Confessions of a clueless cowboy
Editor’s Note: Sometime in the last millennium, Rick Beveride talked Randy Wyrick into riding a bull at the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo. Wyrick didn’t ride it long and lived to tell the story. The story goes like this:Asking why people ride bulls is like asking why people climb mountains, which look much smaller than bulls, especially when it’s your turn to ride and they’re about to open the chute.But humans have interfered with the process of natural selection, and there are those currently in the gene pool who’ll do such things.Like me.I borrowed a truck and drove down to the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo. I’d never been on anything more serious than the horse in front of the Safeway that you drop quarters into, but I told them I wanted to ride a bull.They shined a flashlight into my left ear, noted that the beam didn’t shine out my right ear, and decided that whatever gray matter was in there stopping it was as damaged as it could be.Bullriding is one of those contradictions in terms, like Peacekeeper missile and congressional ethics. Even if you know what you’re doing, you’re not in control of a bull any more than you’re in control of your teenagers.Make no mistake about it, bulls are as big as they look. There’s something humbling about being strapped to the back of an animal:- The size of a 747.- That wakes up in the middle of the night wishing it was meaner than it already is.
– That looks at you like you’re three links below him on the food chain.- That is convinced that your boots are one of his relatives.- That is not your friend.Close to deathOriginally, I was supposed to ride a bull named Certain Death, with guillotines for horns. Certain Death looked at me like he was a seafood lover, and I was the secret ingredient in his favorite recipe.The folks running the rodeo, sort of like guardian angels in cowboy hats, moved me to a slightly more demure animal named Untimely Demise. He had no horns but had borrowed Certain Death’s recipe book.My intention, insane as this may sound, was to stay aboard for as long as possible, which, it turned out, wasn’t long.Untimely Demise, on the other hand, had other ideas. He wanted me banished from his presence, or at least from his back, and he had his own timetable.I’m getting off.Now.
Rowdy Hobbs, bless his cowboy-hatted heart, showed me how to get on the bull and how to stay on the bull. He gave me brilliant instruction, but without a doubt the best was, “Hold on, but not for too long.”Everyone with any sense was outside the chute. The only questionable character, me, was now sharing a space the size of a filing cabinet drawer with an animal ready to explode like a Titan rocket.The gate flew open and Untimely Demise bucked out of the chute like a 10-ton cement mixer in a real bad mood.I remembered to dig in with my spurs, squeeze with my knees and rock in rhythm with the bull. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was forgetting something.What rope?When I saw the rope gyrating in front of me like an amused cobra dancing to Hindu flute music, I immediately remembered that I was not holding on.I grabbed for the rope with my ungloved hand, which is exactly as stupid as it sounds.There is no graceful way to get off a bull at a time like that, and there are several things that occur to a person in those straits, such as:- I graduated near the top of my college class and have a Master’s Degree. Why am I here?- What’s the meaning of life, and can I figure it out in the next two- tenths of a second before Untimely Demise stomps me into a grease spot.
– Did I remember to pay my life insurance premium this month?Untimely Demise threw me so high that I punched a new hole in the ozone layer.My first girlfriend didn’t dump me that hard.The total ride lasted less than five seconds, but I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.They say you need to get right back in the saddle after something like that, but I didn’t have a saddle, so I suppose I’m excused. I should practice a little more before I try it again. I’ll be the one in front of the Safeway horse trying to bum a quarter.I thought about Certain Death and Untimely Demise as I drove home, and I thought it was only right that I have the last laugh.I stopped for a double cheeseburger.When he’s not bullriding, Randy Wyrick can be found editing the business section of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Vail, Colorado
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.