From: Library Director, Mary Finney
To: Fans of writer, Craig Johnson, (author of the Longmire series and a whole lot more)
A tip of the hat to all of you who enjoy western stories. And, to anyone with a wry sense of humor! I receive blog posts from Mr. Johnson, whom we hosted several years back for an author talk, and wanted to share this funny story . Sounds like he still have a lot of fun wherever he travels!
I am sure the details in the story occurred just as he portrays it!
Hope you enjoy it, too,
Post-It: Let 'er Buck
"I haven't been on one of these things--ever."
The mechanical bull operator looked at me in my hat, boots, snap front shirt, and jeans, a little incongruous in Lyon, France. "Quoi?"
Points, the publisher of my mass-market paperbacks in France, had arranged a boat party on the river Rhône during Quais du Polar, the largest crime fiction event in the world with more than eighty thousand fans in attendance, most of whom, it seemed, were on the boat. It was a big boat, with lots of witnesses.
Other than a stint in Texas at a rodeo school that used fifty-five gallon drums tied to ropes, the only bovines I'd ever straddled back in my bygone, ten-feet-tall-and-bulletproof days were ones that breathed, snorted, did their part in making little bulls, and tried to kill you. I was good enough to get my card and participated in rough stock events from Mesquite, Texas to Cowtown, New Jersey but not good enough in any way to make a living out of it. One of the things I learned was that in bull riding, physical height was a disadvantage; you see, at six feet, with the whipping and bucking action of the bull, you're like a cracking whip, as opposed to the shorter, stouter version of cowboydom who can hunker down and hold on.
In all the years I'd played around in the sport of my youth, I'd never been on a mechanical bull, scorning them as a Drugstore Cowboy device, not worthy of my seat. Now here I was at the biggest crime fiction event in the world with a couple hundred people watching my every move as I looked the mechanical bull in it's beady, plastic, red eyes.
I'd already discussed the situation with the only other person in the room bigger than me, Deon Meyer, the South African author who had shared a different adventure when the Quais du Polar folks had provided us with Harleys and a police escort at speed through town two years ago. "I don't know Craig, my back..."
I am fifty-five years old.
I glanced down at the array of buttons and switches that operated the thing. "So, lookie here, pardner. Does this thing pretty much operate like the real deal--we go eight seconds and then twenty-three skidoo?"
He stared at me, and the response was predictable.
I pointed at the digital display that counted out to a full minute and mimicked climbing on the contraption and then holding up eight fingers.
He immediately shook his head and held up one.
"One second? That seems kind of short..."
"Non, une minute." He pointed at the control board and held up the finger again. "Personne ne fait que." He held up four fingers on one hand and five on the other.
"So usually forty-five seconds?"
Obviously a different game here.
I glanced over at Judy, my wife, who was probably considering whether or not we were going to be spending the next few days testing the marvelous French emergency medical system.
God hates a coward.
With a great deal of expectation from the crowd, I sat on the bumper of the inflatable cushion that surrounded the beastie and began taking off my boots. There was a roar from the spectators, and all I could think was that they'd probably quiet down about the time Ferdinand threw me in the river.
For the uninitiated, the things are about a little wider than a fifty-five gallon drum with the added disadvantage of a fiberglass seat that's about as slippery as a freshly polished pig. There's a little stub of a rope to hang onto, simulating the rigging used in the real sport, simulating being the operative word here.
Hopping on, I gripped the handle with one hand and yanked off my hat to emulate Steamboat, the horse and rider on the Wyoming license plate and every rodeo poster in the world. Everybody cheered, and I glanced over at the operator and yelled, "Let 'er buck!"
He stared at me, and I gestured with my hat that we should get going.
Unfrozen, he began manipulating the dials and buttons and the thing started spinning and bucking--a lot easier than the real thing, at least as well as I could remember. After about thirty seconds though he started putting a little more spin on it, finally graduating to a counter-spin, which drifted me a little to one side and caught me hanging and shaking before dropping me in one of the most ungainly dismounts in rodeo history.
Carefully picking myself up from the air-cushioned mat, I stood, dusted myself off and swept my hat in a complimentary bow as the French cheered my forty-seven second score.
The ice having been broken a few brave souls started taking their shoes off and attempted PRCA stardom including writer Jon Bassoff out of Colorado who even approached my time, albeit holding on with two hands.
As the party continued, Judy offered to get me a beer from the bar, but I turned her down as she studied me. "You're going to do it again, aren't you?"
You can judge a man by the challenges he chooses to accept, and the more stupid and meaningless those tasks are, the more similar he would be to moi. "The operator says everybody comes off at around forty-five seconds."
"Really?" She raised an eyebrow at me, fully aware that we had an early train to catch in the morning and that it was rapidly approaching midnight. "Then you beat it by two seconds."
"I think I can do better."
She crossed her arms. "I think you're simple-minded."
I tugged my hat down a little tighter. "Goes with the job, little lady."
Fifty-seven seconds and the champion of the very first Lyon France River Rodeo... And I'm considering getting a mechanical bull to put in our garage, or maybe going back out on the circuit. How hard can it be? Like riding a bicycle, it'll all come back to me, right? Right?
See you on the trail,
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