The Strolling of the BullsPosted: November 4, 2011
Someone had a bright idea to have Arizona’s own version of Pamplona, Spain’s running of the bulls. So some promoter in Cave Creek, which is a neat bedroom community north of Phoenix, came up with the idea of getting a herd of retired rodeo bulls and putting them together with a herd of brain-dead college kids and ought-to-know-better mid-life crisis adults inside an enclosed dirt track and let the chips (so to speak) fall where they may.
Now, Bill and I don’t get out much. A fun time for us is sneaking away for a matinee – movie that is – or a Mexican dinner with a pitcher of margaritas. We only go out maybe once a month or even once every six weeks, so when we heard all the hype on the radio and TV about the First Annual Running of the Bulls, we decided we had to go. We needed to prove to ourselves that we were still young enough to do something fun.
Bill checked online and found special promotional tickets that were buy one-get one free. We took this as a sign that the gods of bull must have been looking down on us with pity and said “Make the price of admission dirt cheap so these poor saps can get out of the house for a day.” So, we bought our tickets and waited with barely contained excitement for Saturday, October 15th to roll around.
The first obstacle to our fun-filled day came when we discovered that the designated parking was in a large dusty chunk of desert and cost $15. The second obstacle came when the promised free shuttle service from the parking lot proved to be non-existent. If you didn’t want to walk the half mile to the event grounds along the six-inch wide dirt shoulder in one hundred degree heat, you had to flag down a bicycle powered, metal rickshaw-like vehicle to catch a ride. And, for the pleasure of sitting on a sun-baked, hundred degree plus metal seat, you got to pay $25 – plus tip. We walked.
Once we got to the event grounds, the next obstacle came when, after standing in line for 15 minutes inching closer and closer to the entry gate and the promise of bottled water beyond, we were told they didn’t accept the paper version of the ticket that we printed from their web site after our purchase was complete. We had to go stand in another line and trade it for a little red ticket – you know, the kind of ticket you get at the fair as admission to the rides. So we waited in the Will-Call line for 10 more minutes then got back into the real line and finally, after another 12 minutes, made it onto the grounds of the event.
The next hurtle to fun times was that none of the half a dozen food vendors that had set up shop in tents around the perimeter of the rounds was open for business yet. The Official Running of the Bulls Tee Shirt booth was open, the Genuine Turquoise Jewelry and the Authentic Cowboy Hat vendors were open, along with the Homemade Cactus Jelly/Desert Honey vendor, who was doing a bang-up business. But no one was selling water. That happened 25 minutes later. I bought a tee shirt to sop up the sweat pouring off both of us and while Bill snagged a couple of two liter, $4 bottles of water.
The another bad omen came from the pen that contained the bulls. Most of them were either laying down and, we assumed, taking a nap or snoozing on the hoof. A couple were munching random shoots of the hay and alfalfa that was strewn around the dirt corral, and one big fellow, whose horns had been filed down to four inch nubs, was at the fence nibbling grass out of the hand of a five or six year old boy.
The next bad sign came when we looked for a place to sit so we could watch the festivities and discovered that there were no bleachers, no benches, no trees, no shade, no place to plant our old, overweight, sweat soaked bodies. We wandered aimlessly for a bit before finally staking out a spot at the corner of the track were we could take advantage of a four inch wide slice of shade cast by the fence post and snap some pictures to record our day of lighthearted fun and frolic.
After waiting for, what seemed like most of the morning – but in reality was actually most of the morning – the fun began. The runners gathered at one end of the enclosed ring and marched with much showiness and bravado around the ring to the gate from which the bulls would madly charge. The countdown started, the announcer’s voice quivering with excitement and anticipation as he shouted into a bullhorn, ‘Three, two, one… and RUN!” And off they went. Bill stood poised, his hand steady on our little digital camera, waiting for just the right moment to press the button to start recording this historic and potentially dangerous vent.
A few seconds later the front runners came, dashing frantically in mass around the curve, heading straight for us, fear in their eyes, gasping for breath in the dusty air. And then they slowed and looked back. “Where’s the bulls?” someone yelled. “Damned if I know,” someone answered. Suddenly, the group of runners making up the center of the pack came charging around the corner, colliding with the first group. “Bulls, bulls, holy crap, bulls,” someone yelled and there they were, six or seven of them, engulfed in a cloud of dust, being urged forward by a cowboy on a horse, bulls and horses alike, loping along like a skip through a park. A few seconds later, the next wave of runners charged towards us, a half a dozen more bulls and another cowboy nudging them along. The whole thing took about 30 seconds.
Bill and I stared at each other with a sort of ‘is that all there is’ look then headed across the street to the Horny Toad for a cold one – and I don’t mean water!