Let this be a warning to those of you who long to hit the open road with a 2,200-pound steer riding shotgun: Observe all traffic laws, especially when passing through Norfolk, Neb.
Lee Meyer, 63, a retired machinist, learned that lesson on Wednesday.
For seven years, Mr. Meyer has been chauffeuring his 2,200-pound Watusi-longhorn mix named Howdy Doody with its horns and head exposed to the open air in a customized Ford Crown Victoria with the license plate “Boy Dog.”
But he had never been stopped by the police, he said, until Wednesday morning as he drove Howdy Doody into Norfolk from his 15-acre ranch south of Neligh, about 35 miles away.
Mr. Meyer had just turned off the highway on what was supposed to be a test run in preparation for Howdy Doody’s appearance at Norfolk’s Oktoberfest when he noticed a police car behind him had turned on its flashing lights.
Someone had reported “a vehicle driving down the road with a cow in it,” Capt. Chad Reiman, of the Norfolk Police Division, said.
“The assumption was it was a calf — something smaller that would fit in a vehicle,” Captain Reiman said.
But the officer found Mr. Meyer and his large steer in a car that had its roof, door, back seat and windshield partly removed and its shock absorbers and frame reinforced to accommodate the beast’s massive girth and weight.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Captain Reiman said, “and I’ve never seen anything like it on the road before.”
The officer gave Mr. Meyer warnings that his vehicle had an obstructed view and an unsecured load but did not cite him for any traffic violations, Captain Reiman said.
“He was simply asked to take the animal home and take it out of the city,” Captain Reiman said.
Mr. Meyer, who lives in a city of about 1,500, said he was not surprised that he had run into some problems in Norfolk, a city of about 26,000 residents, roughly 115 miles northwest of Omaha.
“It’s so shocking to people, I guess, sometimes that they don’t know what to do,” he said. “And the bigger the town you go to, the more stiff-necked they are, for lack of a better word. I’ve been to plenty of towns that are a lot smaller and nobody has had any problems with it.”
Mr. Meyer bought Howdy Doody from a breeder in Ohio about eight years ago. He also has a longhorn named Maybelle and six bison.
“It’s just a hobby,” he said. “Kids grew up, had to do something. Grandkids said it was a bad idea. I said grandpa’s going to do it anyway.”
Mr. Meyer said that Howdy Doody enjoys being driven to parades.
Mr. Meyer uses the Crown Victoria for closer destinations and a trailer for places more than 40 miles away. He said he drives about 35 miles per hour on the highway and that Howdy Doody, who wears a halter in the car, does not startle on the road.
“Not one time has he in seven years made an attempt to jump out or kick or struggle in any way,” Mr. Meyer said.
Rhonda Meyer, Mr. Meyer’s wife, said her husband would often stop at a gas station and buy Howdy Doody an ice cream.
“He’s the most spoiled steer in northeast Nebraska,” she said.
David Gutshall, an insurance agent in Norfolk, said he was driving on the highway on Wednesday after taking pictures of a house when he came up behind Mr. Meyer’s car with Howdy Doody’s head and horns poking out.
“I thought that can’t be a real bull,” he said. “It can’t be real.”
But as he passed Mr. Meyer’s car, the steer turned its head and gazed impassively at Mr. Gutshall, he said.
“It was like ‘Look at me, man,’” he said. “He’s just totally calm, cool and just being a rock star, and like he knows it.”
Mr. Meyer said his brief brush with the law won’t stop him from driving Howdy Doody again, although he now plans to skip Oktoberfest in Norfolk.
“I won’t go to Norfolk,” he said. “But I will go to these other little towns around. They’re going to have to do a lot more to stop me.”