For 4 seconds.
Unfortunately, this was far short of the 6 seconds I needed.
I went to the Road Runner Regional Rodeo in Phoenix, Arizona. On Thursday and Friday before the event, they run a school to teach new cowboys how to rodeo. That sounded fun to me. I signed up for roping lessons, as well as some dogging practice. I did “chute dogging” last summer (aka steer wrestling), and I thought if I could rassle one down to the dirt, I could ride one too. So, I also signed up for steer riding as well.
The steer riding classes were great. Thanks to Bill Lyle, the stock contractor, for teaching two fantastic hours worth of classes. We practiced on the ground, we practiced with a partner, and we all rode one of those fun mechanical bulls that buck and spin when someone pushes them like a giant teeter-totter.
I thought that main part to steer riding is hanging on with one hand. However, one of the exercises Bill had us do is to ride without using any hands at all! It turns out that keeping your balance and grabbing the bull with your thighs is a huge part of the work. You can’t ride long without hands, but it’s surprising how well you can do.
Finally, at the end of the class, Bill had us ride a real animal. However, Bill disagreed with the planned curriculum of the class. Steers buck too much, he said, and they are often bony and small and really hard for beginners to ride, particularly large bears like me. So, he had us ride a bull.
My bull was named “Possum”. Bill assured me that he was a sweetheart, and he was… at least in the chute. I climbed on him, and he didn’t mind when I tightened by bull rope and secured by glove in a tight grip. However, when the flank man tightened a strap in back, and the chute man opened the gate, Possum took off.
Riding a bull feels almost exactly like falling off a ladder. About the same height, and about the same sudden shock that one second you are 8 feet in the air, and the next instant you are sitting on the ground. I lasted longer than I thought I would – about 4 seconds. Luckily, Possum was more worried about running in the opposite direction and shaking off the flank strap than turning around and stepping on me.
Bill said that the easiest bull you will ever ride is your first one, because you have no idea what you’re really in for. The hardest bull you will ever ride, Bill said, is the *second* one, because then you know what you’re in for. So… of course I’m stupid enough to want to ride Possum again, this time in front of a paying crowd Saturday and Sunday.
I know why cowboys walk the way they do. After four days of rodeo - dogging and riding and roping – my body was one big sore bruise. But I had a smile on my face, and that’s what counts.
- Roping on foot = missed both days
- Chute dogging = good dogs both days, but time not fast enough to qualify for points
- Bull riding Saturday = 2 seconds… even worse than my rodeo school time
- Steer riding = fell off Sunday, but “covered” for 6 seconds on Saturday which was enough to win me my first ever gay rodeo ribbon.
It’s for fifth place, and it’s pink. I’m pretty proud of it.