PUEBLO, Colo. – Marlene Henry was glancing up and down trying to look past all of the blue tarps surrounding the bull pen in Huntington Beach, California, last October when all of a sudden she noticed a wet, slimy nose peeking through the bottom of the tarp.
Henry let out that now-nationally recognized smile and, sure enough, Mick E Mouse was trying to stick his head through the tarp to let Henry know he heard her calling despite the hundreds of fans surrounding the makeshift arena on the cusp of the Pacific Ocean for Bulls on the Beach.
Mick E Mouse always knew when Henry was near his pen.
His ears would start twitching, he would excitedly lift his head up in anticipation when he heard her voice and he would always – always – look into Henry’s eyes with a sense of fondness and affection for his owner.
If you were looking for true love in this world, then you didn’t have to look much farther than Henry and Mick E Mouse.
The two were not just owner and bull.
They were family.
She was his mother, and Mick E, as Henry always fondly called him, was her son.
“I have seen a lot of close relationships, but I have never seen one like that,” stock contractor and hauler Kevin Loudamy said. “I don’t know how to really explain it. It is pretty awesome. She has done so many great things for people and for animals for all of her life. The good Lord gave her Mick E for helping everybody else. That was his gift to her, so she could get a lot of joy out of bull riding and Mick E.”
Henry had Mick E Mouse put down Tuesday morning in Elgin, Texas, because of unforeseen medical complications. Henry had taken the 2015 World Champion Bull to Dr. Gary Warner last Wednesday for an appointment after she and Loudamy began noticing irregularities in Mick E’s behavior.
Mick E Mouse was 7 years old.
“It is a tough situation. It is really tough for Marlene. This bull has been her life for six years now pretty much. She was living the dream and it is so hard on her, it is unbelievable,” Loudamy said before pausing to compose himself. “It is pretty bad. It is going to be really tough on her.”
Henry notified the PBR on Tuesday about her decision, which she made in the best interests of her animal so that he would not live the rest of his life in pain and suffering.
“Mick E is no longer in pain,” Henry said. “I will say it has not been all bad. It has been the greatest ride ever. I don’t care if he was No. 1 in the PBR books, but he was to me. He can go to the rainbow bridges and be fat and sassy.”
HE NEEDS A NAME
You could almost say it was fate that brought Mick E Mouse and Henry together.
Henry helped save the life of a calf of Dillinger that was brought to her in desperate need of help by Robbie Herrington in 2003.
For more than a week, Henry bottle-fed the Dillinger calf every five hours and helped, essentially, save the calf’s life.
As fate would have it, that little calf eventually snuck off and bred with some of the cows on Henry’s Dayton, Texas, ranch roughly 15-16 months after she first took in Dillinger’s son.
Nine months later she had four heifers on her hands.
With the help of her friend Tracy LaBuff, Henry eventually bred the heifers with one of LaBuff’s bucking bulls –2006 PBR World Finalist Mighty Mouse.
“I have been so blessed,” Henry said two weeks ago when she believed she would be retiring Mick E Mouse. “I don’t believe in luck, because what happens to you is God’s will. I don’t believe in luck, but I believe I was blessed.”
Henry never bucked Mick E Mouse with a dummy when he was younger and she eventually began taking him to some local jackpot rodeos in bull ridings when he was 3 years old.
There was one jackpot in Woodville, Texas, when she had sent Mick E Mouse with some other stock contractors because she had to work late.
Henry had planned to make the hour-or-so drive to Woodville after work.
At the time, she just called Mick E Mouse by his brand number, which is 81 – coincidentally, the same brand number as Dillinger.
While at work, the phone rang.
The event organizers needed a name, even though she insisted they just use his brand number.
Finally, Henry caved.
“His daddy was Mighty Mouse, so I went from Mighty Mouse to Mick E Mouse and it just stuck,” Henry said. “I never drifted off from that and I always called him Mick E.”
MICK E’S WELCOME PARTY
Henry eventually began to realize her Mick E was something extraordinary after taking her bovine athlete to various bull ridings.
Other stock contractors reached out to her to take her bull to the ABBI, but Henry was at first hesitant.
