He Took The Bull By The Horns


Rodeo, of course, survived the bleak and dispiriting thirties and remains a thriving institution. The 101 Ranch was not as hardy. Bankrupt, it was ordered liquidated by the District Court of Kay County, the sale of properties to begin on March 23, 1932. Zack Miller, recuperating from a nervous breakdown, filed a petition the day before the auction, and was given twenty-four hours to cut out his personal stock from the ranch’s horses. Bill Pickett, seventy-one years old and now retired, had bought and stocked 160 acres near Chandler, Oklahoma. He visited the 101 occasionally, and did so now to help his friend.

On the morning of the twenty-third, Bill entered a corral, rope in hand, to cut out a skittish sorrel. He sailed the loop over the animal’s head on the first toss. The horse backed to the fence and reared. Pickett climbed the rope hand over hand. Again the sorrel reared. Twenty-five years earlier the darkskinned bulldogger would have scrambled easily to one side. But now a hoof struck his head and he fell to his knees, dazed, still clutching the rope. The horse rose and plunged, and Pickett’s skull was fractured.

A doctor was rushed to the ranch, but could do nothing. Pickett hung on, unconscious, for eleven days. Zack Miller, against his own doctor’s orders, maintained a bedside vigil until his old hand died.

Pickett was buried at the 101 atop a soapstone hill—in the hard ground he had requested so long before.

Zack wrote the epitaph for Pickett’s headstone, an epitaph for a man who had given the nation one of its most exciting rodeo events, for the only man of the West ever known to brace a Spanish fighting bull with his bare hands, for an old friend.

It was the simply put sentiment of an aging, mournful man:

He left a blank that’s hard to fill
For there’ll never be another Bill.