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Professional bull rider Ryan Dirteater (real name!) has spent more than his fair share of days in bed recovering from some rough rides. The 23-year-old Oklahoman has torn his MCL, ACL and PCL, wrist flexor tendons, a ligament in his elbow and his triceps tendon. He's suffered a broken leg, concussion, dislocated kneecap and a broken jaw. And that may not be everything.
This may give some indication as to why I was nervous about meeting Dirteater for a bull riding lesson last week.
Dirteater, also known as "The Cherokee Kid" because of his Native American heritage, was in town to promote the Chicago Invitational, a mid-January stop on the PBR Ford Built Tough Series. We met at Dos Diablos, a Mexican cantina with a mechanical bull ring facing onto Hubbard St. in the heart of Chicago's River North neighborhood.
After a quick chat I jumped on the bull -- whom I dubbed "Dos" -- and got ready for my first sober ride. You see, while this wasn't my first rodeo, it was certainly the first time I'd ever voluntarily jumped aboard a buckin' bronco without being three sheets to the wind. In fact, I announced my retirement from mechanical bull riding a few years ago after an ill-advised ride five or six bars into my 26th birthday pub crawl in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Things didn't end well -- for me or the floor of the bar bathroom.
Dirteater convinced me to come out of retirement for one last ride by promising no major injuries -- just before asking me to sign a waiver relieving him and the bar of any liability in case of death or disfigurement. He gave me a few tips, wished me luck and told the bull operator to let 'er rip, a mischievous (some might say sadistic) glimmer in his eye.
As you can see in the video, I don't have a future in professional bull riding.
Not only did I get tossed like a sack of potatoes on every go, I left the joint walking like a bowlegged cowboy with a hemorrhoid problem and soon discovered a bruise the length of a stirrup running up my left thigh. (Just the left one, though -- perhaps the unilateral thigh-gripping was part of my problem.) If that's the kind of damage a mechanical bull can do, I can't imagine how Dirteater and his peers get back in the ring for the real thing over and over again.
Safe to say this time my retirement will stick.