Once she made up her mind, Mick E Mouse began to garner steam and attention in the ABBI ranks.
She wanted nothing more than for her bull to get a shot to prove himself at the Built Ford Tough Series level. Henry was yearning for a chance to show off her bull to PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert and show him what Mick E Mouse could do against the best bull riders in the world.
“I told them if Cody lets me come to one event and my bull does badly, I will go home and you will never hear from me again,” Henry recalled.
Mick E Mouse didn’t do poorly.
Maybe it was destiny once again, but the stars aligned for Henry’s bull at the 2012 Pueblo, Colorado, BFTS event.
Mick E Mouse was supposed to face Marco Eguchi, but Eguchi withdrew from the event because of an injury. Therefore, Mick E Mouse was slated to face one of the toughest tests in all of professional bull riding – 2011 World Champion Silvano Alves.
“Mick E bucked him off in 1.8 seconds and it’s been history ever since,” Henry said.
THE CHASE FOR THE RECORD
Mick E Mouse went on to be crowned the 2012 ABBI Reserve Champion and was 5-0 on the BFTS.
Shepherd Hills Tested outscored all of the other 3 and 4-year-old bulls over two rounds to score 181.5 and win $250,000 in Las Vegas. Mick E Mouse beat out the extremely deep field of Classic talent in the long round, but was squeezed out by Shepherd Hills Tested’s winning score in the championship round. Mickey Mouse finished with a 179.25.
There was much more to come from Mick E Mouse.
By 2013, he was competing full time on the BFTS.
One by one each rider that stepped up to challenge Henry’s bovine masterpiece would be sent back to the locker room looking for answers with no easy solution in sight.
He bucked off all 12 of his opponents in 2013, before bucking off another 11 in 2014.
Mick E Mouse had bucked off all 28 of his BFTS opponents in three seasons.
It is why at the beginning of this year, Henry and Loudamy began privately talking about the possibility of Mick E Mouse making history.
Henry and Loudamy never shared their intentions publicly, but prior to Mick E Mouse slightly fracturing his back in Billings, Montana, this past April when Nathan Schaper was attempting to ride him, they had developed a plan with the ultimate goal of Mick E Mouse breaking Bushwacker’s all-time BFTS record buckoff streak at the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
They were both confident that Mick E Mouse, who was 6-0 and averaging a career best 45.38 points per out this season, was getting stronger and capable of breaking the three-time World Champion Bull’s record on the final day of Finals.
The record was such an important goal for them that they both agreed that they rather have seen Mick E Mouse break Bushwacker’s record than win the World Champion Bull title.
“Breaking that streak was our goal,” Loudamy said. “That was our goal to do and everything. We were just going to go for it and see what is there.”
There were two riders that Loudamy believed could have potentially got in the way of the record, and that was Schaper and Alves.
Schaper ended up being the last rider to ever attempt Mick E Mouse and some believe that he had a chance of making the 8-second mark before Mick E slipped in the arena.
“I fully expected him to be back and be back on him this fall,” Schaper said. “He was definitely in contention for Bull of the Year. That is really sad to hear. Actually, any time a bull gets hurt. No one ever did ride him. That is something to say. We all wanted to be the one to do it.”
Mick E Mouse concludes his career with a 34-0 record on the Built Ford Tough Series. His 34 consecutive buckoffs are the third most in PBR history and he was never ridden in 40 outs at all levels.
“I was just talking about him (a few days ago) and I realized out of all the bulls I can think of, he is the only one in my lifetime that went through a PBR career, where he is going against the best riders, and no one rode him,” Lambert said two weeks ago in an interview when it was believed Mick E Mouse would be retiring. “The difference is a contender for the PBR championship only goes against the best riders of his time. That is all Mick E has gone against. Out of all the bulls, that is a PBR record that he holds. He competed his entire career in the PBR and was never ridden.”
Lambert said there was no question Mick E Mouse was on his way to a potential World Championship.
“I would never be pinned down to say who was going to win it, but it was obvious Mick E Mouse was going to win it,” he said. “The only way the other great bulls – Long John, Air Time, Smooth Operator, Percolator – were going to beat Mick E Mouse was if something happened to him. I wasn’t going to say that because I didn’t want to get involved in the middle of this bull race. Now that it is over it is obvious. I thought about it for the last couple of days and it was obvious he was going to win it.”
