Green Valley News, Kitty Bottemiller, Associated Press
Scott and Judy Cochran pose in front of their bull sculpture, named El Toro, in Green Valley on Jan. 12, 2012. Scott Cochran got the sculpture as a Christmas gift for his wife and has drawn positive calls from people in the neighborhood.

GREEN VALLEY, Ariz. — For the 15th time in as many years of marriage, Scott Cochran faced the dilemma over what to get his wife for Christmas — and he decided to take the bull by the horns this time around.

He and wife, Judy, have become known for the unique — she gave him a big rock last year — and this latest gift might have had him stumped but for a visit to a yard-art dealer a month ago. He and Judy had imagined a metal sculpture — perhaps a horse — might add some pizzazz to a vacant strip of desert between their home in San Ignacio Heights and a wash that slopes steeply toward the golf course.

As the owners of one of only a few houses on dead-end Westcotta Court on the subdivison's outskirts, they weren't worried about asking HOA permission to spruce up the strip — which has a beautiful, unfettered view of Elephant Head, the Santa Ritas and tall trucks along Interstate 19. This wasn't a structure as much as it was art.

When they got to the statuary dealer, they found a horse all right, but it was a life-size bull — 10 feet long and 8 feet tall — that tickled Judy's fancy. Scott feigned disinterest and left the show yard.

He returned later and bought it, which raised another issue: How to sneak the near-1,000-pound, rustic steel art piece made in Mexico home without her knowing.

As luck would have it, she was busy entertaining visitors when the delivery truck arrived just before Christmas, along with five men to unload it. That side of the house faced the bedroom, but she was elsewhere so didn't hear the truck. They only needed to carry it 10 feet or so, although balancing it against the wind was tricky. When the bull stopped there, Scott fetched Judy. She was surprised, shocked even.

"He's always getting something unusual," she said. "Then 'El Toro' showed up. I love it."

It soon occurred to the couple what the neighbors might think, especially after Scott added red tail lights to the bull's eye sockets and anchored him in concrete.

"We were leery, but everyone we've talked to loves it," Judy said. "The only negative we've heard is that he's not lit up at night."

In a higher traffic area, a sculpture as big as an ox, with reflective eyeballs to boot, might be a nuisance, said San Ignacio Heights HOA president Charles Gebhardt. But in the neighborhood's far reaches and off the golf course (you can see it from the sixth green if you crane your neck) it's actually fitting, he said.

"The neighbors seem OK with it; it's a nice piece of artwork," Gebhardt said.

A lot of the yards have art, "ours is just a little bigger than some," Scott said.

Not one to steer clear of prickly issues, a neighbor on a street above and in view of the bull, said he was surprised when it popped up.

"As a former HOA president, I worked on the bylaws and saw nothing that would allow this," said Dick Roberts, who serves on Green Valley Council's Traffic and Arroyos Committee. He passes bull pictures around, and they do attract attention, a few smiles and inevitably comments.

"If this can be done, others can do it in their yards," he said.

Technically, he's right. Something bull-size should undergo some sort of review and probably require a permit, but with this, Gebhardt said he doesn't see a problem.

"No one's had anything but good to say about it."

Scott said San Ignacio's HOA is "pretty good and common sense" and that ET has actually drawn positive calls. He thinks it may inspire other out-of-the-ordinary, and hopefully tasteful, decor.

The Cochrans, who were high school sweethearts back in Illinois then went their separate ways after graduating, eventually reunited, married each other and landed in Green Valley.

Their "tail" of two gifts (Scott's "big rock" is actually an ornamental boulder with a lovely patina) not only peps up their yard, but spirits, too, with impending open-heart surgery looming for Scott.

"He's healthy otherwise, and we're optimistic," Judy said.

Oh girl, some might consider that outlook — dare we say it — just darned bullish.

Information from: Green Valley News, http://www.gvnews.com