Welcome to bull riding: The author about to take two hooves to the chest.
iterally at the moment my flight dropped through the clouds heading down into Houston, a small blasphemous thought tried to worm itself out of my mind and squirm its way inside my already concerned heart: "Am I really doing this?" I refused it.
A few hours later in my hotel room, by the same sneaky means, another traitor attempted to infiltrate its way from my thought chambers into the throne of my eternal soul: "What in the hell am I doing here?" I pushed it back just like the first. The course had been set, there would be no turning back.
I slept pretty well that night. Ok, let me rephrase that. I slept pretty well that night… after reading several Psalms and laying prostrate on the floor praying to God for about ten minutes. Not kidding. As I laid there facedown praying on the carpet, I came to understand that God wasn't going to guarantee anything. I knew over the next few days that I would either get hurt, not get hurt, or get hurt really, really badly. I got up from the floor accompanied by a peaceful feeling, but also with an understanding that I knew I was charging off into The Dangerous Unknown, knowing that the Sovereign God was choosing to not let me get a glimpse of the fate was going to befall me. I just had to go and see what he had planned. Yikes. But I would charge ahead and do it anyway, that's for sure, just like always.
So, the next morning when I arrived at the CV Sallas bull riding arena just north of Houston, things started off for the members of our bull riding class that day exactly how you and I have become brutally accustomed to life. We stood in a lot of lines with a bunch of strangers in an unfamiliar building filling out a lot of paperwork signing away most of our legal rights. You know how it is. Just a bit later though, we got around to the tasty business of the preparations of real live bull riding: Checking out a bunch of cool gear, learning a few technical procedurals, and practicing the fundamentals of falling off of a 1,500 pound angry animal on a mechanical beast named Il Toro. As was proved to be absolutely true later, while all of these valuable lessons were being taught to us by our very knowledgeable instructors, most of our learning minds kept hitting the delete button after considering storing all of this useful safety information for later use.
Throughout the day, there was some rather eager speculation among the students about whether we would actually be riding bulls that first day. At the end of our lessons that evening, our instructors confirmed it: Before retiring for the night we were all going to ride our first bull. So, we all lined up with our equipment and waited to be called, as the bulls were procured and loaded into the chutes. Standing in line waiting for my turn, I thought that maybe since it was our first day, bull riding on this initial occasion might just actually be relatively safe.... it couldn't be that bad; certainly they were providing us with kind, elderly, and sedate bulls that would flop around like tired old mules shaking off mosquitoes in a serene pasture on a warm summer's evening.
I was soon to find out that I was wrong on both counts. So horribly, horribly wrong.
Hmm, now by the way, I should also mention that if you're going to bull riding school, it's virtually a complete certainty that the next stop for most of the bulls you'll be riding is the slaughterhouse. Texans, in their straightforward and plain-speak manner, refer to this place with somewhat milder but more cryptic terminology: "The killer market." However, some cattle owners reckon that they may as well give their steers one last chance to dance in a bull riding pen, because if one of their animals happens to show some potential, the ranchers might just be able to give their doomed little beasts a reprieve from a high-pressure air-powered bolt to the brain while also potentially making themselves a decent amount of money someday through renting the bull as rodeo bucking stock… so heck, why not give them a shot? What you find out at bull riding school is that the bulls somehow already know they're unlikely to be the 1 in 100 with any potential to make it to the county fair, so, as a matter of fairness and justice, and with the smell of that double cheeseburger you just ate roiling in their nostrils, they are absolutely determined to kill you before you contribute, by your meat-feasting habits, to the killing of them.
Thomas Bosma at the chute confidently awaiting his next sortie. Photo credit: Jim Friend
The bull I was to ride was a small, black, maniacal steer with a couple of little nubs for horns, and it so happened that it was having a few problems adjusting to being confined by the chute. A chute is the last confining space a cow at the slaughterhouse experiences before its flight off to the Giant Pasture in the Sky, so duly confused, this wily little insaniac probably thought I was the Death Angel that was about to administer The Dreaded Bolt. It kept wanting to turn around in the chute to the place from whence it came, back to freedom, which was not a good situation for me, as I was supposed to tie myself onto its heaving backside at once, as there were other riders waiting their turn in other chutes behind me. Complicating matters, my new little half-ton friend preferred standing on its hind legs to peaceful four-legged repose, which rather impeded my descent and securement. Unfortunately, on one of these occasions, I was already sitting on its back. When the bull stood up on this particular occasion, I sprung up and stood on the rails, but was soon chided by my instructor, Ed, to be "either all the way in or all the way out of the chute." Easy for you to say, Mac. Tell that to the bull. On my hasty retreat out of the Broken Leg Zone, my forehead soon found there was a four inch metal bar squarely in the way of my intended exit strategy. Bang. The aforementioned metal shaft left a zesty, bleeding reminder on my forehead that it was the winner of the molecular competition of measures of solidity.
