A bruise was forming on my hand, but it wasn't broken. The bull had also stepped on my left ankle, tearing off my sock, but the deep mud in the arena had saved me. I'd gotten myself in a terrible situation but survived with a couple of bruises. That realization released the knot of tension that for two days had gripped my belly.
"That's what you're there for," Ronny said when he saw I was all right. "Better stop for a while, though. You're getting white again."
"Must be the bull slobber," I replied.
At lunchtime young Cody Casto asked without irony if I was going to give up my job to become a full-time bullfighter. He seemed to think I had potential.
"It's a young man's game, Cody," I told him. "It's all yours."
"What are you going to do, then?" he asked, mildly disappointed.
"I'm going to be a barrelman."
I thought so too. At the time.
Butch Lehmkuhler, a four-time Pro Rodeo Clown of the Year, once described being a barrelman this way: "Being in the barrel is like being in the worst carnival ride that you ever got on, and then you lose your handhold."