Background: As a younger man, I was enamored with the cowboy lifestyle. Sure, it was a fad and looking back it seems a little silly. However, those days taught me a few important lessons about manhood. This was especially true when I rode amateur rodeo.
Story: I remember the first time I went to ride a bull. A couple of my friends and I decided that we were ready to jump in and ride in the rodeo. I had another friend that was an experienced rodeo cowboy who offered to loan us his spurs, and give us pointers so that we could ride in a buck-off. The buck-off was an amateur competition where bull riders throw in a few bucks and the winner takes home the “pot”. It’s not much money for risking life and limb but when you are in your twenties a few hundred dollars seems like a lot.
My friends and I piled into our 4 x 4 (you can’t really show up to a rodeo in a car by the way) and drove the 45 minutes to the arena. The road trip was fun, we cranked up the Hank Williams Jr., were wearing our Wranglers and Cowboy hats and were talking about how much fun we were going to have and how much the ladies would like us once we were real “cowboys”. All the way there, my friends and I were talking up the experience we were going to have, little did I know then that this self-talk was nothing more than our attempt to muster the courage to go through with it!
Once we arrived at the arena, we were met by our friend. He showed us to the table were we registered to ride and paid our money. The next step, was to go have a look at the steer. He directed us the area where the bulls were being kept. As I climbed up the cattle gate, I could see some of the color draining from my other friends faces. Little did I know, they were slowly chickening out. A little while later the moment of truth came and it was time for us to ride. My two friends were now adamantly opposed to the idea of riding a bull. They backed out, and decided the loss of the registration fee was a small price to pay.
For some reason, perhaps my thrill seeking nature was overriding my ability to think logically, I decided to go through with it. I reasoned that I had come this far and I was not going to allow this moment to pass without actually riding a bull. I climbed up the gate and peered down at a 1500 lb. animal that was seriously upset that I wanted to ride it. In fact, the other cowboys had to shock this thing a couple of times in order for it to settle down long enough for me to climb on.
The next few moments seemed like an eternity. My friend was helping me tie my rope (around my wrist) while also giving me instructions on what do with my legs. He told me that when I was settled, to look up give the men that would open the gate a nod, and perhaps tell them “let’s go boys”. All I could do was nod, the gate swung open and I was off. The bull bucked me off in a matter of a couple of seconds. I did manage to shoot a look of superiority over at my friends before I was bounced off the back of the bull. I landed with a hard thud, and jumped up the best I could and ran for the gate.
What this taught me about manhood: There are a couple of good lessons that I learned from this experience.
- Most men are big talkers: They tell you how courageous and fearless they are but when it comes down to it, their cowardice will be exposed.
- Men need a rite of passage: A rite of passage is something that men need to go through where they pass from boyhood to manhood. For me, this was one such experience. I faced something that created fear and anxiety and I conquered this fear. Many boys growing up today have no males in their life that will help them take this step. I am convinced that a boy needs a moment that he can mark on the calendar that indicates he has passed from boyhood into manhood.
- Momentary pain and fear is just that momentary: Many things in the life of a young man inspire a great deal of fear, but the pain only lasts for a moment. However, when one allows fear to rule them they can become a slave to fear for an entire lifetime. I lost touch with my friends that went with me to the rodeo, but I know one thing for sure, I am proud of myself for not allowing fear to push into being a spectator. I rode a real bull and that is something that helped me become the man I am today.