Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, July 8, 2001


Think twice
(or thrice) before
riding a mad bull

New Town and Country Stables
offers bull-riding classes for serious
individuals who want to try

By C.R. Dudley

So you want to ride a bull?

Know this: When a man sits atop a bull, a rip is made in the natural order of things, and that bull understands that it is his mandate --sanctified by the powers of the universe --to repair the tear by bucking the man off.

When you sit on that bull you're not just unleashing hell, you're unleashing the whole shebang.

And it's a big shebang. Maybe THE big shebang.

Bull riding is not an activity a 40-year-old person takes up because he or she always wanted to give it a try. It's not a game for people who fumble in moments of stress and indecision. There is no fun league, no easy in.

Bull riding is one of the elite sports with no equal, no trump. Want to do something crazier? You might have to go to a war zone.

According to a recent Newsweek article, one in 25 bull rides ends in a significant injury. It is by far one of the most trauma-inducing sports in existence. Bull riders joke that they ride bulls to meet nurses because they're in the emergency room so often.

If you really want to test your mettle, if you really want to see what you're made of, then sign up for lessons at New Town and Country Stables in Waimanalo. When the talkin's done and you're standing outside the chute facing 1,500 pounds of muscle and horns, you'll find out who you are.

You'll ask yourself if you're crazy. You'll wonder if you could maybe just sneak away to a safe place without being noticed.

Just then, just at that moment of indecision, Josh Rees, with a clown's face full of make-up, will say to you, "It's a good day to die."

He'll try to ameliorate the statement by telling you that it's just an old Native American saying. That won't help.

Getting started

What: Bull riding, three-day class including practice and real bull rides
Where: New Town and Country Stables, Waimanalo
When: Find four or five friends and sign up for private instructions
Equipment: At a minimum you need a bull-riding glove ($35)
Cost: $250 per person for the class
Why: If you've lost all your marbles
Contact: 259-9941

Rees is one of the bullfighters (rodeo clowns). Get to know the bullfighters. They're there to save you from the bull. During the class they are also there to give you an endless, good ol' boy ribbing.

Don't expect anything less from the women at the stables. Rees' wife, Farrah Rees, will join in, albeit with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

"Watch out, you might get hooked," Farrah, will say.

Hooked by the bull or by bull riding she'll leave up to you and the bull.

You'll need some equipment to get started. Chaps, boots, spurs, bull rope, glove, cowboy hat and wranglers -- the can of chewing tobacco is optional.

For the class, the only thing you'll need is a bull-riding glove.

Don't expect to be immediately accepted by the cowboys. They will mostly ignore your existence. It's not every day that some guy walks in off the street and tries to ride a bull, and they will be suspicious of your motives and will.

Any fool can strap himself to one bull, and the cowboys know that. You want their respect? Get on two bulls. Better yet, get on three. No, better to get on four, maybe five. You get the picture.

"Ride like a champion, run like a coward," New Town and Country Stables owner Bud Gibson said as he explained the finer points of getting away after getting bucked off.

Gibson is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie. Everyone around the bulls is an adrenaline junkie.

And most everyone around the bulls has been very badly hurt. Gibson, a one-time professional bull rider, had all of the ribs on one side broken, and a spleen torn, and he has some scar tissue around his heart, among various other injuries.

Bull fighter Bobby Joe Carlton took a horn through his right side, puncturing a lung.

Lee Clark often finds himself rear over ears in the midst of saving a bull rider. Patrick Ching has had the steel rod in his leg bent by a bull. How did it get there in the first place? A bull gone bad.

Know the bull fighters, know their names, know their mannerisms. Again, they will save your life.

A brahma-mix bucking bull is an extremely large, powerful creature. Don't look one in the eye if you don't have a strong fence between you and it.

A bull is like a pig, a rabbit and a rabid dog all mixed into a very large package --a horned and mad package that wants you dead and has the ability to see it done.

So you want to ride a bull?

You might say, "Well, I used to (box/race motorcycles/surf big waves/insert anything else here)." The bull rider just smiles knowingly. He's a cowboy, and he can't help but think, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now go ride a bull."

Note to readers: Due to the June 25 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the New York Times vs. Tasini case, has suspended posting material by freelance writers and photographers until legal agreements stipulated by the ruling have been signed. We will resume posting this material as soon as the necessary agreements have been reached with the authors. We regret the inconvenience this poses, and ask for your patience.

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