Novillera Patricia McCormick, who has fought 80 bulls and proved her courage every time, was knocked down by one at Villa Acu?a, Mexico last week and was gored in the groin and through the bladder. It was her third goring since she began practicing secretly for the bull ring while an art student at Texas Western College. She is 24 and very pretty.
In sports which involve the killing of animals the objective is to kill clean and quick. If a display of courage is involved at all, as in the killing of dangerous animals, it is only incidental to the real objective. For it is form which makes such things sport?form in the killing of a trout with a dry fly, or shooting birds on the wing, or taking a lion with a well-placed shot from a rifle of sufficient caliber to do the job well. It is not sport to use inferior weapons which are likely only to wound.
On this subject, with which he is very familiar, Ernest Hemingway has made some observations in Death in the Afternoon. They seem apropos as Patricia McCormick lies under opiates in a Texas hospital, where in semicoma she told her mother that she would go out to fight the bulls again.
In the old days, Hemingway says, the bulls were bigger, fiercer, older, less easily controlled. The matadors, in turn, were mature men of long apprenticeship who knew how to make the final sword thrust without butchery. But in time the bulls were bred smaller, put into the ring younger and what showmen know as hokum was introduced in cape work.
"It is the decadence of the modern bull that has made modern bullfighting possible," says Hemingway. "It is a decadent art in every way and like most decadent things it reaches its fullest flower at its rottenest point, which is the present."
The present seems not to have changed much for the better since Hemingway put out his book in 1932. As wrestling decayed in the same period, bouts between women wrestlers became more frequent, and as bullfighting decayed, more and more women were putting on the tight pants of the matador and treating the crowds to spectacles rather than sport.
At week's end, Novillera McCormick was still on the critical list.