Not everyone loves bull riding as much as I do. Short of bear wrestling, this is the ultimate man-against-beast sport–it’s not a Sunday ride on a pretty little high-tailed Friesian. I like to see the guys succeed. Despite what you may have heard, the animals aren’t hurt. They have short work schedule. Room and board are free. They have all the hay they can eat at their disposal. Not a bad life.
But bull riding isn’t part of ranch life. Wrangling, maybe. Roping, definitely. But riding?
Whoever it was who first looked at a Brahma bull and decided to give him a whirl must’ve been out of his Stetson-capped head. Or drunk. Or totally incapable of resisting a dare.
Maybe it was an initiation ceremony–or the meanest possible practical joke: “Here ya go, greenhorn. You wanna be a cowboy? Ya gotta ride th’ bull.”
Whoever they were who started this, not only did they decide to ride a bull, they decided the only part of the rider’s body that can touch the bull is his legs. A leather strap separates the rider’s hand from the bull’s hide. The back of riding hand rests on the strap which is on the the rope that goes around the animal’s shoulders–a.k.a., the bull rope. This strap is strung onto the rope so the rope itself loops over it and can be tightened with a tug by a cowboy standing on the chute gate. (Picture it this way–a three- to four-inch-wide strap with slits on either end and the rope through the slits. The strap lays flat, and the rope loops over it.) The loop is called the handle, and the rider grasps it in the fist of his rosin-coated glove, because that’s his only lifeline. Once the bull leaves the chute, the rider’s other hand isn’t allowed to touch him.
Of course, that’s not near dangerous enough. Cowboys discovered that a rope around the bull’s flank makes him buck more. The flank rope isn’t tight, just snug enough the bull thinks he can sling it off–and sling he does. That flank motion can sling off more than just the rope. Ask any rider picking himself up from the dirt.
But we’re still not through. We have to strap some blunt-roweled spurs onto the rider’s boots just so he can aggravate the bull a little more. Not that having someone on his back isn’t aggravation enough. Or the ropes around his middle and hind quarters don’t irritate him. No, some hot-shot cowboy had to one-up everyone else and really make the bull mad. Then he had to stay on while the animal threw his temper tantrum.
Fortunately for all concerned, the cowboy has to hang on for only eight seconds–not eight minutes. Heaven help ’em nobody could win if the ride were longer. Still, I wonder how they came up with eight? Was that the top day back when they were introducing this activity as a sport?
Crazy as it is, riding is still a heckuva sport. I enjoy watching it. Love the element of danger, hate when the guys actually get hurt. The bulls rarely get injured–I’ve never seen it happen. The good bucking bulls get to sire more bucking bulls–so that’s another perk to their job. And probably too much information . . .
In Give the Lady a Ride, I put Patricia on the back of a bull–not one of these doozies, but a bull just the same. Her ultimate ride is as much a test for Talon as it is for her. He’d rather plop her pretty little behind in the driver’s seat of her Mercedes and shoo her back to New York than see her get hurt. He’s falling in love with this woman. How’s he supposed to just stand by and watch her get hurt?