Winston was not all that pleased with having been selected, a point he made clear on the ride back home. As the bull threw his weight around in the trailer behind the pickup, Earnhardt fought the steering wheel to keep the truck from weaving off the highway. "Ol' Winston must be doin' a tap dance back there," he said. "Feels like we're drivin' down the backstraight at Daytona on a cut tire."
Earnhardt likes the farm project because it's something real and solid to worry about—as opposed to being bothered by what people think of his driving. Lately the fans have started booing him, and although he doesn't take it personally, or to heart, he's not unaffected by the criticism that he's a dirty driver. He absolutely denies it's true, although he does concede that he sometimes gets carried away and makes mistakes by trying too hard.
"I care about winning races, not if they like me," he said. "But sometimes that crap eats you alive. You don't know how to take it. NASCAR has let those drivers run their mouths about me, about everwhat they wanted to, calling me a lowlife. I can't do anything about it. All I can do is drive the best I can and stand my ground. I got to do what I got to do. You got to go on with your program, man. This deal's too short.
"Year before last. Bill Elliott won 11 races but lost the championship because he let the pressure get to him. Waltrip psyched him out, blowed his mind, he chewed him up and spit him out. He done it with his mouth!
"It won't happen to me. Because you know what I care most about right now? What really bothers me is worryin' how that bull's going to react when I get him out to pasture. There's no pressure on me when I'm in a race car. Hell, that's when I'm relaxed; that's the best time in my life."
In the late afternoon the pickup and trailer rig wheeled up to the farm, where a few of Earnhardt's buddies were waiting. Apparently word of the new arrival had gotten out, and they were eager for the show to begin. Winston was offloaded into a tiny stall, where the cowboys had suggested he be kept for a couple of days until he cooled off.
The group of good ol' boys kept growing, and more and more cars pulled up to the tailgate party outside Winston's stall. It was after dark now, and everyone was whooping it up pretty good when, all of a sudden, with a bellow and a crash, the bull leaped over the stall's five-foot-high steel fence. Now here's an odd situation: The NASCAR champion and a bunch of his buddies are out in a barnyard trying to round up a 1,200-pound bull who is very peeved, and very black, on a moonless night. The first problem was just to find the bull. Everybody spread out and began cautiously wandering around, unenthusiastically calling, "Here Winston. ..he-ere boy...e-e-easy big fella."
A snort and a clomp shot out of the dark, causing all hands to hit the deck.
Somehow, much later, they coaxed Winston through a gate into the pasture, where there were two other bulls to keep him company for the night, which was probably all he wanted. Today Earnhardt says he can walk right up to the bull and stroke his nose.