The Bullrider

by Gary McMahan, ©  1990

I recall wanting to ride bulls years ago

and a debate I had with my dad.

I allowed how this would be my rocket to the stars.

Dad agreed—I would see stars,

and a bull was a launching pad.


"Like Chris LeDoux, I’m addicted to danger,"

I boomed in a voice loud and clear.

 Dad growled, "You’ll be addicted to painkillers, too,

 when that bull sticks his horn in your rear."

"Look at Mahan, Ty Murray, Don Gay," says I.

 "They’ve got money to burn and friends in high places.

 I’ll betcha they’re wearin’ silk underwear,

 and you don’t see no frowns on their faces."

"For every one makes it, there’s ten thousand  that don’t.

 Buckin’ them stats is dumb, not courageous.

 I’d sooner see you take to gamblin’, son;

 you’ll get better odds in Las Vegas ."

I told him the girls would never look twice

 if I didn’t do something like that.

 Dad looked at me with a twinkling eye and said,

 "There’s more than one way to skin a cat."

"You’re in a hormonal hurricane, son,

 and riding these bulls is just part of what ails ya.

 While you’re out gallivantin’, sowing wild oats,

 your mother and I are home, praying for a crop failure."

"You’ve seen the bumper stickers:

 ‘Calf ropers do it quicker’

 and ‘Bronc riders stay on longer’ and all.

 But the truth is, son, the bullriders I’ve seen

 were to buggered up to do it atall."

"I’ll pump iron in town at the health club,"  says I,

 "run five miles a day... or six.

 I’ll maximize my competitive edge

 and minimize my risk."

"I’ll learn psycho cybernetics, psychology.

 I’ll be a bullriding Ph.D.

 And if you’ll loan me the pickup and the entry fee,

 I’ll see you’re included in my biography."

"I’ll run with the big boys, and I’ll try  ’em all,

 and I’ll win big if I can.

 But most of all, Pop, win, lose, or draw,

 I’ll come out of this deal a man."

Dad said, "You can’t manufacture a man

 with health clubs and high-toned rigmarole.

 For a real man is a working combination

 of body, mind, and soul."

"And it’s that blend that makes a man, son,

 through years, circumstance, and weather.

 And I don’t think that bullriding deserves much credit

 for keeping the ranch and the family together."

Backed into a corner, I trots out the big guns

 and snarled, "It’s the Cowboy Way ."

 Dad laughed so hard, I feared for his heart

 and then had this to say:

"Colonel Cody, Jim Bridger, the old vaqueros

 didn’t tease fate for the thrill.

 Back then, an infection or a broken bone

 was more than enough to kill."

"There wasn’t no ambulance waiting

 to haul them out of nice, soft arenas.

 Whatever gave you the notion, son,

 the West was won by some reckless hyenas?"

"I’ve got to prove myself," I blurted,

 "that I’ve got what it takes

 To face trouble and come out a winner

 in a tough game with high stakes."

"There’s a big difference ’tween looking for  trouble

 and facing trouble," says Dad.

 "When you face your trouble . . . that’s good.

 When you look for trouble . . . that’s bad."

"I want to live for the moment, reach for the stars.

 I can’t live a dull life, and I won’t."

 Heck, I could die tomorrow, Pop."

 Dad says, "Yeah . . . but what if you don’t?"

Youth wrestled with logic into the night

 ’til Dad, shaking his head, finally gave his consent.

 He said, "Son, good judgment comes from experience,

 and experience, I guess, comes from poor judgment."