adventure, bull-riding, cowboys, Memoir, Texas

The Biting Bull

From my book, “Used to Want to Be a Cowboy.”

I didn’t like going to the Mineral Wells bull-riding jackpot. The stock contractors were a rough group, bull riders from the ’60s and ’70s who had no sympathy for the “new” generation. One of them, I had heard, killed a man when he was younger, and I didn’t doubt it.

The bulls they brought to the jackpot weren’t the kind you’d like to ride. Looking back, I can’t think of any I would like to ride, but especially not these. They were the rodeo outcasts. Some were more interested in hooking than bucking. Some, having never been in a bucking chute, didn’t know how to act. When you tried to get ready to ride, they tried to either climb out or tear out. And most of them bucked so hard that if you stayed on one, you deserved a score in the 90s. They were fine for a weekend rodeo, but they weren’t what I wanted to get on during a mid-week jackpot.

But when Travis told me that we were going to Mineral Wells, I had to grab my bag and go. He would have kept on, even if I had a reason for not going, until I gave in. I sure wasn’t going to mention wild bulls and wild stock contractors as my reason for wanting to stay home. Besides, he had driven the 70 miles from Joshua to Stephenville to pick me up.

Cory Turnbow was the Texas Circuit champion that year. Even though he knew all of the bulls, we were never sure if he was telling the truth or just stirring us up when he told us about one. Half of what he said was a lie. “Who’d ya get?” he would ask after the draw.

I answered.

“Ooh,” he’d say with a terrible face. “When he jerks you down, be sure to turn your head so he doesn’t knock your teeth out.”

This time when he told me that I drew the most miserable bull at the rodeo, I didn’t believe him. Then I noticed that he wasn’t smiling. “He is,” he said, “and he bites.”

I laughed. There was no such thing as a biting bull. With a serious face Cory said, “You’ll see.”

When I slid down on the bull’s back, he was calm. So far, so good.

A couple of boys were standing on the gate ready to pull my rope for me.

The bull flung his head toward them and snapped, like a dog when you put your hand too close to his bowl, slinging bull slobber on both of them.

They jumped back with a surprised yelp, and then tried again. Again he snapped.

That kept on long enough for the contractor to start yelling and cussing. “You’re taking too long! If you can’t get ready, then you need to get off that bull and turn him out.”

My friends were trying. These were guys who weren’t scared of anything, but this bull wasn’t cooperating, and it was unnerving.

Finally, the rope was tight. I had to wrap it around my wrist as quick as I could, scoot up on it, and nod all at the same time.

Out we went, and he was miserable. Not even a straight jump out. He hit me against the gate. He turned and twisted all at the same time. He lunged forward and rolled his belly. There was no timing to him.

My arm was already hurting from the way he jerked. Down went my head and up came his. As hard as he popped me

in the face, I was surprised that I was still on. But I was sitting straight, my spurs back in him, mad and determined to ride.

Then I was on the ground. I fell into the bull’s spin, “in the well” they call it, and so I didn’t have a chance to get away from him. Before I started to crawl, the bull pounded me face first into the dirt.

Normally, when a bull gets you, depending on how long his horns are, you either get rolled around or thrown into the air. I wasn’t sure what was going on.

The bull had me pinned, but there was no rolling or throwing, not even much pounding. I thought he must have just been standing there with his feet on my back, holding me so I couldn’t get away. Finally, the bull fighters got the bull away from me.

Blood was running down my face where he hit me, but my friends were laughing.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“That bull was biting you and shaking his head like a dog with a sock,” they said.

From the tear and slobber on the back of my vest, I knew they were telling the truth. That really was a biting bull.

When I got back behind the bucking chutes with my rope, Cory walked by and laughed. “Do you believe me now?” he asked.

About Nowhere Tribune

A husband and daddy, striving to love his neighbors and be kind to his pets. I love good food, good beer, and a few good friends. My other interests are hiking, taking walks, lifting weights, reading books by manly authors like Hemingway and Twain, and splitting fire wood with my bare hands.

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