|Bullriding is an incredible sport.|
|This near-2000 pound bull is flying.|
In Spanish-style bullfighting, part of the sport is slowly killing the bull. In bull riding, the opposite is true and in fact the bulls are very well taken care of, especially if they are good buckers, because all the riders want a shot at trying to ride them. The harder and the stronger these bulls can buck, the more famous they become... the "rankest" bulls go down in cowboy history.
|"Sir, kindly get off my back."|
The bulls also receive a score for their performance (on a scale of 50). They are scored on how hard, how high, how unpredictably they can buck... these bulls are considered athletes that are competing just as hardily as the riders. Each year, a bull is named champion right alongside a rider.
|That's a rank bull.|
|Bull riding exists because it is awesome. Any questions?|
By claiming there is neither "reason" nor "reflection" behind the decision to get on the back of a gargantuan animal and try to hold on to it with one hand for all of 8 seconds is to claim that these men (and a few women) do this sport because they are mindless and macho; it implies that they aren't creative enough to come up with any other way of getting an adrenaline rush (or "kicks," as the reviewer smugly calls it).
|There's a reason behind the risk.|
Many of them talk about the moments of actual riding, the meditative state they must enter, and the instincts they must train and rely upon when reacting to the movements of the bull. As if they are alone in the huge arena, they focus on the balance of their bodies in relation to the bull, the shifts in direction and speed and duration of the bucking, and they almost become as wild as the furious animal beneath them.
|Rob Smets, "rodeo clown" and guardian angel.|
The risk that the rider and the rodeo clown take is an essential practice that keeps them (and I would argue the spectators of the sport) connected to a wilderness that is both within and without man. Nature commands respect and proves that it deserves to be respected without an intension of good or evil-- Nature runs its course and we are a part of that, sometimes riding atop and sometimes trampled underfoot.
Remaining connected to one's own mortality and the graceful power of the natural world is less about a simple adrenaline rush than it is about humanity's need to risk everything to learn the limits of... everything.
|Taking the bull by the horns should never just be a figure of speech.|
One of my life theories is that everything can be related back to the Quijote, and bull riding is no exception. Don Quijote faced incredible physical harm and constant risk of life and limb throughout the book- and yet, in spite of it, he was able to create the world he wanted to live in. There is a significant amount of reason behind taking risk, and the rewards for success are proportionate to the risk of failure.
We cannot lose sight of the benefit of risk-taking, of placing our lives into the hands of fate, and of doing it over and over again. Without these risks, we could lose all contact to the wilderness and wildness that shaped and continues to shape our lives.
"I am glad I will not be young in a future without wilderness." -Aldo Leopold
What do you think about the sport of bull riding? What are the risks that you've taken to get you where you are today?
Until next time, band of wild petticoat rufflers... ruffle those petticoats and ride those rank bulls!