Politics and Bullshipping: A tale of a horn heist at Mentzer’s Montana cow lot

We have all been bravely suffering through the presidential silly season for months and watching as the possible heir apparent to the Oval Office appears to change weekly. Some of us look longingly at our neighbor to the north as an inviting refuge come November. But most of us are eagerly seeking stability wherever we can find it.

I found a bit yesterday in Drummond, Montana – a five-block stretch of dusty road with cafes promising real home-cooked food on both ends of Front Street, which is wedged between Interstate 90 and the railroad tracks.

Almost precisely in the middle of the hamlet remains Garry Mentzer’s livestock yard and its chutes, pens, corrals and fencing, which for decades guided thousands of head of fine Montana cattle onto railcars for shipment across North America. Someone rightly coined the slogan for the complex: “Home of World Famous Bullshippers.”

Landmark sign in Drummond, Montana, and widest longhorns known. - 14  feet tip to tip.  (c)  photo Cold Truth

Landmark sign in Drummond, Montana displays widest longhorns known. – 14 feet tip to tip. (c) photo Cold Truth

The stability I mentioned comes from thousands of travelers – local and foreign – detouring a half-block off the Drummond exit of the interstate on east or west trips through Montana. We do so ostensibly to top off the gas tank or see what homemade food still tastes like. But in reality, the diversion is to grab a peek at the gigantic artwork installed above the main gate of the town’s feedlot: “Mentzer’s used COW lot.” Atop the sign is a bronze longhorn skull with horns 14 feet from tip to tip.

The widest set of longhorns in the world, locals say, was created by Montana artist Don Grazier in his one-time Awesom-Animal Studio. But the skull was stolen.

Missoulian writer Kim Briggeman said it happened one spring night last year after the bars closed. Somebody – or two or three bodies – unbolted the immense, 350-pound, iconic skull-and-horns sculpture from atop the fence.

But it didn’t get far. According to Briggeman, soon after sunrise, a neighbor found the huge piece of art propped up against a fence a mile and a half out of town. The theft was made even more bizarre when an envelope was found attached to the skull.

Inside it was a note that read: “Sorry about the inconvenience, Mr. Mentzer.”

It was accompanied by a $100 bill.

The artwork has been reinstalled with the addition of several stronger bolts. Theories abound as to who pulled off the heist, but Mentzer refused to press charges and the culprits remain free.

So stability has return to Drummond and those who love seeing the sign. Mentzer says he still gets calls from around the world from people who want to know more about the giant longhorn.

“I just tell ’em we’re still eating on that guy,” Mentzer tells reporters.


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