Corky Simpson COLUMN
Bull riding’s glory is far too gory
”Rodeos are harder on the men than on the animals.”
- Dr. William E. Brock, dean, Oklahoma State University Veterinary College
Riding bulls is a very iffy proposition, as a student on a rodeo scholarship at Southeastern Louisiana found out last week.
Brandon Buras, 22, died after being trampled at a rodeo near Baton Rouge. He was unable to free himself from the rope he was holding on the bull.
It makes no sense – in fact it is stupid – to climb on the back of 1,500 pounds of nasty temper. I’ve never figured out why people do it.
Rodeo is a great sport with dedicated, talented performers. And bull riders as a class are the most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet.
Which is the problem, of course.
Having watched a cowboy many years ago thrown, stomped and gored, and then scooped up (most of him) and removed from the arena roughly in the form of pudding, I decided to come out against this event.
As much as I am in favor of rodeo, I oppose bull riding, which comes to the Tucson Rodeo Grounds again May 19.
Either as backlash to the sissification of America or to impress women, or both, bull riding has mushroomed in incidence (one hates to say “popularity”) since the 1980s.
That’s when the movie “Urban Cowboy” launched an unprecedented surge toward this rural machismo.
How the image of manhood can be glorified by playing with dynamite on the hoof is beyond understanding.
Surely, the real cowboys, when there were real cowboys, were too wise to mess with a snuffy, slack-hided creature with whom they wouldn’t even share the same pasture.
Fast and unbelievably powerful, the Brahmans can throw the best of cowboys any time the animal chooses to turn on full throttle.
A bull that likes to spin is especially treacherous. Riders who fall to the inside of the whirling bull are likely to be trampled or butted or used as decoration on the animal’s horns.
At the rodeo, a cowboy is disqualified if he hits the ground before the eight-second ride is completed. If he’s lucky, the bull doesn’t disqualify him from life.
In saddle bronc riding or the bareback event, a cowpoke will most often pick himself up off the ground, utter a short word or two of Anglo-Saxon origin, yank the brim of his Stetson angrily down to his eyebrows and stomp back to the riding chutes.
Bull riding is red alert, start to finish.
In as much as a Brahman bull will fight a man on horseback as enthusiastically as one on foot, there are no pickup men. Instead, a rider depends on that most courageous of heroes, the bull-baiting clown, to divert the animal’s attention.
Without the clown, a dismounted bull rider is road kill. Easy pickin’s.
If you can call bull riding a sport, it’s certainly a rough one. You could get a bloody nose just reading about it.
Fans of guts and glory may enjoy it – and they obviously do, the event having grown in popularity over the years.
But after that bloody incident I witnessed so many years ago at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds, I adopted a stance best explained by the words of a Porter Wagoner song:
“I’ve enjoyed as much of this as I can stand.”
Corky Simpson’s e-mail: email@example.com