Writings by Tim Girvin
Being Bad

There is truly nothing that could have prepared me for experiencing the awesome strength of the bulls brought in this weekend for the launch of the Badlanders at the Long Beach arena. These two thousand pound animals are seemingly docile, if not peaceful, one moment. Then, they explode with a car wrecking power, slamming into their pens, and each other, the gatekeepers, and finally, the bullriders themselves. I made the decision early on that the option of pursuing a possible ride was completely out of the question. Certainly sitting astride one of these creatures might have been possible, but the notion of actually being released into the cyclonic force that these animals release, and the body hurling and crunching capacity that they manifest is simply a little to on the side of the bull, and the steel grating and dirt, less to the advantage of the rider.

These cowboys are an interesting lot. In the next couple of days, I am going to have the prints output that I took. Always moderate when it comes to shooting, I only shot up about 10 rolls, for the weekend. Assuming the film, the special camera and diminished lighting all came together; I should have some pretty remarkable expressions of this experience. The bullriders are almost in some ways like the bulls. They have this type of quiet docility and taciturn reflectiveness that belies their willingness to put it "all on the line", for eight seconds, if they last that long. This reverie is balanced by this dangerous camaraderie and machismo that puts them striding into the tornado pit of the bull pen, to strap on their own gear, to test it, to grip the cinches with one hand while the animal rumbles and growls beneath. Then, "with a nod, it's a new day", and the beast explodes with incredible, yet almost graceful power, whirling, leaping and dancing with this rag dog of an athlete flailing above. According to one of the riders, now a handler and coordinator for the event: "It is really like a dance. You have to know how to get right on the center of the top. Like a gyroscope. The bull spins beneath you, and if you can do the rhythm just right, you're in the calm, in control, riding. If you step out of that circle and lose your position-off ya go. And that's it." The world champion says," It's all about knowing the move. Your hand is your balance, your partner to keep you in check. Wherever the bull goes, your hand guides you the other way, to keep you balanced, to keep you on the bull. Like walking on the tightrope."

The riders try to get to know the bull but "There's really no way to know what the bull is going to do it's his day, another day. If you go in thinking that this bull is going to do this, then get ready, because he's probably going to do something else." The cowboys compare notes, but in the end, it's really between the two of them: the rider, and the bull. They both get scores, and the combination of the two, the out of balance, and the balance, the fury and the grace, of the two is the final tally.

It's unforgettable.

I will show the pictures when they are done.

Thanks for your consideration.
TSGirvin

(Originally sent: Monday, May 24, 1999)

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