By Bob Tennison

Ferdinand, Ferdinand, the bull with the delicate ego,
Ferdinand, Ferdinand, the heifers all called him Amigo.
Ferdinand, Ferdinand, he’d curtsy and be very polite.
Well, he learned how to tango and dance the fandango,
But, he never would learn how to fight.


dancing-bullHis mother, Carmen Bull, knew he was different, but she loved the difference. On the sly, she was teaching him to dance. She had lost two sons in the bullring in Mexico City, and had no intention of losing Ferdinand.

His father, Alejandro Bull, did not share that opinion. He had been a fighter in Madrid, and due to the   matador he was facing flubbed the kill twice, his life was spared. He wanted a fighting son, but knew he would have to settle for opening a training school for fighting bulls.

After his close call he convinced Carmen to leave her singing career with the Madrid Bovine Palace and move to Mexico. Crossing the Atlantic on an antique Bull Ship was anything but pleasant, but she remained enthusiastic until they settled on a ranch outside the village \ of a place called Jocotepec. She was not impressed.

Sadly, there were no places for Ferdinand to perform. He would entertain at fiestas and frequently at a tavern called The Bull Pen on family nights, but there was no theatre or concert hall nearby. Regardless of limitations, word spread about this fantastic, talented bull, and he appeared many times in Mexico City with a group called the Bullé Folklorico.

After his spectacular performance in “Bull Moose Lake,” write-ups in the city papers made it to the United States and caught the attention of two brothers named Ringling in Sarasota, Florida, and they were determined to find him and include his act in their “Greatest Show On Earth.” They could neither pronounce or spell Jocotepec, and it wasn’t on the old map they had, but they researched until they found its location.

Little did they suspect that at the very same time their biggest competitor had also heard about Ferdinand and were already packing up to make the trip. As Fate or Luck would have it, they all arrived at the same time, and the bidding began. Alejandro could see nothing but dollar signs flashing in front of his eyes and knew that at last he would have enough money, regardless of who outbid the other, to open his training school, which he had already named the Bull Session.

Carmen would finally be able to get even with all of the boys who had so mercilessly teased and picked on Ferdinand. She had always referred to them as bullies. And then she would be able to resume her singing career with the Guadalajara Teatro de Toros and accept their offer to star in a new French opera, “Le Bétail Male Sur Le Toit” (Translation: “The Bull on the Roof.”)

Ferdinand went on to fame and fortune, and the Bull family was happy at last. Now you can all sleep better tonight finally knowing where the phrase “that’s a lot of bull” originated.

P.S. The poem “Ferdinand,” which was later a gong, is from a book by the same name that I read at the age of ten. As you can see, it made a lasting impression, as seventy-five years later I wrote this story. And that’s no bull.

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