Flowing and Going
A lot of times, we’ll prevent a wreck that was gonna happen, and we’re the only ones who realize it. That’s one of the coolest things about fighting bulls—knowing we’re aggressive, doing our job and taking care of guys.
The other night at Rodeo Houston, Joe Frost got hung up a bit. The whistle blew, and the bull was spinning, and Joe kind of had his arm away from his hand. When his feet hit the ground, I was by the right horn. If I had been by myself, I probably would have taken the shot to protect Joe. But Cody Webster was in the perfect position, so I hollered to him, “Go ahead!” As Web stepped to the tail, I got a hold of that bull’s head, and we just curled around there and Web found a nice pocket to set in. The bull kind of cow-kicked him, but we got in and out of it in good shape. Nobody got hooked or run over.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been saved from getting hooked by good bullfighting partners. I’ll step into a gap knowing I’m about to take a hit, but then Web or Chuck Swisher or Nathan Harp or Nate Jestes will roll in on that off side and swap the bull off me and the rider. They’ve definitely helped my longevity.
Everybody wants to get that big save or work that hangup, but it’s a team deal. There are three of us in there. Some days it all falls your way, and some days it doesn’t. In my opinion, the more correct approach is utilizing the team effort.
I’ve seen it a lot. You can take a really mean, bad bull, but when you’ve got guys in there that are aggressive and rolling and communicating, that bull gets so confused. He’s like, What just happened? A lot of times, when you roll them and swap them, they get stuck in their tracks. They’ll lift their heads up looking for a way out. At Rodeo Houston, where the arena is more than three acres in size, it helps a lot when a bull’s looking for the out gate. It keeps the momentum going into the next bull, which is good for the bull rider, especially if he’s already pulled his rope and his mind’s right.
A lot of times, we’ll prevent a wreck that was gonna happen, and we’re the only ones who realize it. That’s one of the coolest things about fighting bulls—knowing we’re aggressive, we’re doing our job, we’re flowing and going and taking care of guys.
We’re watching that bull rider’s hands, hips, feet and chin, as well as the bull. That’s a lot to take in in eight seconds. With experience you learn to be calm enough to see those things and react to a situation before it happens. It’s no different from a bull rider. They’re not going to feel that bull go right and then go right. They’re anticipating. That’s the same with us. We’re predicting where that cowboy’s gonna come off. As that bull’s dropping its shoulders and moving forward, we position ourselves so that when the whistle blows and that cowboy hits the ground, we can one-two step and get the pick as the other guys roll through. By that point, the bull rider should be up and out of there, and we’re clean and clear and on to the next one.
It takes a special person to fight bulls or ride bulls or be a firefighter or a SWAT team or whatever. A lot of people say, Man, you’re crazy. Years back, I heard Frank Newsom, one of greatest bullfighters of all time, answer by saying, No, I’m not crazy. Crazy people aren’t successful. I’m a professional. I know what I’m doing.
Bullfighting is a lot of fun, especially when you get to work with guys like Web and Swisher. Even if you do get hit once, you’re probably not gonna get touched again, because you’ve got two guys who are gonna roll that bull off you and keep everybody else safe, too.
It’s something you get the feel for over time. I started fighting bulls when I was about twelve years old. Back then, if a bull ran at me, everything happened so fast. I’d react, but I wouldn’t know what happened till I watched the video later. Now it’s to the point where can go out there, have fun and still be serious about doing our job.
Just the other night in Houston, one of the riders was on a good little bull. As he was coming off, Web got in deep. I mean, he really got a hold of this bull. As I was rolling off Web’s shoulder to pull the bull off, I just started laughing. “Hey, Web,” I said, “you got a little deep.” And then I got deep, and Web said to me, “Well just because I did it, doesn’t mean you had to get deep, too!”
We were still working but kind of laughing amongst ourselves. Being able to have that kind of mindset—staying calm and having fun in the arena—I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.