Even though I spent a good amount of my childhood in Texas, I've never
been interested in the sports that are practiced in the American Rodeo.

I've known these insane people who liked that sort of thing
were. And I've known people who actually did it. But I have had enough
trouble staying on a horse, let alone try to stay on an animal that
wants nothing more than to throw me off - then chase me down. But
lately, Ive been watching bull riding.

Bull riding is a very
specialized sport, both for the cowboy and for the bull. The only
equipment worn by the bull is called a flank rope. Now, this rope is
just what it sounds. A rope is tied around the bull just in front of
his back legs, not interfering with his privates, and not tied so
tightly that it would cause him pain. The rope is just to tell the bull
that its time to do his job. These bulls have been breed specifically
to throw cowboys into orbit, and they know that when the flank rope is
on, its time to go to work.

And these bulls are not the nice
fat breeders that are used to service a dairy herd. These animals are
hundreds of pounds of muscle and attitude. Some have horns, but not
all. Some turn to the right, some to the left, and some like to change
it up. What you are going to know is that this bull is going to have
his hind quarters in the air and is going to do everything he can to
get that man off his back.

Now, heres the cowboys job. The
cowboy has a rope, called a bull rope. It goes around the girth of the
bull, and wearing a special glove, he slips his hand under the rope,
and then turns the rope back to give him a firm grasp on what is a
pretty stable rope. He makes sure he has the most secure hold on this
rope as possible, because his grip is the only thing that is going to
keep him on the bull. If he loses his grip, the rope loosens, and he
falls off. Sound crazy? Read on.

He also is wearing a flack
jacket. Most of these guys have gone from wearing a shirt and maybe a
vest, to wearing a flack jacket. They all wear some kind of head gear.
Some wear a cowboy hat, some wear a helmet, and some wear both. A lot
of them use a mouth piece to protect their mouth and teeth from harm.

so we have a bull who wears a rope, and a cowboy who wears a flack
jacket, possibly a helmet, and a variety of other protective gear.

So what does the cowboy have to do? He has to stay on the bull for
eight seconds. Yeah, you heard right. Eight seconds. About ten percent
of the cowboys are actually able to stay on their bull that long. Then,
the real fun starts. Its called - how can a cowboy who has just been
thrown by a one ton bull get out of the way of said bull without
getting stepped on or otherwise abused. Well now, thats the trick, isnt
it. There are two men in the arena to distract the bull so the cowboy
can get away, but they arent always successful.

These two guys
used to be called "rodeo clowns" but I guess there just wasn't much
funny about getting gored by an irritated bull. A good number of men
end up getting kicked or stepped on. And once in awhile theres a bull
who thinks the rest of his job is to watch the silly humans run while
he chases them. Injuries are very common. Broken bones, head injuries,
dislocations - you name it, they get it.

In eight seconds,
these mens earnings are decided. Get thrown too many times during a
competition, you dont take home any prize money. Then they get scored
on how well the bull performed, and how well the cowboy stayed on. So
even if the cowboy manages to stay on the required number of rides, he
still may not take home any prize money. Its a struggle between man and
beast, having a bull that gives enough for a good score that the cowboy
can still manage to stay on.

A good bull with a good
reputation can sell for over $50,000. And when the bulls are too old
for the arena, they go to live on their respective farm, working on
breeding the next generation of bulls. While the cowboy dusts off his
jeans and limps away.

Now, I know you are all thinking - I'm
very liberal and a vegetarian. Why would I ever watch bull riding?
Thats easy. Im cheering for the bulls.