Out of his 40 buckoffs, Mick E Mouse dominated four PBR World Champions and two PRCA champions. He has bucked off 2013 World Champion J.B. Mauney, 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi (twice), 2004 World Champion Mike Lee (twice), three-time World Champion Alves, four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris (three times) and 2011 PRCA champion Shane Proctor (twice).
If you take away his out against Mauney, which was at this year’s RFD-TV’s THE AMERICAN – a PBR minor league event, that means that 29.41 percent of Mick E Mouse’s BFTS buckoffs (10-of-32) were against World Champion bull riders.
Mick E Mouse has also bucked off every rider currently ranked inside the Top 10 of the world standings except for rookie Kaique Pacheco and Fabiano Vieira.
Lambert believes that Mick E Mouse would have been a World Champion Bull if not for Bushwacker and Asteroid.
Mick E Mouse finished third in the past two World Champion Bull races.
“He was good enough where he could have won the championship three times right now,” Lambert said. “The only problem was Bushwacker and Asteroid were there.”
Lambert added that even though Mick E Mouse never won a world title, he almost certainly will be a future inductee to the PBR Ring of Honor as a recipient of the Brand of Honor.
“He won’t win the World Championship, but in my mind he will win the Brand of Honor (in the future) where he is a legendary bull that is awarded for his entire career and body of work,” Lambert said.
THE SHOWDOWN WITH J.W. HARRIS
If there was one standout performance from this season that will forever remain emblazoned in Henry and many fans’ minds then you have to go back to the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Harris boldly claimed after winning Round 2 that he would select Mick E Mouse in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round if the bull was still available in the draft.
Loudamy and Henry heard the news later that night, admittedly shocked that Harris was so confident that he could ride their bull.
The two knew that Harris was the closest any rider had ever been to conquering Mick E Mouse when he was bucked off in 7.47 seconds last year in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
In fact, Lambert believes that if Harris had lasted that final half second the ride would have been one of the all-time best in PBR history.
“He had so many spectacular outs,” Lambert said. “J.W. Harris was the closest to ride him last year in Thackerville and that would have been right up there with the highest scored rides in PBR history. I think he would have been 96 on him then.”
Despite how close Harris had been in Thackerville, Henry and Loudamy also knew Mick E Mouse was a lot stronger this time around, especially considering that their prized possession dominated Harris earlier this season with a career-best 47-point outing in Anaheim, California, during a 2.65-second buckoff.
Still, Albuquerque was the most nervous Henry ever appeared on the BFTS.
Once again, Mick E came through for his loving owner in a forever memorable performance.
He started out with a forceful move to the left, before quickly shifting to the right and rolling his back upward to force Harris down onto his riding arm. Mick E Mouse then ripped high into the air to slip Harris down over his front end with his brute strength – getting completely vertical in the process.
All Harris could do was bend over at his knees and shake his head inside the arena following the buckoff.
It was the second time in a row that Mick E Mouse has gotten Harris’ free arm out of position.
“I guess as far as bull rides go, I guess my most exciting one that he ever had was the last one he had with J.W. Harris,” Henry said. “That was just pretty incredible. The one with J.W. Harris was just exciting to me because J.W. picked him. He was just so sure he was going to conquer him. Mick E just exploded. It was just heart filling. It was one of those wow factors.”
That bull riding ranked up there in Loudamy’s memory, too.
“The out with J.W. Harris at Albuquerque is the out that I will always remember,” Loudamy said. “I will remember that for as long as I live. It is one of those you can remember. It is not because J.W. stepped up and said he was going to pick him, it was because of how the bull performed and how J.W. tried so hard and the bull tried so hard.”
Lambert said that some of his best memories of Mick E Mouse came in Albuquerque, recalling not only Mick E’s 45.25-point out against Harris, but his 2.44 second buckoff of Chase Outlaw in 2013.
“He had a lot of great outs and it seemed like in Albuquerque he always had great outs,” Lambert said. “2013 at Albuquerque with Chase Outlaw was one of those really, really impressive outs.”
