West and His Steer Tour the Country
TAKE A PEEK
AT 'BIG BILL'
- Some people earn money to go to college by taking a
job over the summer. Others earn it by having rich
earns his college money by taking a big steer around the
that 20 years, West has spent part of the year traveling
around the country showing unusual animals. When
he first got into the sideshow business with his uncle
West showed things like two-headed calves and
West, who lives in Nacogdoches, Texas stakes his income
on two animals, "Big Bill" and "Big Jim" at places like
the Tipton County 4-H Fair, where he is this weekend.
is a Holstein steer that weights 3,500 pounds and stands
about 6 feet tall. "Big Bill" may be big but is
still can't match Howard County's "Old Ben". When
"Old Ben" died in 1910, he weighed 4,720 pounds and was
6 feet 4 inches high.
"Big Jim" is
a Belgian horse that weights 2,700 pounds and measures
18 hands almost 6 and a half feet. The normal size
Belgian horse weight 1,700 pounds and is 17 hands tall.
finest animals you'd ever care to see," said West
summoning up his best carny pitch. "Some people
think that we're exploiting these animals but we're not.
You go to your average riding stable and you'll see that
we keep our animals in better condition.
walked every day and have six months out of the year to
roam around." he added. "Not too many show animals have
that kind of luxury. Actually, there's not much
difference between our animal and others. Ours are
freaks if you consider seven-foot people freaks."
people would think that showing "freak" animals around
the country might be a little strange for a guy who's a
graduate of the University of Wisconsin and is attending
classes at Stephen F. Austin University in Texas, West
"Hey this is
a lot better tan just sitting on your bull working all
day," he said. "I get to travel six months out of
the year, see a lot of the country and make some money
money off of larger than life cows and horses just isn't
what it used to be. Sadly, the carnival sideshow
are becoming things of the past.
are a little more sophisticated," West noted.
"They don't go for the bearded ladies and snake woman
like they used to. Also, you've finding fairs to
be more amusement parks than anything else.
Independent operator like myself just can't afford to
stay in the business for long."
there's still a market there however, Rick West will be
back stering his prized for 25 and 50 cents a peek.
"I feel 'Big
Bill' and 'Big Jim' have agricultural educational and
entertainment value." he said. "I don't think you
can have a better bargain than seeing a
finely-conditioned animal for only 25 or 50 cents.
People particularly kids, like to see things like this,
animals that show what can happen in nature."
resume roaming the prairies and Rick West heads back to
I'm not strapped when they ask me to "What I Did On My
Summer Vacation." he laughed.