8.29.2007

Minoan Rodeo
Thanks again to everyone who takes time out of their finite lives to read these feeble peckings. You could be reading anything else. Thank you.

But enough of the usual tripe. I know you're here for the bull riding story. Here goes.

Last week was the town's last rodeo for the season. I was probably the only person to arrive by skateboard, but when you know you're going to be drinking rodeo lemonade, it's important to take transportation that - in case of operator error - can only hurt you.

Anyhow, last rodeo of the season. The last event of the night was bull riding. I've always wanted to be a rodeo clown, so while watching riders get kicked around by 1-ton bulls doesn't hold much fascination, watching the guys that save the guys about to get kicked by 1-ton bulls is a thrill.

Bull dodging is a speed/balance thing --- as long as you stay on your feet, you can out manuever a bull. But the instant you go down (ala bull riders) and the bull gets its horns into you, it's over. The bull will keep you off your feet with its horns, while it either tramples you or crushes you against the walls of the arena. The job of the clown is to distract the bull long enough for the rider to get back up and get out of the arena.

Last ride of the last rodeo of season. Rider gets bucked off out of the chute, and the 2 clowns do their thing, distracting the bull until the rider can get out of the way. Two cowboys on horseback hang out at the far end of the arena, just in case things get ugly. The rider gets out of arena, and the season comes to a close.

Almost. The lead clown, about 20 ft. from the bull, shifts his stance. It's a subtle thing, just a placement of weight, but anyone who is watching (mostly us aging guys who still want to be rodeo clowns) can see that it presages a shift from dodging the bull to engaging it.

The bull sees this, too. Suddenly, it's on.

The clown sprints at the bull. The bull lowers its head, and at the instant of impact, hooks the clown with his horns and flips him up, over his back and into the darkness.

The crowd can't quite believe what it has just witnessed. The cowboys atop their horses (the rescue guys, remember?) can't quite believe what has happened.

The bull however, has no problem with any of this. His instincts have been ready for this moment for the last million years. While we're all standing slack jawed, the bull turns around and gets ready for a little pay back.

The cowboys spur their horses forward, but it's too little, too late. Even at a full gallop, it will take them too long to cross the arena, and they're only now starting from a dead stand. The only one in the entire arena who is on top of his game is the other clown.

This is the part that amazed me. When his partner decided to try bull jumping, clown #2 was still 30 ft. off. Before clown #1 hit the bull, clown #2 must have already known what was coming, and started sprinting towards the bull. The audience, and the bull, never saw him coming.

Just as the bull turns around to do the clown-trample tango, #2 sprints past the bull's head. Bull, damned by his instincts, turns to chase after the new target, giving clown #1 time to get up and run to safety.

The crowd goes wild. The clown goes wild. Cowboy hats fly through the air, and the western Colorado rodeo season comes to a close.

The arena empties. Kids run out to play before they shut off the lights. Harley takes up his skateboard and heads home.

Now if you've taken Art 101, or a comparative religions class, you know where I'm headed next. Skating home that night I had the sense that I had come across this same scene somewhere else. And, kicking along the bike path through the darkness, it came to me. Minoa.

The Minoan culture was based on goddess worship, and evidence points to the practice of gender equality if not outright matriarchy. Some posit the idea the fall of the Minoans allowed for the rise of early Western monotheism. Had Thera not erupted, Western culture might look very different today. (Tangentially, some theorize that the destruction of the Minoans gave rise to the legends of Atlantis.)

But far more pertinent to today’s post, the Minoans practiced bull jumping.

The clown probably didn't know it, I'm sure half the audience didn't know it, but there it was. In no-name, cow town, Colorado, we witnessed the reenactment of a religious ceremony not seen since the end of the Bronze Age.

And that, dear Deather, is what happened at the rodeo.

3 Comments:

At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Cassandra said...

Great story! So did you learn about the Minoans in art or religion class? Do you suppose someone would ever conceive of bull jumping if he had never heard of it?

 
At 12:20 PM, Anonymous fathead said...

It reminds me of "The King Must Die" by Mary Renault. It's a novel about the mythical hero Theseus. In one part of the story, Theseus is captured. As a slave, he is put into the arena as a bull jumper. It's a good read (and short), if you get the chance.

 
At 10:28 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Man I miss Colorado sometimes. Thanks for bringing me "home" again for a few minutes. :)

(I have to say though that part of this story really reminds me also of old L5R adventures. Looking forward to the star wars/cowboy bebop/cyberpunk possibilities come t-day. ;) )

 

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