Sunday, May 27, 2007

In the name of research

Last night we had a totally new experience. Elliot and I hosted the city council’s corporate box at the professional bull riding championships.


This was the Troy Dunn International competition with $35,000 in prize money and there were champion bull riders from all over Australia as well as from the USA (Missouri, Montana, Texas) and Mexico.

Now, I know I write a lot of books about Outback cattle guys and I’ve been on cattle stations and even ‘helped’ (well, I’ve worked the gates) during branding and vaccinating newly bought weaners. And I have to say I LOVE getting involved with this life. I love the earthiness of the cattle yards and yes, I don’t mind the smell. I love the physicality of the work, the slight brush with danger. But I wasn’t exactly wrapt in the bull riding.

I did love seeing so many fit young guys swaggering about in big hats and nice fitting jeans, but I didn’t like to see them being thrown from the back of a 1,100 kg bull.

There were a lot of injuries – many more than in a football game and that’s saying something. (I did spy two of our NQ Cowboys football heroes in the crowd.)

Guys have this incredible hunger for rough and tumble danger, don’t they?

But I can only shake my head as I see them stagger from the arena holding an injured arm, limping or hopping, dazed and having to be helped out. (Yes, Gladiator did come to mind)

The best bit for me was when we were taken back stage. Not only was I a lot closer to these athletic young men, but I got to see the bulls. The maze of metal chutes and runs set up back stage is quite a feat of engineering and there were cattlemen everywhere sending the bulls down to their respective stalls, as well as shepherding the ones that returned from the arena. I was telling my daughter about this today and she asked me if the bulls seemed nervous. I can’t honestly say. But I ‘felt’ that the bulls weren’t nearly as nervous as their riders and given the difference in their sizes that’s not at all surprising.

One hilarious (in retrospect) but super scary moment was when one bull picked up a barrel holding the rodeo clown in its horns and tossed it up in the air. Amazingly, the clown emerged unscathed and turned the moment into a joke by leaping the barricade and scurrying into a little old lady’s lap.

I’m sure something of the atmosphere has seeped into my memory bank and who knows where it will surface in a book one day?

Oh, and who won the belt buckle and the $35,000? A really cute guy called Hugo from Mexico.

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