LAS VEGAS - Divine connections - there's no better way to explain the story of Marlene Henry and her 2012 ABBI Reserve World Champion Classic bull Mickey Mouse. The universe made sure this Dayton, Texas-country girl and this bold bucker collided at the right time and in the right place.
To get the full scope of what had to happen in order for Mickey Mouse to even exist, you have to travel back a few bovine generations to 2003 when Henry was given an impossible task, and came face-to-face with her subsequent destiny.
Henry was a master at saving and fostering orphaned calves at the veterinary clinic she's worked at for 25 years. Herrington Cattle Company's Robbie Herrington brought in a calf in dire straits. The calf on death's door was a son of Herrington's World Champion bucker Dillinger, and his dam had developed a severe mastitis case which kept the newborn from feeding.
Marlene was skeptical that even her expertise could save this newborn. She spent more than a week not knowing if the calf would live or die, diligently feeding it like an infant every five hours and administering fluids thru an IV.
"I still don't know how, but somehow he lived," an amazed Henry said.
Besides this calf, Henry had another calf from Herrington that was thriving from her care - a son of Blueberry Wine. Herrington had made it clear he expected this calf back, but not much was said about the less-than-attractive Dillinger son with the tough outer appearance, who to everyone's surprise was even drawing breath.
"You would never believe it from what he looked like, but one day, he started jumping out," Henry said. "All of a sudden, I couldn't keep him in. I'd come home and he'd be in with my crossbred cows. So I'd go get him out, but the next day he'd be in with them again. So when Robbie called about the Blueberry Wine calf, I told him this other calf was ready and needing to go home too."
"There is nothing more satisfying than having an animal so talented that loves their job."
Fast forward nine months.
"When my crossbred cows started calving, I started seeing some black baldies hitting the ground," Henry said.
Naturally, Henry began to scratch her head since her Hereford-Brahman-cross cows were only red and white in their color pattern.
"I would have never dreamed that little yearling, pot-bellied calf could have ever bred those cows, but he dang sure did and there were four heifers out there he'd sired," Henry said.
So just like that, Henry was in the bucking bull business whether she planned on it or not. So what's a girl to do? Well, breed those Dillinger grand-daughters of course. And breed them she did.
"I had a good friend, Tracy LaBuff, who owned a bucking bull that had been pretty good," Henry said. "So I called him up and arranged to breed these heifers to him."
The bull ended up being Mighty Mouse, a bucker that had been to the PBR Finals in 2006, and boasted a Pro Bull Stats average score of 21.48 points. By the next spring, Henry had two bulls and one heifer on the ground out of those divine Dillinger granddaughters. And, as fate would have it, one of them was destined to become a champion. His name would be Mickey Mouse.
Let's face it. At this point, it's pretty clear that mountains were moved for Mickey Mouse to end up on this earth and in the care of Henry. Still, there are more mountains that must be moved in this story.
"We fooled with him around here while he was young, but nothing surprising happened," Henry said. "We'd buck him and he didn't really show too much. He'd buck, but really never turn back, so I just turned him out. Then when he was about 3, I called Doug Butcher (the original breeder of PBR superstar Camo) to see if I could take him to get an out during an event he was putting on. He let me bring him and, oh my word - did he ever turn back and buck."
Although people had been telling Henry that they thought the bull could buck, she was skeptical in her own mind whether the bull really had anything. She had been around cattle her whole life, but when the bull had the out that Butcher provided, she claimed, "Her jaw fell open" with surprise.
"I knew he was good, but I just didn't know if he was good enough to compete with the big boys, even though everybody kept telling me I needed to take him to some ABBI Classics," Henry said. "We went to Pueblo and he did real well. Each event, he got closer to the top of the standings. He won Tulsa and we were looking at the ABBI Finals. So many people were rooting for us. I think it was the story they loved-Mickey's, mine and Johnny's."
Like many other bull lovers, Henry claims her bull has a special personality.
"The funniest thing about Mickey is when we are on our way home," Henry said. "Whether we're coming from the north or south, as soon as we get about three miles away, he starts circling in the trailer. Honestly, he does it each and every time. He knows we're home."
Henry has owned her share of animal athletes and boasts on Mickey's will to compete.
"I have had a lot of racehorses and there is nothing more satisfying than having an animal so talented that loves their job," Henry said. "Mickey definitely loves his job. In fact, the night before we left for Vegas, we took him and bucked him in Liberty about six miles from home. A lot of people thought I was crazy for taking a chance like that, but the more we buck him, the better he is.
"As far as Mickey goes, I'd like to find somebody who will
partner with me on Mickey if Cody
(Lambert) will take him," Henry said. "I've
thought about taking some of the money Mickey won and buying a good
2-year-old. I just don't know, but I certainly don't want this to
be the end. I've met some of the nicest people in the world. I've
never done anything where people are so supportive. I've just been
having the best time. The whole time I was competing in the ABBI,
everyone was so accommodating and nice. It was definitely one of
the best experiences I've had in my life. It's been an awesome
You can read the full story in The American Bucking Bull Magazine next week.
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