There was a pause. And more laughter. My head went dizzy, and pebbles began rolling up my nose. This was certainly a new sensation. I made a noise like Pffffth, trying to breathe. Sparks had turned the barrel upside down. When he finally righted it and told me I was safe, I staggered out of the barrel, into the sunlight, and saw the bull trotting toward the far end of the arena. I pretended to put up my dukes, then collapsed backward into the sand. If I'd had a white flag, I'd have waved it.
After the show, weak in the knees, I rolled the barrel back to its storage area behind the chutes. Smets and Sparks walked with me, and so did Murray, who was taking off his microphone. Those guys perform 150 times a year. I couldn't imagine it.
One of the bullriders approached them. He carried a little girl in his arms. I recognized her and gave her a wink. "Sure appreciate what you fellas do for us," the cowboy said.