Eventually, after the bull's neck was tied fast to the chute with a thick rope, I got situated on its writhing back again, but with all the commotion of this exotically dangerous experience, my mind blanked, so my chute procedure was horrible. Distracted while trying to keep my legs from being crushed and my ankles from being snapped, I didn't even anymore remember what I was supposed to do. Ed looked on at me with some sort quiet admiration reserved only for fools and idiots, and did his best to get my bull rope strapped around the evil little brute and deal with his confounded new recruit.
When things seemed to be arranged, indeed exclusively by Ed's efforts alone, he spoke: "Give us a big nod now when you're ready!" I thought about it for a couple of seconds, and then nodded, thinking I was ready, but of course, I certainly was not, which was perfectly demonstrated only milliseconds later.
Thomas Bosma on the tail end of a valiant effort. Photo credit: Jim Friend
The chute door was pulled open with a clank and the bull exploded from its execution chamber. As good as I was sure my form would be, it immediately failed me as the bull shuffled me to its left side on what was probably its third jump. Not lacking in heart (if maybe not so much in the intelligence category), I held on tight as I toppled over the left side of the bull, hoping that maybe some extraordinary Professional Bull Riding miracle would pop me right back up on its back again. Instead, as I should have guessed, I continued my one-way back-first descent to the earth below with great haste, and upon my horrific arrival, was greeted in the chest with the full downward thrust of the bull's two back hooves, as the doomed beast had apparently already decided my ribcage looked like it would make a great trampoline. Kuh-thump! Both hooves impacted with great force, roughly in area of my sternum and left lower ribcage. Adding the finishing touches to my newly-found trauma, the bull then decided to anoint the inside of my left calf with one of his front hooves. Ouch.
As soon as the Great Trampling was over with, I decided to get out of there. I scrambled the 25 feet or so back towards the chute (maybe it was closer to five feet, I refuse to remember) and was duly greeted by a wide-eyed Ed, who was about to explain to me what I did wrong in great detail, I figured, as soon as he could assess I wasn't a candidate for the hospital. Before that assessment and chiding could transpire, the victorious bull, in an ecstatic religious frenzy, decided to turn around so he could run back and dutifully kill me off once and for all. As it charged at us, Ed and I jumped up onto a nearby arena fence to avoid its wrath, and the bull ran past us proudly as if by our acquiescence it had obtained yet another victory, and bounded off to continue its celebrations. As soon as that fiery-eyed eutherian wolf was ushered out of the arena and into the hell-fires from whence it was birthed (the pasture out back), one of the bullfighters, Clint, walked up to me, also wide-eyed, and asked if I was ok. I offered that I thought so. Ed's inspection of my condition found that as a result of the nasty impact, my safety vest had been torn apart… not by the Velcro fastener in front, but by the stitched seam on the right hand side, where it's not at all supposed to separate. Oh yes... this is what I came here for... bad to the bone.
After walking out of the arena, I was initially a bit sore, but a couple of hours later, my sternum and ribcage began their travailing with great fervor. Farther down, my leg was also beginning to feel like some sinister Mengele-schooled doctor had recently replaced my left calf with an oak implant. Practicing a few necessary bull riding moves, and poking and prodding around my chest, I realized I had cracked the entirety of my sternum and lower left rib cage, especially the few ribs charged with protecting my somewhat-important beating heart. Complicating matters, my left pectoral muscle was complaining exotically in response to pulling-up and gripping movements, those that are most particularly critical to keeping yourself on a bull's back while riding. It didn't take long to realize that my bull riding weekend was probably already over. Just like that. I decided I'd put off making the final decision until the next morning.
David Disi cowboys up on yet another squirrelly bovine maniac Photo credit: Ed Arnold, Capturing Life Photography
When the new day arrived it was clear that my concerns were well founded: I felt like some naughty giant had picked me up like a toy and smashed my chest in his vice grip just for the fun of it... I could feel pain every time I inhaled. This second day of school was scheduled to be all bull riding, and on more difficult bulls, with additional practice on any skill set deemed weak available to a rider at any time. My weekend of riding was already over that morning, but for others, it had just begun, and of these, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the most interesting cats I had have ever met on any trip I've taken. Exactly what other types of fellows would get involved in this sort of dangerous pursuit? Here are three examples, and their backgrounds and life stories were surprising:
Richard Smith, a 35 year old British expatriate and ex-RAF pilot, possesses all of the qualities that cause Americans to admire Englishmen: Intense, sincere, unfailingly polite, friendly, helpful, and brave. He met his wife at a friend's wedding in Houston and ended up moving to Texas as a result. He soon got interested in the uniquely American phenomenon of rodeo, and eventually got involved in the Rodeo Speaker's Association of Houston, which goes to schools and speaks to kids about rodeo. His wife bought him a gift certificate to his first bull riding class in Carthage, Texas, last year, and he was returning this second time around to practice his skills and improve his chute procedure to the point he could get on a few bulls every now and again at local practice pens.