Harris expressed his shock about the news of Mick E’s passing on Tuesday.
“I never had much luck against him,” Harris said. “He was becoming one of the family, as weird as it sounds. He was part of what we did and it is sure a bad deal to hear they had to put him down. That was her kid. Shoot, she loved that bull. She was proud of him and everything he did. He was something special to her. I think with me picking Mick E Mouse, me and Marlene became sort of friends. I like Marlene. She is an awesome person and she wants her bull to buck and I think deep down she wanted us to ride him, but at the right time. She loved it whenever she bucked the guys off.
“She wanted to see her baby win.”
MORE THAN A BUCKING BULL
While Henry will always remember those memorable moments inside the arena, much of her favorite memories are those that revolve around Mick E Mouse’s personality.
Throughout the past seven years, Mick E Mouse developed a personality that was fun and playful outside of the arena.
“One of the other neater things when he used to be here at home with me is when he is playing in his sand pile,” Henry said. “It has to be the most hilarious thing you have ever seen. This bull absolutely goes bananas in a sand pile. It is just funny. He always gets down and rolls around like a dog and throws it in the air. He will run to the top of the sand pile and stand at the very top and look around. It is just funny to watch him. He just loves it.
“He has a lot of personality. Not only can he buck, but he has lots of personality.”
When Loudamy began keeping Mick E Mouse at his ranch in Brownsboro, Texas, Henry told him in 2013:
“I know you have bucked 10,000 bulls in the last 20 years Kevin, but I am telling you, this bull has the most outstanding personality ever.’
Loudamy added, “He was always playful. That bull enjoyed life and he really did. He was easy to get along with and he liked seeing people every day when they came by the ranch.”
That kind of personality is what helped build a special relationship between Loudamy and Mick E Mouse.
“Kevin isn’t a person who shows a lot of emotion,” Henry said. “You notice him on the back of the chute and he has that same look on his face all the time. He doesn’t show a lot of feelings. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion, but I am telling you, he loves that bull as much if not more than I do. He really does. He is upset about it.”
Loudamy and Henry weren’t alone in their love for Mick E Mouse.
Mick E Mouse was a fan favorite during Bushwacker’s farewell tour last season and had risen to stardom this year.
Everywhere Henry went, she would be asked for multiple autographs and to pose for pictures with various fans of all ages.
It has been one of the most humbling aspects of the past four years. She and Mick E shared the spotlight together and Henry always prided herself on sitting in the stands with the fans and being accessible.
“I need to do it for the fans,” she said. “Those people love that bull and they are like me, I am at events and there are little kids all around me wanting me to sign this and wanting me to sign that. It is humbling. It is sweet that they are that way. Sometimes I don’t know if they are more excited to see me or the bull.”
It is one of the main reasons why Henry made her way to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum this weekend.
Many of her relatives had already bought tickets to go see Mick E Mouse buck before learning his health had declined.
Beyond her family, Henry knew there were many fans who had expected to see Mick E in action.
There were two little girls that had been yearning to see Mick E Mouse in person and meet Marlene.
“These little twin girls had been waiting for Biloxi to see Mick E,” Henry said. “I could not give them Mick E, so I told their dad that I would go upstairs and meet them. So I did and they were so excited to meet me. These are the things that make it all worth while. Every stock contractor big or small should remember the fans. I would not trade anything for these moments.”
At this point in time, the last thing Henry and Loudamy have decided on is what the future may hold.
Loudamy currently has two of Mick E Mouse’s 4-year-old sons, Mouse in the House and MJ (Mick E Jr.) and believes they may be future BFTS bulls.
“Hopefully next year we will have two of his calves ready to go on the tour,” Loudamy said. “I have bucked them a little bit and they had shown some outstanding promise. I don’t want to say they will ever step up and be another Mick E because he will be hard to replace.”
Henry said, “I have those two, but I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know if this will be it or what I am going to do. I am just going to take it all in stride.”
One thing is for certain.
“There will never be another Mick E,” Henry concluded. “I would be delighted if I had another one half as good as him. I would be happy if I had one that could make the short go and be of that caliber.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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