We made our way into Ft. Worth and found ourselves drawn to the commotion of the stockyards. After a quick surveillance the team was in full agreement. This place looked, sounded, and definitely smelled like Trouble.
Broken bones, concussions, torn ligaments, busted teeth, paralysis, and the possibility of death. These are standard occupational hazards involved in a rodeo. When things go well this sport is an amazing spectacle of grit and glamor. When things don’t go so well it’s still a spectacle, but one that makes you wince and wonder if these people have a death wish. It became clear that cowboys embrace Trouble as their job. They practice and prepare for it daily. They eagerly sign up for it and wait their turn. We liked what we saw, but we needed to find out more. We needed to talk to the clowns.
Rodeo clowns are known to put a smile on your face, but their real job is saving lives and keeping injuries to a minimum. True bullfighters are showmen up front, but ones who willingly throw themselves in front of 2,000 lbs of Trouble the moment a cowboy hits the ground. Getting hurt is inevitable in this line of work, but how much and how often are the things they strive to control. The subtleties of making split second decisions need to come second nature. You can’t reason with an angry bull, but you can always take it by the horns. That isn’t asking for Trouble as much as imploring it to come at you head on and full or rage. A bullfighter doesn’t have to be completely crazy, but they do need a method to their madness if they’re going to make a career out of it.
When we asked them about injuries they gave us a laundry list and showed us the scars to go with it. Some we could relate to, but others made us grimace from the thought alone. Getting your ear ripped off as a side effect of a bull stamping on your head isn’t an easy picture to forget. It was strange to hear them talk about so many near death situations, and it made us reluctant to ask them about the people who weren’t so lucky. They said the real test is the mental challenge after getting hurt. Quitting is easy. Putting the pieces of yourself back together is one thing. Convincing yourself that you’re ready for more Trouble is another story in itself.