The stories in Dr. Jeffery J. Pruitt’s book “This Man Called … Bull” are almost too good to be true.
As legend has it Ernest T. Adams, a Glen Rose native, was the first Rhodes Scholar ever at Baylor University; held a massive collection arrowheads and other artifacts all found in the Southwest; took on a professional Eastern boxer; challenged to play the University of Texas football team — by himself; lived through the 1902 Glen Rose tornado; and is credited for discovering the first dinosaur tracks and other artifacts in the area.
Wait, there’s more: He stared down tuberculosis; fathered two children; adored his grandchildren; survived a horrific car crash; was deeply in love with his wife; graduated from Oxford; and played professional soccer in Europe while facing behind in his coursework at Oxford.
These aren’t tall tales, they are all true stories about Bull, captured in Pruitt’s book, as told by people who knew him, including family members; other Glen Rose natives who had also heard the stories; and through old newspaper clipping in the Dallas Morning News and other books, writings and periodicals.
As author, Dallasite and Pulitzer Prize nominee Bill Sloan said, “Bull Adams is a fascinating tale about an incredible — but unsung — Texas hero who rivals such legendary figures as Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill for remarkable feats of strength and intellect.”
The book is beautifully written and captures the reader in the first few pages when Pruitt describes the night Bull stepped into the ring with mighty John Berringer after the man brutally beat up his brother — and other challengers — at the Square the night before.
Just as Bull steps into the ring, Pruitt shifts gears and begins to tell Bull’s life story, leaving the reader yearning to know the result of the fight that is revealed at the end.
“For years he would go down to the bandstand on the square and all the boys would come down on Saturday morning and he would teach them about Europe; he’d teach them about dinosaurs; he’d teach them about archaeology; he’d teach them about mathematics,” Pruitt said.
Bull spent much of his youth digging along the Paluxy looks for Indian artifacts, prehistoric fossils and dinosaur tracks.
Later, at Baylor, he excelled in athletics, and according to his father, he never received less than a 100 on a mathematics test. It was also there where the timid and somewhat socially backward giant of a man met his future wife Mabel Wayland, the daughter of a doctor, who first saw him and like him in a photograph.
The relationship blossomed and withstood his time at Oxford — even though we would return during the summer — and they eventually married. Their love was deep, but they spent many years apart.
After moving from Glen Rose to Dallas so Ernest could practice law, he came down with TB, and he decided to leave the family so he wouldn’t infect them. He came back to Glen Rose and continued his digs along the river and trips to southern Texas and New Mexico looking for artifacts.
He didn’t like practicing law, but he’d pick up a case or two every so often to support himself. Mabel took up jobs in Dallas to support their family while nursing their son back to health after he was involved in a horrific car accident just outside of Glen Rose. They saw each other on occasion over the next few years, but they were both lonely for each other. He engrossed himself in his digs and travels, while she focused on her family.
Eventually, they reunited in Glen Rose but shortly thereafter, Bull suffered a stroke leaving him partially paralyzed and unable to speak clearly. She lived to be 109. Thomas E. Turner, assistant to the president at Baylor University wrote, “It was as if lightening [sic] had felled the greatest redwood giant in the forest.”
While the book focuses a lot on Adams’ life, Pruitt weaves rich history of Glen Rose into the book like the 1902 tornado, the city’s reputation and role during prohibition, its role as a destination weekend city for entertainment and other interesting facts about the area.
Included in the book are Pruitt’s exhaustive list of sources; priceless photographs; and samples of poetry written by Adams.
“Ernest T. Adams had a full life — a victorious one with many heights of grandeur as he soared upward far above most of the common people,” Pruitt wrote. “He also lived a life that was scarred with valleys of pain and disappointments. But these events and seasons of life represent the factors that offer the possibly [sic] of having a rich, varied life such as his. More importantly is how the story of a person’s life affects the lives of others.”