Beyond the Column

Larry's LaRue-minations

Man vs. bull – to a draw? Another journalism fable

Post by Larry Larue / The News Tribune on June 20, 2013 at 8:35 am with No Comments »
June 20, 2013 10:04 am
Um, toro! Toro!
Um, toro! Toro!

The same man who got me bitten by a ‘harmless’ coati also assigned me to participate in a Baja, Mexico bull-fighting class.

It’s possible he didn’t like me.

It was back in the Long Beach Press-Telegram days, when I’d been moved from covering hard news to producing features, and editor Terry Sattoria’s assignments always seemed to end in my humiliation.

It’s possible he didn’t like me.

Anyway, a photographer and I made the drive across the Mexcian border and arrived at a bull ring. In the next hour or so, students were shown cape work, from  how to slip the sword into the cape to how to stand as a bull passed.

Yes, we faced off against a man charging us with bull horns. A matador riles the bull with the cape, then sweeps it away from the horns as it passes by – the matadors feet close together so he can pivot. And the good ones bring the horns – eek! – as close to their bodies as possible.

Once we’d faced the man with the horns, students were given an option. They could call it a day or face a bull. No, not the rhino-sized beasts saved for Sundays in the bullring, but smaller fellows. Being nothing if not muy macho, I volunteered to face the bull.

I was wearing a ‘Journalists Do It Daily’ t-shirt, and when the bull entered the ring, he seemed to read it. It may have confused him, for he stared at it a long time. He was, as bulls go, a bit scrawny, but he made up for it with high energy and … real horns.

I went over everything I’d been taught about form as the bull paced, and found no comfort in it. The idea with the bull was to make a handful of passes to get the feel. I wasn’t going to kill him, and I wanted to somehow convey that message.

I held the cape as I had been taught, and when he trotted toward me I put my feet together, swept the cape away and up and heard the other students yell ‘O’lay!!’ It was exhilrating.

On his second charge, the skinny bull lowered his head as he came in – perhaps trying to read that t-shirt – and then hooked me, about knee high. When he raised his head, I was airborne. Then I was flat on my back in the bullring. No one was yelling praise to me. And the bull was waiting.

Jeans torn, leg bloodied, I stood. He didn’t so much charge as wander toward me, and when he arrived, my feet were together again. Form was perfect. Eyes tightly closed.

Nothing happened. I opened them again and realized the bull had stopped about a foot in front of me and was staring, whether in fascination or boredom, I could not tell.

Personally, I called it a draw. I’d had one good pass. He’d had a better one. On the third, we seemed to reach accord.  I don’t know why more bullfights aren’t settled this way.


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