It’s French Toast Friday!
Last summer at the County Fair, I was standing in line to get ice cream cones for the troops. They all insisted they wanted vanilla. This should have been a red flag. One that was wildly waving. Held by a person jumping up and down trying to catch my attention. Instead, I’m zoned out by the heat, staring at the 4H cows lined up behind the ice cream booth, waiting to go in the ring. I’m 30th in the ice cream line.
I love the ones that look like deer. Jersey’s? Such sweet brown eyes.
Balancing 4 melting vanilla ice cream cones, I elbow my way back to the jewelry booth where we agreed to meet. I notice, vaguely, it’s next to a booth with a mechanical bull. Abrupt double-take: Micah is talking animatedly to the cowgirl. I DON’T THINK SO. What is Shaun thinking? No kids on bulls.
Micah feels my stare and bounds over. I’m instantly surrounded by hands reaching for ice creams. Nice. They got me out of the way for that one.
“Sorry,” I say, “ask for the money back. You are NOT going to ride that bull.”
Micah looks at me with glee. Wrong response. He should be sulking. I glance at Shaun, she is glued to the fair map…wait…is it upside down?
“Nope,” he says, “I’m not going to ride the bull.”
Oh. He was flirting with the operator? She has to have ten years on him. Lord. Can I live through the teenage years?
Micah and Lee-Lee look at each other, and Shaun grabs both their ice creams before they drop them. They each snag one of my arms and start bouncing and pulling.
“YOU are gonna ride the bull!” says Micah.
“Yeah!” says Lee-Lee, “C’mon Mom, we got you a BULL RIDE!!”
Shaun is busy with the jumble of melting cones, but the corners of her mouth are twitching. They had to get the money from somewhere.
I’m jelly. I’ve never been on a mechanical bull. I’m FIFTY. I have gray hair. I wear glasses. The scariest ride I do is the Merry Go Round. I’m not even in riding shape, I was off for most of the summer. I’m not moving. Uh uh. No way.
“C’mon Mom,” says Micah, “you can do it! Mama already paid for the video!”
“They won’t give us our money back” says Lee-Lee, “all sales final, see?” She points to a sign.
Mentally adding to the To Do list. Kill Shaun. Kill.
There is a six year old on the bull. The bored operator is very gently rocking her back and forth. No ducking, no swiveling, no bucking. No crowd. There’s a giant bouncy air cushion around the bull, all the way to the cloth wall.
“PUHLEAZE…” says Micah, “if she can do it, YOU can do it.”
“Yeah!” says Lee-Lee
I look at Shaun. She opens her mouth, then very wisely closes it, shrugs her shoulders.
I try to calm myself. Can I do this? The operator is reminding the girl to hold onto the strap. I have no illusions they will be as gentle with me, but both the operators are young enough to see me as positively geriatric, so maybe they will take pity if I beg.
“Okay..” I start
“I KNEW you would!” shouts Micah. Heads turn from the bull booth. “Yeah, you just gotta!” chimes in Lee-Lee.
“Wait…I wasn’t finished,” I say. They both frown. Shaun looks up.
“Let me go talk to them first, and then we’ll see.”
They both take this as: Yes I Will Ride The Bull. Am I that predictable?
“Did you tell them I ride horses?” I ask. They look at each other guiltily, as if caught in an omission.
“No, that’s GOOD”, I say, holding them back. I’ll tell them”.
I’m lying. No WAY am I going to tell a young cowboy and cowgirl that I ride just before I get on a mechanical bull they probably can ride, and are currently operating. I am going to beg for mercy. I’m going to pull the AARP card. Why did I put on makeup? Why?
“Wait here.” I command, in my sternest voice. They stand. Anything to get me on the bull, including listen.
I exaggerate my natural limp on the way over, holding my hip, trying to look really really old. Squint! I tell myself, squint!
