.5 points.
"When they rode him," Teague added, "they had better have been heading to the fence."
Little Yellow Jacket was not kind to those who earned a score, which is why Teague was frightened to see his wife Penny standing next to the pen in Colorado Springs, Colo., petting his nose just before he matched up with Chris Shivers for a $1 million.
But his attention that night quickly turned to the Shivers matchup.
"Truly," he said, "I wanted Chris Shivers to ride him. Nothing would have made me happier than to see Chris win $1 million."
Shivers bucked off in less than 2 seconds, and instead Teague and Berger split $50,000. That night, Teague consoled a disappointed Shivers by offering to fly him and his wife Kylie home to Jonesville, La., in his private jet.
Shivers made flight sitting in the co-pilot's seat. "I said, 'See Chris, it ain't all bad,'" Teague joked.
Little Yellow Jacket had been living in North Carolina for the past five years, where "he lived the good life," Teague said.
He has been cared for by Lee Holt, who co-manages the ranch with Randy Teague and Teague's longtime bull man Boyce Knox.
He was recently bred to five cows, and his last set of natural calves is expected next year.
When asked to describe Little Yellow Jacket, Teague compared him to the famous triple-crown-winning Secretariat, and simply said, "He's a winner."
When the PBR moved to Pueblo, Colo., Little Yellow Jacket was honored with a statue in front of the building. A wreath was placed by the statue yesterday.
He will further be honored Oct. 25 in Las Vegas as the inaugural recipient of the Brand of Honor award, which will be presented during the Heroes & Legends ceremony at the MGM Grand.
"He was a character," Teague said. "He walked around like he was hot stuff, and he was."
© 2013 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.