Saturday, March 10, 2012

A load of Bull!

Although I try to remain above all things Americana I feel I should ‘experience’ certain things while I live here, things unique to the environment in which I find myself. I found a quote on fb today ‘the world is a book and those that do not travel read only one page’. I think there should be an added extra: ‘…those that do travel need to skip some pages very quickly …and savour others!’

Page Turner #1
(I’m not suggesting my blog is a page turner – I’m sticking with the analogy of travel being a book, each experience or place being a new page!). Also, having been accused, frequently, of being a Victor Meldrew, I have warned you that being mean is funny and If I am nice about something it isn't funny! I have had lots of good fun that is funny but when something is fun it is no longer funny to share. Bugger…now I’ve turned into the Cat in the Hat…only not as funny and I don’t rhyme!

I had one savoury moment at the Houston Rodeo and I am not just referring to the BBQ roll I had. What we Brits consider BBQ is ‘grilled’ here and grilled is broiled… is it any wonder I get confused and order some weird food! BBQ beef is cooked by smoking it in a pit (or on a BBQ grill) for a long time. They shred it and add some vinegary tomatoey sauce and slap it in a burger bun.  I cannot mock. It is taken very seriously and Texans have guns. At the Rodeo they even have grills shaped like guns and people named after guns! The Rodeo or the ‘cowboy Mardi Gras’ hosts the WORLD BBQ championships. People had travelled from all over one particular page in that world book to be there and compete; World as in World Series, only more regional. There were 300 tents competing - all accessed by invitation only! Uninvited, we squidged our noses to the plastic tent windows to peer in! They were empty. Maybe we were early. Maybe everyone was headed for the real action: the Professional Bull Riders! Bulls pre-pit roast!
I’m not sure how you become a Professional Bull Rider (PBR). Perhaps they start by Mutton Busting as toddlers! Mutton Busting is where small children are plonked on sheep. The sheep are then released and run for their lives fearing the sky has fallen in (or was that Chicken Lickin?). The child has to hold on for as long as possible. It’s a precursor to bull riding without the horns or the mad bulls. I’m not sure hanging on to a sheep is the best training. Sheep ‘gambole’ (now there is a word heard only in my hometown!) but they don’t buckaroo! Perhaps Bull Riders move on to horses or spend a lot of time on mechanical bulls in night clubs. I know I have but I still wouldn’t climb on a real bull. It turns out you can go to Rodeo High School (of course) which began in Texas in 1947 (of course!) where you learn all things cowboy, including goat tying (of course!).
To be in with a chance of winning you only have to stay on a bull for 8 seconds, albeit ‘the most dangerous eight seconds in sport’! The bulls and the riders get scored. Unlike horses bulls don’t stop buckerooing, give up and get ‘broken-in’. Bulls strut their stuff, off load and run around the ring for a few minutes of freedom before going back into the corral. They know where to go. They head for the open gate! Rodeo clowns (real nutters or heroes, I can’t work out which, but not funny at all) are there to distract the bull and make sure the deposited rider doesn’t get gored. We saw one of the clowns get gored instead. In fact, I think the easy bit is staying on. The mayhem is after the fall. The bulls have fun! They do their best to maim. One rider ended up under the bull and 1500lbs of buckerooing bull missed his head by millimetres! Another rider got trodden on right between his legs! Bollocks, that must have hurt! The bulls have clearly heard about a Texan delicacy and wanted revenge. I had it on good authority from the manager of a restaurant we were eating in last weekend, whispered mind you for fear of offence, that Texans like bulls testicles. Of course! My plate of scallops just didn’t appeal after that!
The bulls were stars, with ‘world’ ranking. At #1 was Bushwacker with a 100% buck off rate. At #2 was Asteroid whose average buck off time is 3.47 seconds. Riders don’t score if they don’t stay on for 8 seconds! At #3 was I’m a gangster who had 100% buck-off rate but lower points. He had less bronco style! Worse than the top bulls are the un-ranked ones! No one wants a new, unridden Bull. I bet the riders pray to God for any old bull every time. If nothing else I’m sure God can deliver that!
The most remarkable thing about the riders, other than their death-defying bull rides were their names. I guess you can afford to be flamboyant with your name when you are a PBR. I wonder if naming your child Pistol (Pistol Robinson) sets their destiny! Pistol was never going to fit in somewhere mundane! Cord, Dusty, Dakota and Beau also had names to live up to! My favourite was Stormy Wing (brother of Buffalo, with a sister Barbie Q and dad Mr J. W. E. Wing!). Stormy’s mother must have read too many Mills and Boon books or delivered him during a Texan Tornado and been very literal! My son would have been called Balmy if I had named him after the weather the day he was born! MMmmm! Maybe Momma Wing was on to something!
Whilst I certainly felt more like a foreigner than ever, looking completely out of place without a stetson and wranglers on, I had a great afternoon. It was exciting and entertaining and very Texan! I knew it was gonna be good when the show opened with Whitesnake blasting out and rockets of fire bursting from the ground. It was rock and roll and I loved every minute, well on average every 5 seconds, of it. This was one page in my world book, I was happy to read! I may even go back and read it again… and again!

I found a clip of Stormy Wing in PBR TV top 10 wrecks of 2010. If you look at You Tube vids you can see exactly why Bull Riding is sooooo dangerous. It makes for grim watching. I highly recommend it!  As I am being all nice and positive I found a clip showing bull riding at its best!


  1. One of the most thrilling afternoons that I have ever spent. I just wanted to go back and see more. Stupid, brave or just bordering lunacy ?? Whatever , I just know it was very entertaining in a very macarbe sort of way. I would go back tomorrow if I could.

  2. Did u ever go to Monster trucks?

    I seem to remember it opened with Whitesnake too....... and there was plenty of AC/DC....... and dueling Banjos......

    You would love it......... I better check out a bit of Bull Riding one of these days :-))

    Hope all is good :-))))))) XXXXXX

    Cheers Jez XXXXXXXXXXX

  3. Jez, I highly recommend the Professional Bull Riders! Wrong for so many reasons but utterly compelling and entertaining. The finals in Las Vegas would be a spectacle to behold!
    They had 'bad boy mowers' do a little demo - not quite monster trucks though! I will go and see Monster trucks if I get the chance ...although there are quite a few running wild around Houston - it is the Monster truck natural habitat! :)))