“It was a big surprise,” said Reiman with the Norfolk Police Department. “What we all expected was an animal as small as a calf that would actually fit in a vehicle, not the big animal that we actually found there.”
The animal named Howdy Doody is a 2,200-pound, 9-year-old Watusi-Longhorn mix steer that looks more like a dog than a fierce fighting bull. His owner, Lee Meyer, said Howdy Doody enjoys walking on leash, getting treats and, yes, feeling the wind blow past his face while they ride. Howdy Doody also knows some commands like “back up” and “come here”.
Meyers lives in Neligh, Neb. In , Howdy Doody became a local celebrity through his appearances at parades – during which he often sat next to the mayor in a modified Crown Victoria. But in Norfolk, a city of 24,000 people, officials deemed the duo’s ride a safety hazard. After the mayor was stopped by police, he was given a warning for visual obstruction and an unsafe load. He was also asked to drive Howdy Doody home.
“I mean, there aren’t a lot of options,” Reimann said. “What do you expect me or anyone to do with an animal that weighs over 1,500 pounds in the middle of a city? It’s not like I’m going to take him to the dog pound. There was only one way, and that was to let the gentleman go back to his house.
How did a huge diversion wind up inside a crown wig? It was the result of what Meyer described as an “aha moment” seven years ago when she was wondering how she could drive with her beloved pet.
“My granddaughter thought it was a bad idea and that it would never work,” Meyer told The Post. “So I said, ‘Well, Grandpa can do anything, but it might take me a while.’ I wanted to prove her wrong.
The 63-year-old retired machinist spent two months tinkering with his car, an old police cruiser. He strengthened the platform, suspension and frame. He put a gate on the side and a plexiglass barrier. Then came the finishing touches: miniature horns adorning the car’s hood and a plate that reads “BOY & DOG.”
Since then, Howdy Doody — who Meyer bought from a breeder in Ohio at 6 months old — has been riding shotgun to places around Nelik. On long trips, the steer rides in a trailer, but Howdy Doody “likes the car better,” Meyer said.
“Howdy Doody is probably the most spoiled steer in all of northeast Nebraska,” said the mayor’s wife, Rhonda.
Meyer makes sure the weather is perfect before each drive, he said: “It can’t be hot and it can’t be when it’s too cold in the winter. Like I said, he’s spoiled. Sometimes, Meyer stops at the gas station to buy Howdy Doody ice cream — though the treats are usually Cattle cubes or compressed alfalfa pellets.
Meyer began caring for Howdy Doody, along with another longhorn named Mabel and six bison, after he retired and his children were grown. “Everybody’s gotta do something, right?” Mayer said. “I had some land and some time, and this is what I decided to do.”
Although Howdy Doody was already known locally after his parade performances, his popularity has now reached new heights after a video of him riding in Norfolk went viral. Clips taken by news channel Nebraska are top-grossing 11 million views On the X platform, formerly known as Twitter.
Although Norfolk still has beef and can’t bring Howdy Doody back there, Meyer said the traffic stop won’t stop him from driving his beloved steer.
“We’re going to go to Norfolk’s Oktoberfest – that’s why we’re doing a trial run there,” the mayor said. “I don’t think we’ll be back. But…it’s going to take a lot to stop one man and his leadership.
And as for the granddaughter, she tried to impress by figuring out how to drive the Howdy Doody: “She thought the police stop was funny, but I didn’t admit I was successful. He says I am not a movie star, I am just a driver.