As the Registrar for the Greeley Museums, I am the primary contact for individuals seeking to donate items to the Museums. That means I meet a lot of interesting people and hear a lot of interesting stories associated with the items offered for donation.

My favorite offer and story thus far in 2023, came from JJ Steele, who offered items related to Willie the trained Brahma. Willie and a few other young Brahma bulls were purchased by JJ’s father Earl Steele so that JJ and his friends could practice “bull riding.” JJ charged then 25 cents per ride.  One day though, Willie quit bucking and as a lark, JJ decided to just ride him and shortly after decided Willie needed to know how to rein, so Willie learned how to do that along with many other fun things. When Willie’s horns grew, it became necessary to sit back out of their reach, and thus Willie gained a saddle for JJ’s safety.  Until 1968, JJ and Willie rode in many parades, at rodeos, and for fun. JJ went off to college and Willie went to live at the Greeley Zoo in Island Grove Park where he was loved, and fed, by all who visited him. The Greeley Parks Superintendent in charge of the Greeley Zoo said that “Willy ate everything from peanuts to popcorn plunked in his gaping mouth by loving youngsters, sure the old steer would love them. And Willy did. Not one to bicker, he would eat just about anything.”

Written by JoAnna Luth Stull, Registrar


A cowboy wearing a black hat sits atop a Brahma bull using a saddle.

Willie, shown here in 1966 with JJ Steele, weighed 1,700 pounds at the time of his death in March 1972.
Photograph, pending donation, is courtesy of JJ Steele.

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