Tommy Played Alone

Photo from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Minnie Lee, 64, was the mother of Ethel Lee, 46. They lived on a 50-acre farm in Wise County, Texas, about a 90-minute drive northwest of Dallas. Ethel Lee had a pet bull. She bought that animal when it was just a day old. Two years later, that Holstein bull weighed 1,600 pounds.

Two days into May 1951, at about 7:30 in the morning, Perry Shelton went fishing with his brother to Comanche, Oklahoma. Perry also lived on the 50-acre farm. He was Minnie Lee’s husband and Ethel Lee’s father. When they—Perry and his brother—left, Minnie Lee, Ethel Lee, and an 18-month-old baby—Tommy, Minnie Lee’s great-grandchild—stayed behind.

About 30 minutes after Perry and his brother left, Ethel Lee went outside to feed her pet bull. Soon after, Minnie Lee heard her daughter’s screams. The bull was attacking her. Instinctively, the mother rushed to help the daughter escape.

A little past noon, Perry and his brother returned. Perry saw the dead bodies of his wife and daughter torn and battered. The pet bull’s horns and head were full of blood and colored red. The bull looked nervous. Perry also found Tommy, unharmed, playing in the yard. His shoes full of mud, Tommy had probably been there, playing alone, for four hours.

Perry tied the bull to a post, then nearly collapsed. He “suffer[ed] with a weak heart,” and a doctor sedated him. 50 men helped load the bull, the family pet, onto a truck. The bull got taken for slaughter to Fort Worth.

Almost five years later, in 1956, on a Friday morning in February, Perry died of a heart attack while “walking to town.” His obituary said he was born in Tennessee to a family that became early Texas settlers. It said he got converted in a brush arbor Revival meeting.

About halfway between Dallas, Texas, and Comanche, Oklahoma, Perry’s buried in Cottonwood Cemetery next to Minnie Lee, and Ethel Lee.

Photo from

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