Bar patrons are bullish on rodeo-style riding Entertainment: Hundreds of people pack a Glen Burnie bar every Wednesday to see professionals compete for prizes on live bulls.

October 15, 1997|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

On Wednesday nights in Glen Burnie's Cancun Cantina, if you wade past the line-dancers and barflies and approach the bar out back, you can catch a whiff of something fresh in the air.

It's deep, earthy and well, fertilizer-like. But this beer-swilling crowd is oblivious to the odor.

About 1,800 people have been jamming this country restaurant and bar every Wednesday this summer to see Glen Burnie's latest tourist attraction -- live, rodeo-style bull-riding in the Cantina's back yard.

The bar is only one of two in the United States that features live bull-riding, according to Clay Gaillard, a spokesman for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The other is Billy Bob's in Fort Worth, Texas.

"We're a country bar, and whenever the rodeos are in town, this place gets packed," said bar owner Tony Toscov. "It's jammed with cowboys from all over the country, so I thought, I've got the sand and I've got the area, let's ride bulls out here."

The riding, which takes place in a fenced-off area out back, began in June and continues through next month. Eight bull-riders, licensed to ride by the PRCA, sign up to compete for the weekly $500 prize. The rider who stays on for eight seconds without touching the bull with his bare hands wins.

Winners who ride Peaches, a docile Guernsey but the "buckingest" of the bunch with a rider aboard, get an extra $500.

The riders who sign up mostly come from nearby states, and they've gotten close during the summer through helping each other prepare. The possibility of serious injury they all face has also drawn them together.

"I'm nervous sometimes," said Dustin Hoover, 22, of Annapolis, as he paced before his turn. "When you get on something whose heart and soul doesn't want anything to do with you, you're really going up against the forces of nature."

Just before 9: 30, when the announcer takes the stand and the crowd gathers around the pen, the riders check their ropes, vests and spurs, and talk a little.

They form a circle, bend down on one knee and place their cowboy hats on their chests. Rusty Ramsey, a 20-year-old professional rider from Russellville, Ark., prays.

Give them strength, he says, to ride to the best of their ability. And keep them safe.

Ramsey sports two 4-inch-long bull-riding scars that he claims took 1,500 stitches across the right side of his face to close. Those are the memories of an 8-year-old kid on a ranch in Abilene who was gored by a calf and kicked in the head by a bull on two occasions.

Still, he can say this about bull-riding, "It's a rush."

It is for spectators, too. John Shellen, an Annapolis salesman, held up a cup of beer and said, "Where else can you drink beer, look at a lot of women and watch bull-riding? But we want to ride the bulls. We kept asking and begging them, but they wouldn't let us."

Dana Coleman, a Fort Washington teacher, looked a little more perplexed.

"I'm like, yeah, way cool, way cool," said Coleman, 25. "But I'm wondering what they did to get the bulls so mad."

According to Tom Drury, owner of Millersville T-D Rodeo Co., which owns the bulls, the animals are "ticklish" around their flanks, around which the riders strap a rope. Hence, they buck.

He sees himself as something of a humanitarian: "If it weren't for people like me, them bulls would be McDonald's or in somebody's freezer right now."

Lisa Lange, spokeswoman for the Norfolk, Va.,-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was unimpressed.

Rodeos are "really cowardly behavior where the animal suffers unnecessarily," she said. "We're always keeping an eye on things like this."

Still, Faith Palmerton spends Wednesdays worrying more about the harm her boyfriend, Geoff Weichelt, faces. Standing by the pen, watching intently, she chain-smoked Marlboro Reds, chewed her lip and gripped a friend's arm while he rode.

Weichelt, 19, didn't make eight seconds, but as he left the pen, she grabbed him hard and kissed him anyway.

"I'm just glad he's still alive," said Palmerton, 28, of Bowie. "As long as he comes home in one piece, I'm happy."

Pub Date: 10/15/97

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