I look at the cowgirl apologetically. “My grandchildren signed me up for a ride on the bull behind my back. I’ve never done anything like this before. If I do it, will you go really easy on me? Please? I don’t want to disappoint them, but I’m scared.”
More magical words were never spoken. They both look at me with sympathy. I punch an imaginary fist in the air, YES! I”m honestly thankful I look ancient to someone younger than me.
“Sure!” the cowgirl says, “I’ll tell you how to do it, and we’ll go really slow. They won’t know.”
Cowboy says, “No problem, we’ll take care of you.”
It’s all I can do not to drop and hug both their knees while kissing their boots. I give a thumbs up sign to the kids. They race over. I notice Shaun dropping ice cream in the trash in her rush to get ringside. Kill.
I really am scared. I barely hear the instructions. Finally cowgirl manages to stuff a glove on my right hand, after making sure I’m right handed, and says “I’ll give you a leg up if you want”. I snap to. “I think I’m okay,” I say, and leap on easily. Oops.
“You ride?” says cowboy.
I have no scruples. “Nope” I say. “Yoga”. They are too busy adjusting my body parts and the strap to notice the kids nodding vigorously. Please let the kids keep their mouths shut…please please please.
My prayers are answered. Cowboy has worked his way back to the control booth, and is selecting blaring country rock music (presumably to drown my screams on the video). I can barely hear cowgirl shouting in my ear “Lean back when the bull’s head goes down, lean forward when it comes up. Put your left arm in the air and use it to balance.” She frowns at my relaxed ‘bareback’ leg position. “NO…you gotta pull up your knees on the bulls shoulders to hang on!”
Oh good. I’m doing it wrong. Yay! “You’ll go easy, right?” I gulp.
“You bet!” she says, picking her way back across the air pillow.
And it is. Hey. This is FUN. All that work balancing on the yoga ball paid off. I’m right in the bull’s center of gravity. COOL!
Cowboy and cowgirl are deep in conversation: she’s on autopilot with the up and down control…nice and slooooow. She glances up…shouts pleasantly “you okay up there?” I nod happily.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. They both look over. She cranks it up a notch. Granny can handle a little more. The bull goes faster. Ducks a little left and right. No problem. I’m in no danger of getting tossed. Thank the LORD. They continue their conversation. After what seems like an eternity, cowboy looks up at the clock…”hey, it’s been two minutes.” he glances at me. Clearly I’ve been on the ride too long. Good. They’re gonna stop it.
“Wow you’re doing REALLY great!” yells cowgirl, and turns all her attention to the controls. I relax, expecting to come to a stop.
Instead, the bull whips a 360 and she hits a higher gear. Okay, I’m being BUCKED now. 360 the other way. 180 to the right, drop and kick. Clearly bulls weight their bucking with heavier HEADS and SHOULDERS than horses. Crap. Am I still on?? They have a crowd now, to watch granny get bucked off.
Nice cowgirl is enjoying this, she thinks I must have some latent natural talent and she wants me to succeed. She cranks the bull all the way up. I’m gonna die. It’s a LOT harder to stay in the middle of the bull. She’s yelling something, but I can’t hear her at all. All my concentration is on staying in the middle of the bulls center of gravity and remembering what to do when his head goes down. I’m going to have to bail. I don’t want to get hurt. I can’t remember how to signal I’m done now. She’s amazed I can do the 360’s (so am I) so throws in a few more, left, right, left…now BUCK. and duck right.
I’m off balance. No way am I gonna stay on. No way do I want to randomly fly off and land who knows how.
Next time the bull goes down I put both hands on it’s shoulders and try to hurl myself up and off. No, I do NOT stick the landing. The bull, still turning, gores me in the stomach. Luckily the mechanical ones have padded horns. I got pillowed in the stomach.
I may be the only granny alive to get gored by a mechanical bull.
(The video is in some weird format I don’t know how to change, or I’d post it, and you could see the folly for yourselves.)
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