News of a little bull - Tucson Local Media: Import

News of a little bull

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Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2005 11:00 pm

May 4, 2005 - At the Last Territory Steakhouse and Music Hall, there's a patch of gravel outside that's a different shade from the rest. Overhead is a floodlight that has no reason to shine.

The rocks and light are all that remain of the pen where an elderly bull ate apple pellets out of children's hands and earned his livelihood by looking like he belonged in an Old West movie.

That bull was Señor L.T., a Texas longhorn. He died at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort's cowboy-themed restaurant February at age 17.

Not far from his old spot is a new plusher pen with a shade tree, misters, and a hiding place where a bull could presumably go be antisocial for a while. This spot goes to the longtime mascot's pint-sized successor, L.T. Junior.

Those who loved the senior bull as a pet might wonder how he would have taken the upstaging.

"Señor L.T. is looking down on us and cussing at us," said Rich Lopez, the manager at the Last Territory, the restaurant both L.T.s are named for.

The junior calf was born on Valentine's Day and is, to the thinking of more than a few resort staff members, a sweetheart.

"If you see the little fellow, you immediately fall in love with him," said Shawn McGowan, the director of food and beverages at the resort, who picked him out. "You can't help but love the little guy."

The brown-and-white 2-month-old with stubby horns about two inches long gets a plush pen because it is his permanent home. Señor L.T. only lived in his pen during restaurant hours, Tuesday through Saturday at dinner.

L.T. Junior needs to learn while he's young to interact in a solely human world, Lopez said, and that's why he won't spend time at the resort's stables the way the elder bull did.

Señor L.T. arrived at the resort 16 years ago as a trained adult bull.

From the start, his bread and butter consisted of mingling with restaurant patrons by acknowledging their presence when they got near his pen and by licking their hands with his sandpaper tongue.

For this, he got fed each morning, and at about 3 p.m. he got bathed, walked to the restaurant, fed again, groomed and sprayed with a citrus fly repellent that his caretakers called his cologne.

Those who worked with him thought of him as an oversized puppy dog, Lopez said.

"He could get ornery like a grumpy old man and swing his horns around," he said. "Some days he wanted to play. Imagine that 2,000-pound animal with those horns jumping around."

But the bull seemed to become most playful during the restaurant's special events in which he played a starring role, Lopez said.

Every so often, a company such as Caterpillar or IBM would hold a conference at the resort, and a group of about 500 would show up at the Last Territory for some Old West fun.

In the restaurant's courtyard, which resembles the set of an Old West movie, the conferencegoers would enjoy steak, country music and Western games. On these days, the company's chief executive officer would climb onto Señor L.T.'s back, and the two would make a grand entrance into restaurant's courtyard.

They'd end up at the storefront façade labeled Pappy's Old Time Photos where, Lopez said, the bull would look straight at the camera on cue.

"I think that's the part Señor L.T. loved the most," Lopez said, "because he was center stage."

The bull wasn't young, though, and about a year and a half ago he had to stop giving rides, Lopez said. He developed arthritis and stopped hopping to his feet so eagerly for admiring guests.

"He became less and less playful, started slowing down," Lopez said.

In February, he quietly died. Hotel staff members sent Lopez letters acknowledging his loss of a friend.

"I'd only known him for two years, still he was like a pet," Lopez said.

The restaurant grounds seemed empty without the elderly bull, but it wasn't long before an energetic youngster stepped in to try to fill his hooves.

On April 1, L.T. Junior arrived at his posh pen, fresh from a place called Stallion Ranch. McGowan, a past member of Future Farmers of America, latched onto him at the ranch like one might latch onto a pet store puppy, Lopez said.

"This was the guy that had the big eyelashes that just seemed like he was the right fit for us," McGowan said.

A handler for L.T. Junior was procured from the Future Farmers of America program at McGowan's alma mater, Amphitheater High School. Every day, senior Julian Sainz takes the little one for a walk to aid his social skills. Sainz said he's coming along.

"When I first saw him, he shied away from me, and every time I got close he'd walk away from me," he said. "Now he let's me go right up to him, touch him and put the halter on him. He's not as scared of me as when I first started."

There's talk of showing the little one at the Pima County Fair to further get him accustomed to people. The little one has a lot to learn, but McGowan is hopeful that he has what it takes to make Señor L.T. proud.

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