A bull of a story from the summer of 1913
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Jun 20, 2013 | 1053 views | 0 0 comments | 242 242 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ron Swift
Ron Swift
Readers, by now you know that I am engrossed in plowing through 100-year-old issues of this newspaper. That’s right. I’m presently eye-scanning June 1913, reading what the Irrigator reported about Patterson’s early history. After all, the newspaper was then short of being 2-years-old, and the town of Patterson less than four.

So let me share story about the summer of 1913, as told by Editor Elwyn Hoffman.

It seems that local cattleman U.T. Utz bought a young thoroughbred Holstein bull in Los Banos and had it shipped to Patterson by rail. The freight was running late that evening and the train master was concerned that it would soon be in the way of a southbound passenger train.

The normal procedure would have been to back down the tracks to a corral, but that might have consumed too much time. So it was decided to blindfold the bull. Ropes were tied to both horns, enabling him to be dragged down the gangplank.

It almost worked, but the squirming bull suddenly lurched and fell between the freight car and the loading platform. When they got him out, the bull chose to run in circles as the brakeman attempted to slip a loop over a nearby post, keeping just one step ahead of the charging bull.

Just then the passenger train came roaring down the tracks, screeching to a stop just in time to avoid the circling pair who were on the main tracks. The braking noise started the bull, who took off with the brakeman in tow. The latter made one last attempt but missed, throwing a hitch around a switch light down the tracks. He then stumbled, fell, and the bull was free.

But the fun was just beginning. The bull was still wearing the blindfold and dragging the rope. He went through yards in the south in of town, trampled gardens and collided with buildings.

The chase was on. Section foreman Lucey, Constable Morehouse and Night watchman Blue ran after him to the southern edge of town, but without success. Lucey managed to corral him the next day and return him to Utz.

It was then learned that the bull was scheduled to be shipped from Los Banos several days earlier, but dragged four farmhands around a 20-acre field for some time before they gave up the task.

It wasn’t reported just how the bull performed here in rural Patterson, but I still have another six months of 1913 issues to read. With all that trouble he caused, let’s hope he was a good performer.


Last Friday Patterson Boy Scouts had the flags up around town, causing many a Pattersonite to ask “why?”

June 14 is Flag Day, that’s why. Its observance nationally is minimal.

By the way, local businesses wanting flags flying in front of their businesses on eight holidays a year pay the Scouts for the service. It’s been a Patterson tradition for well over 50 years.

Unfortunately, a flag was stolen early last Friday morning in front of a Highway 33 business. This is a rare occurrence, seldom happening since a rash of flag thefts just after 9/11.

By the way, that was an impressive ceremony last Saturday morning to dedicate Veterans’ Memorial Park in our downtown. Numerous youth groups attended, as well as American Legion members, other veterans and a smattering of other Pattersonites. I credit Mayor Luis Molina for leading the singing of our national anthem. He has a good, strong voice.

That new traffic signal currently being installed at the intersection of North First Street and Walnut Avenue has some locals worried. The corner is a very busy one and includes many pedestrians. It very likely will back up traffic that needs to flow in both directions across the nearby railroad tracks, controlled by another signal on Highway 33.


That traffic signal at the intersection of Ward Avenue and M Street may be the slowest in the world. I’m gonna check with the Guinness people.

Vying for second place is the signal at M Street and Highway 33. Fortunately I’ve never lived on M Street. I might have lost a full year.


Being well into baseball season is downright exciting.

The Giants and A’s are strongly in contention in their divisions. My favorite American League team, the Boston Red Sox, is leading theirs as this is written, and my boyhood club, the St. Louis Cardinals, has the best record in the majors. It doesn’t get much better than that.

It also got me to reminiscing about my high school baseball days ‘way back when.’

Back then, those who weren’t much good at the sport were sent to the outfield. I earned four varsity letters, starting in right field and ending in left. That says it all about my baseball ability, because they always put the worst player in right field.

But I was fortunate. High school baseball in Iowa switched to being played in the summer in my freshman year. That meant we seldom had more than 12 players on the team, and one season had only 10. Sitting on the bench wasn’t much of an option.

Every player is known for something, and I was recognized for my work at the plate. I kept the air moving on those hot, muggy Iowa evenings and may have set a strikeout record that still stands at my small alma mater.

But out in the left field pasture, where I spent most of my career, I was a terror at swatting mosquitoes. I may hold that record as well.

So … go Giants, A’s, Red Sox and Cardinals.


Some time back, that small bag of sugar in the grocery stores weighed five pounds. Now it weighs only four.

The gallon container of Roundup sold in one Patterson store looks identical to one sold in another that is only 0.85 of a gallon. Look closely.

And now they’ve cut nearly an inch off the width of toilet tissue, yet failed to lower the price.

I have still another beef. For years I’ve worn slacks having a 34-inch waist size. Now the garment manufacturers are making size 34 smaller.

What is this world coming to?

Ron Swift is the editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at ronkay@gvni.com

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