Taming a bull no easy feat

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Jim Adkins



I was looking at Facebook recently and saw a photo of the intrepid editor of this newspaper riding a mechanical bull. I harked back to the one and only time I rode one back in the day. Now, Vince stated that he only stayed with a bull for a second, well that seems to be a second longer than I did.

Let me give you some background. Back in 1980 there was a John Travolta movie called “Urban Cowboy.” The movie was pretty popular and much of it took place in a bar in Pasadena, Texas called Gilley’s. For years after the movie, it became popular to ride mechanical bulls in bars and other venues.

I spent a large portion of my youth wandering around the country. I have awakened hundreds of times not knowing where I was going to sleep that night. I call it my nomadic period. Well, I found myself around the Houston area in 1982, not far from Gilley’s.  Of course I was going to go to that bar and ride the bull.

At the time, Gilley’s was probably the largest tavern in North America, heck, maybe the world, I don’t know. When I walked in, I remember I couldn’t see the other side of it, so that’s something.

I ordered a beer while getting my courage up and then walked over to the bull. There was a short line and, while waiting, I tried to make mental notes on how the urban cowboys of Pasadena rode. They made it look easy. Heck, I figured, I’d rode motorcycles for years and this big bad bull couldn’t be much worse than that. I should have just sat it out, but I was young and stupid.

Suddenly it was my turn. I walked across the mats lying on the floor and prepared to mount the beast when the man with the controls motioned me over. “You gotta’ sign this release in case you break something. It says it’s not our fault.”

Now that is what Sherlock Holmes would have called a clue. If a rider had to sign a release it was obvious that there was a distinct possibility, and maybe even probability, of injury. Throwing caution to the wind, I signed the release and saddled up. “Tell me when you’re ready pardner,” the operator yelled above the hoots and hollers of the crowd gathering around. They know a real cowboy, I wanted to think. The truth was that they knew a real Yankee who was way out of his element.

“Go,” I yelled and after that, everything was a blur.  In much less time than it takes to tell it, I was wadded into a groaning heap on the mats beneath the bull’s gleaming horns.

I picked myself up trying to retain as much dignity as possible and looked over at the guy controlling the bull. “You ain’t from around here are you?” he asked.

No,” I replied, “I’m from Indiana.”

“Thought so,” he said. “I think I’ll give you another try at it. On the house. I’ll set the controls on slow and you just try to hang on.”

“Thanks,” I said. I scampered back on the bull. I swear that thing was grinning at me as I threw my leg over the saddle. This time the creature started off real slow. I almost thought it was broken. “Turn it up,” I yelled. The guy winked at me and within a microsecond I was again on the mats.

When I got up the second time, I realized that I wasn’t going to get the hang of it in just one night, or in just one year for that matter. I wasn’t cut out for bull riding. I could handle my Harley pretty well and I was going to leave it at that. When I woke up the next day I was sore in places where I didn’t know I had places. I have no intentions of ever riding a mechanical monster again, and that my friends, is no bull.