As a driver, I have often wondered, “Who is the best kind of person to have ride shotgun?” A story broke last week that has me revaluating. Perhaps the question should be, “What is the best kind of being to have ride shotgun?”
It was a classic case of man meets bull, man raises bull, man takes bull for a ride in his Ford Crown Victoria sedan. The man is 63-year-old retired machinist Lee Meyer of Neligh, Neb. The bull is Howdy Doody, a nine-year-old Watusi-longhorn mix steer who weighs 998 kilograms and also hails from Neligh.
The story began on Aug. 30 when police in Norfolk, Neb. received a report of a car driving around the downtown area with a cow inside it. Norfolk Police Division Capt. Chad Reiman told the Washington Post, “We were all kind of expecting it to be a smaller animal, like a calf, that would actually fit into a vehicle, not the large animal that we actually discovered there.”
Instead, officers discovered Lee Meyer driving a customized cop car with an enormous black and white dappled Watusi riding shotgun. Meyer’s car sports bull horns and a licence plate that reads “Bog & Dog.” It was not the first time Meyers has taken Howdy Doody (named for the 1950s TV show puppet) for a drive. Prior to Aug. 30, he had been driving his bull by his side for more than seven years without incident. He never exceeds 56 kilometres an hour. Meyers not only drives his Watusi, which he adopted when it was six months old, he takes him for walks on a leash.
While folks in Meyer’s hometown are used to seeing him squiring Howdy Doody, law enforcement in Norfolk (population: 24,000) were not. They weighed their options – which upon close examination were limited. Said Reiman, “What would you expect me or anybody to do with an over-1,500-pound animal in the middle of a downtown in a city?” So, officers gave Meyers a warning and asked him to drive Howdy Doody home.
Since the incident, I’ve watched numerous videos of Meyers and Howdy Doody on the road. I’ve got to be honest; the enormous Watusi bull seems like better company than a lot of humans I’ve had ride shotgun. I’ll briefly outline some of his qualities:
- Chilled out. The massive Watusi is mellow. His Yacht Rock vibe is consistent with reports from a witness who passed Howdy Doody on the road and described the bull as nonplussed. Howdy Doody was “totally calm, cool and just being a rock star.” Meyers says his Watusi travels in a trailer for longer trips but “likes the car better.”
- Does not press his hoof down on an imaginary brake.
- Tidy. While Howdy Doody did empty his digestive system – perhaps because of stress caused by the traffic stop – he did so on the outside of the car, sparing the vehicle’s interior.
- Present. A Watusi bull is entirely in the moment. No concept of the future.
Compare these qualities with the average human passenger:
- Stressed. Everyone is stressed.
- Winces and presses foot down on imaginary brake.
- Wants to know what route is being taken and how long it will take to get there.
- Wants to connect their phone to Apple CarPlay.
- Wants to use “Waze.”
- Wants to listen to audiobook.
- Not present. Not in the moment. Worries about the future.
While Howdy Doody is the first bull to be stopped by the police, there is a long history of animals in the passenger seat. Police in Collingwood, Ont., recently stopped a 47-year-old woman suspected of impaired driving and found a pet duck riding (or should that be waddling) shotgun.
Some attempt to frame their pets. In May 2023, a driver in Colorado swapped seats with his dog and then tried to pin a drunk driving charge on his canine. The driver (Dog’s Least-Best Friend) told police his dog had been driving. The dog was not charged, the driver was.
He was not the first to try this stunt. In 1964, an Irish farmer was arrested for allowing his collie to drive his car while sitting on his lap. The farmer’s doctor testified that the farmer maintained that the animal could not only steer but “operated the pedals with its paws.” The dog came by its skill naturally, the farmer maintained, as its father (also a collie) could drive. The farmer, who said he had lost his driving licence unfairly, had vowed never to drive again “as long as the water runs, the grass grows and the holy green.” His solution: Let his dog drive.
Meyers remains determined to continue cruising Nebraska with Howdy Doody at his side, the wind caressing his massive horns. And while Norfolk is off his list of locales, he told The New York Times, “I will go to these other little towns around. They’re going to have to do a lot more to stop me.”