My painful farewell to `ride-'em-cowboy'


November 03, 2005|By SAM SESSA

I know now that I will never be a cowboy.

My list of Things-Sam-Wants-To-Be-When-He-Grows-Up got a little shorter last weekend after I briefly rode Bar Baltimore's mechanical bull. In less than a minute, the metal monster snuffed one of my childhood dreams and almost kept me from having children of my own.

When I heard about Bar Baltimore's mechanical bull -- which is operated Thursday through Saturday nights -- I thought I heard the call of destiny. I would become the Urban Cowboy and defend my honor by riding the bull. Last Saturday night, I realized it was the call of stupidity.

My buddy Evan and I arrived at Bar Baltimore about 10 p.m., forked over Power Plant Live's wallet-draining $10 cover charge and walked in. We circled the bar looking for the beast.

At that point, the crowd was still pretty sparse, but the costumes (it was Halloween weekend) made up for it. Flashing red lights spun above us as we watched a pair of female bartenders hop up onto the bar and strut. Except for a couple of disco balls and TV sets, the place doesn't have much in the way of decorations. It's a little trashy, but the right kind of trashy -- the kind that doesn't matter after you've had a few drinks and the crowd is bouncing.

Then I saw it in the corner, hulking.

The monster kept perfectly still as I sized it up.

A wooden fence and a swath of dark, Moon Bounce-like inflatable padding stood between us. I glanced around, looking for the operator, but no one was nearby. I panicked. Would Halloween take precedence over bull rides?

I ran up to the front desk and asked the woman there if the bull would buck that night. She said if a white light shone on the bull, all systems were go. Otherwise, it was probably broken.

Frantic, I raced back to the bull's corner.

White lights danced across its surface, and I let out my breath. It was on. A bartender said the bull rides started about 11 p.m., so Evan and I headed over to Howl at the Moon to pass some time.

We returned at 11:05 p.m., and beelined for the bull. An attendant with waivers in hand received us. I printed my name and phone number on the sheet.

For a moment, I hesitated. Since I'd never seen anyone ride a mechanical bull, I had no idea how to do it. It seemed pretty simple: Straddle the thing and hold onto the metal handle in the middle for as long as possible. Still, I needed an opening act.

Right on cue, a big man lined up behind me. I stepped to the side and let him go first. He lasted a little more than a minute before eating Moon Bounce.

My turn.

I got this, I thought.

I paid the attendant the $5 bull-riding fee and mounted. With a good grip on the red tape-covered handle, I glanced out at the crowd and was taken aback.

Most of the people watching wore a weird smirk on their faces, as if they knew what was coming. Uh oh. The bull rose and dipped, and my crotch slid slightly southward toward the handle. I could feel the control guy turning the knob up a notch. Oh man.

Up again and back down, a little harder each time. I really started moving around on top, which I knew was a bad thing. Then I slipped and came down hard, ramming into the handle.


It happened one more time before I could abdicate, and as I came down I swung my left leg over the bull and stepped/fell off. On the way back to the waiting area, I played off my limp as best I could.

Evan was up next. I wanted to warn him, but the pain and a strange desire to have him feel the same kept me quiet. Evan wore a black Elvis wig and aviator shades and decided to stay in character while atop the beast, which wasn't the smartest move. He thrust one hand in the air, but lost his grip after a moment and tried to switch hands. Something happened -- neither of us is sure just what -- and he sprained his right index finger.

After the operator saw that we survived the Beast of Death, he slapped an egg-shaped sticker on both our shirts that read: "I rode the bull @ BAR." The sticker also included a cartoon bull face with the same smirk the crowd gave me before I got on him.

Apparently the thing has no name. I have a few, but none of them will make it into print.

As I hobbled out of the bar, I swore I'd never, ever do that again. If heck freezes over and I absolutely have to, next time I'll wear a jock strap.

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