On that note here is a tale from back in 1995 which I wrote a while ago. I will write more about this field season when I get a few spare moments. In the meantime back to 1995 and the Price Rodeo...
So its back in 1995, I have been working in Utah for the three months, doing field work, camping out and generally enjoying the summer. It’s my second field season and things on the fun front have got a whole lot better since I met two, unrelated people, Lance and Andy.
Lance is a Marxist academic who works summers as a river guide whilst completing PhD on Henry Thorue. Lance introduced me to the guys at Crate which, in addition to giving me fun people to party with in Green River also got me on great trips on all of the big rivers in the western US, including the Colorado in Grand Canyon. Andy is a mormon local from Price who I met in Pizza hut when I couldn’t pay a bill. Andy is a climber and all round great guy. He is one of those people who makes things happen and in Andy’s case they are usually dangerous and very funny at the same time. In the words of one of his brothers “when we go on Andy’s adventures we have a whole lot of fun, somebody always get hurt but we have fun”.
So I had known Andy for a couple of months, we had climbed some sandstone cracks, camped in the desert, thrashed his truck and generally had a fun summer. It was now about two weeks before I was due to leave and he comes up to me one day and says
“Wanna go in the Rodeo?”
This doesn’t sound too bright, “What do I have to do, ride a bull?” Says me, knowing this is not going to be a good idea but also knowing that I will probably say yes.
“Nope its called steer dressing, you just gotta stick some panties on a small bull”
Why, seems an obvious question that didn’t actually come out at the time.
“It’s the competition for all the non-pros that want to participate rather than just watch the rodeo” he continues. “It will be fun…”
He goes on to explain that you have 8 or 10 teams of 3 people in the ring, the steers are released and you have to wrestle it to the ground and stick some panties on its back legs. How hard can it be? So I agree.
A few days later and the Rodeo is in town. I meet up with Andy and he introduces me to Sven – a monster of a Swede who is on a one year exchange at the college. Looking at this guy I figure the cow will just lie down and submit? I begin to feel more positive about the whole thing and we discuss some tactics. Andy will get it around the neck, I’ll rubgy tackle the back legs and Sven will knock it over and put the pants on. How hard can it be?
So the show starts up. We try not to laugh at the sincerity with which the Americans clutch their hearts at the anthem, the brits are simply too cynical for such nonsense. Then we watch various Rodeo stuff which is pretty entertaining and try not to think too hard about what is coming. After a couple of hours they announce the steer dressing and we head towards the ring. Andy disappears for a moment and then comes back to say that he has had a chat with the organizer and arranged for us to have the most psycho bull. “Why” does cross my mind this time.
So we stand in the ring with all the other teams, milling about. Then we are directed to the gates and I look at our steer, it does look slightly mad as it slowly and methodically butts it’s head against the steel gate. It also looks kinda big. Hmm maybe this wasn’t such a bright idea?
Then before there is any chance to think twice, a buzzer sounds and all hell breaks loose. The gate opens and I think, “in for a penny…” and lurch at the steers back legs whilst Andy grabs its neck. The steer promptly takes off around the ring with both of us hanging on, we collide with another, equally out of control team and I get trampled all over and let go. By the time I stand up, our bull is on the other side of the ring with Andy still attached to its neck. I can see it’s getting tired so I jump up and run across, put my shoulder down and hit its back legs hard in a rugby tackle. Nothing happens and I bounce off! So I get up, abandon the rugby tactics and just grab the back leg furthest away from me and pull until the steer goes over.
I am suddenly aware that the crowd is going wild; we are the first team to have our bull on the floor despite all the bad technique. So we are both lying on top of it and we look at Sven, who despite his size hasn’t really done anything yet. He has the panties and he is trying to decide which way around they should go. Above all the noise I am just screaming at him “put the fuckin pants on the bull, just do it” while the unfortunate animal is thrashing about beneath us.
While Sven continues to consider the panties and look at them from various direction, inside and out, somebody else gets there bull to the ground and does the business. We come a rather surprising, but also a bit disappointing, second. We let the steer up and it bounds away kicking its back legs and shredding the panties.
Everyone is cheering and laugh and then just staring at me… I am aware that my t-shirt is shredded and there are some fairly big rake marks across my chest, but they seem more interested in my face. Somebody says that I need to go and see the rodeo nurse and I am pointed towards a caravan with a big red cross on the side. The nurse checks me over and there seems to be equal concern about the sight from my large bruised and blood shot eye and whether I have broken any ribs. I am so hyped on the adrenaline that I can’t feel anything, at least until the nurse pokes my ribs. It hurts but apparently not enough to impress the nurse who has seen it all before and after a quick sight test I am dispatched with a clean, if slightly battered, bill of health. Back at the stands some local guys seem highly amused by the dumb foreigner and several offer to take me bull riding. I decline I have had enough of cows for this month.
That night we camp in Panther Canyon and the beer and banter flow around the camp fire. This is field work in Utah at it’s best, good friends and good times. Next day I have to drive to Wyoming for a conference while the Gary, Jo and Keith head to the Grand Canyon.
Twelve hours in the car and things are stiffening up and starting to ache. I arrive that evening and am greeted by Roy, who being Glaswegian and seeing my black eye assumes I must have been fighting. I lift my shirt and show him all the bruises on my chest while telling my tale. He is obviously amused.
Sometime later a very senior and very straight, east-coast academic asks Roy who I was and how I got the bruises. Roy just says “och that’s John, he was trying to pout some panties on a bull…”
After a long, considered pause the Professor replies,
“hmmm panties on a bull. That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard!”
I had to agree…