Quite A Wild Ride
“Lean back,” a lady instructed as I bounced neatly onto the animal, as if I have a balloon under my feet. I nod to her and the animal rears back. I grab onto the rope — the feeble handle they’ve fashioned for me to survive the ride of a lifetime.
The bull bucks forward and spins frantically trying to throw me. A smile breaks out as I straighten from my grip. A crowd gathers, marveling at my ride. Some people shout advice and others take pictures.
I just try to grit my teeth and focus on the space between the spiked horns, wishing I had kept my glasses on.
My hands are sweating and the fibers on the rope are braiding a pattern onto my skin.
“You OK?” someone asks and I let out a laugh — it’s pretty fun. The bull starts spinning again, growing angrier. It’s as single minded as a machine, trying only to free itself of me.
I’ve been on over a minute now, starting to grow antsy. I’m not sure how this is going to end — we’re in the middle of the ring. If I dismount, can I get away cleanly?
And then he rears up. My knees collide with my forehead and I’m thrown onto my back. I quickly jump out of the ring.
“I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing/I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.” crones Tim McGraw in the song “Live Like You were Dying.” And I have to smile, because I have him beat.
At Robbins 57th Farmers Day, I finally knocked the No. 1 slot off my bucket list: I rode a mechanical bull.
It was fantastic, and I believe that it was something everyone should attempt. If the ride hadn’t been $5, I probably would still be on the bull.
Not actually having the finesse of a horseman or the gumption of a rodeo clown, this was a big deal in my world.
To me, this life-or-death ride of 1:12 included acrobatics (on my part) and maybe even some upside down loops (the bull’s part). If you ask my friends, the ride was maybe a step above the carousel at the fair.
It’s funny how the art of storytelling colors my tale — each time I tell someone of this story, it gets a little bigger, a little better. “I stood up the whole time. I dismounted with a triple flip, basically.”
To me, I was no longer in an inflatable ring, but on the dusty plains of Texas. My mother always said I had an imagination.
“The bull was alive! My neck is still a little stiff.”
All great stories start like that — one defining moment that freezes time. The mental snapshot that will stay there for as long as time. The first time you jumped a horse. Being bucked off or winning the competition against all odds. You’ll forever hold that inner photograph while it went unnoticed by everyone else.
So we have to resort to storytelling. Not lying, per say, but recounting a moment either alone or with friends, adding spices and brightening the good parts.
Yes, people have had greater feats than a mechanical bull ride. Olympians will forever remember their ride, and will have great stories to tell. I’ll be talking about the mechanical bull until the cows come home.
Carolina Horse Park has commemorated one of those defining moments in their Wall of Fame. Olympian horse Bold Minstrel in his astounding 7-foot, 3-inch jump. That frozen moment of greatness — a testimony to his talent.
I have a simple photo of myself on a mechanical bull in a sidestreet of Robbins that I hold in as high regard.
It’s those frozen moments that drive greatness — everything comes together in perfect harmony, if only for a second.
I’m hunting for where I can next locate a mechanical bull to stay on longer — maybe even a mechanical shark at the beach. I’ll be chasing that moment where everything stops. Ride longer, jump higher and go faster.
And remember to hold on tight.
Contact Kirsten Ballard at email@example.com.
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