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from The Houston Chronicle

    March 30, 2002, 12:46AM

Uncle says he escaped bull thanks to Lovett


Lyle Lovett's uncle said the country singer saved his life when an enraged bull attacked him in his pasture in Klein, in north Harris County.

"When he got on me, he really meant business," said the uncle, Calvin Klein. "There wasn't no joke about it. It was a bad cup of tea. ... If it wouldn't have been for Lyle, I wouldn't be here talking to you."

Lovett, who suffered a pulverized shin bone in the Wednesday incident and underwent surgery, got out of bed for the first time Friday. He is expected to leave Memorial Hermann Hospital within two days.

Klein was severely bruised but did not break any bones or sustain any internal injuries.

The bull, Cotton, a 3-year-old Charolais that Lovett raised from a calf after its mother abandoned it, will probably be donated to a breeding ranch.

"Lyle was out there in the pasture, and this abandoned baby calf got up and followed him home, 'bout a half a mile," Klein said. "He raised him as a pet."

Klein gave the following account of Wednesday's events:

Klein and Lovett were returning from surveying some dead trees when they climbed into Cotton's paddock. Klein petted Cotton, and the bull shook his hand off, so Klein smacked him.

The bull moved off but came back bristling, so he smacked him again. The bull bellowed, turned on him, drove him to the ground and mauled him with his head.

"I knew I was looking at death," Klein said. "That bull's hoof went right down the side of my head. My hat's still got the footprint on it ...

"You can have my woman, but don't touch my hat," Klein said, paraphrasing the lyrics of a Lovett tune.

Lovett ran over and slapped Cotton with his cap, and the bull turned on him, chasing him to the fence. He almost made it over, but the bull pinned his leg against the rail and raked him over to a post, shattering his shin bone.

A friend distracted the animal, and Klein pulled Lovett over the fence.

"It happened so quick, I guess our adrenaline was pumping," Lovett later told Klein. "I don't even remember what I done ... Man, he could've got both of us."

Twenty pieces of bone were broken in Lovett's leg, including nine major fragments that had to be put back together. An apparatus of wires, rods and rings was installed outside the injured leg to help facilitate healing.

Klein said a few tall tales had been told in the days after the incident, including one that had him riding the bull.

"Good, God, I'm 67 years old," he said. "Maybe 40 years ago, but not now. Hell, no."

Cotton will get off easy, though Klein gave some thought to making a steak out of him.

"You get more mellow with age," he said. "Twenty years ago I'd have put him down 15 minutes after it happened."

Lovett, a singer-songwriter who has won several Grammy Awards and has acted in movies, owns a home in the Klein community and graduated from Klein High School in 1975. He went to Texas A&M University, studying journalism and German, and embarked on a full-time music career after graduating in 1981.

He was married to actress Julia Roberts in 1993, and they were divorced in 1995.

A motorcycle enthusiast, Lovett broke his collarbone while attempting a 90-degree turn in the treacherous terrain of Mexico's Baja California desert in 1995.

Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

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