David Disi, 29, is an investment banker from New York City, a first lieutenant in the Army, and recently spent a year in Iraq. As if that wasn't interesting enough, add on two Ivy League degrees: Columbia MBA, Harvard MPA. Best of all, he immediately comes across as one of those rare individuals whose great intelligence and quiet, stern will has disciplined his heart to rule over any fear or threat of trouble. If you were in a war, this is the kind of guy you'd want to be there with, amongst truly the finest America has to offer.
Thomas Bosma, 21, from Abbotsford, Canada, arrived at bull riding school with a heart for adventure as big as they come. He came on a 30 day unlimited Greyhound pass, deciding to see as much of the US as possible, his goal to see all lower 48 states. All he brought with him was an old steel framed backpack, a tent, a sleeping bag, and a few clothes. You heard that right... yes, there are still apparently a few Jack Kerouacs left out there in the world. Wow, super cool. Thomas grew up on a dairy, and has always been interested in the rodeo. He is a university student, taking classes in philosophy and English.
I decided to follow the progress of these new friends of mine and soak it all in, watching their preparations and rides while talking to them about their individual subjective experiences. Throughout that morning, watching them go through their necessary paces, I wasn't much regretting my decision to not continue with school. My chest and ribs and arm were firing off all kinds of strange synaptic output, and after lunch, I would quickly learn to cherish my meager injuries, as disaster was about to unfold. As I walked out of the lunch room on that afternoon, I came out just in time... Complete mayhem was about to ensue in the arena, and I walked out at precisely the moment it began. Still licking my lips from the cheeseburger I had just devoured, I saw a tragedy unfold. A bare back rider and horse came flying down the length of the arena at top speed. At the end of the ride, the rider got majorly thrown over the top of the wildly bucking animal, landing in front of the horse, face down on the ground. As he was trying to get up, and with the most horrible timing available in the universe taking place at that very moment, I saw the front hooves of the horse come down with its full weight and force square on the back of the young man's neck. It was utterly-BAD-news-looking in the first place, but to make matters worse, the kid just went limp immediately, unconscious. A woman from the bleachers screamed, "Jesus!" as if imploring his presence at the site of the disaster. A swarm of people descended on the scene, and the ambulance workers (already standing by) began their treatment. I ran into David right around this time, and we watched this go on for about 20 minutes. After taking a good hard look at the kid, they decided just before transporting him away in the ambulance that his injuries were so severe that Life Flight needed to be called in. Whoa... Whoa.
Life Flight, horse and rider. Photo credit: Jim Friend
As if building momentum, the havoc continued unhindered. As David and I were talking, waiting for the helicopter to arrive, another student got kicked square in the gut by another bucking horse. Then, just as Life Flight landed in the parking lot, a panicking horse jumped out of the arena and started running around amidst the cars, with cowboys galore streaming out of the building on horseback working their lassos, looking to re-corral the terrified equine. There was concern the horse would somehow end up in the blades of the helicopter. One cowboy circled the chopper on his galloping horse, spinning that lasso around. Sheesh. It was an incredible sight. After that particular chaos was resolved and the student was rushed away in the helicopter, another horse in the arena, after shedding itself of its rider, somehow didn't see that the gate barring its exit to the back pasture was still closed. It ran at a gallop, head first, right into the gate, and immediately crumpled to the ground, unconscious. Wild. Out of control. Later on, at least one more person left in an ambulance, as I recall.
Despite the woeful luck available in the arena that day, Richard and Thomas ended up having several good rides, as did David. Unfortunately, Thomas suffered a leg injury, while David and Richard escaped with less debilitating traumas. After all the riding for the day was done, video replays of the goings-on were reviewed while the instructors gave comment on them while we ate dinner. All three got good reviews: Thomas stayed on for more than four seconds on his first ride, a great achievement, with our instructor, Ed, adding that he had done a great job of maintaining his composure. Richard got two complements, with Ed noting: "Every time you've got on you've improved, you're doing way better than your last school already." Ed stated that David had excellent form but seemed to be jumping off rideable bulls a bit early in an attempt to avoid further injury.
At the end of the reviews, a survey was taken. The instructors asked how many people were hurt. So many people raised their hands, they had to retool the question and ask how many people were not hurt. Two hands were raised. The lunch room, on the end of the second day, quickly became known by the students as the "CV Sallas triage room," with riders constantly limping around and patching and wrapping wounds and strains all throughout the day and evening. Toward the end of that night, we learned the bare back rider who went to the hospital on the Whirlybird Grim was in critical condition in the neuro-ICU: Swollen brain. Yowch!
Richard Smith serves up a big chunk of hardened, stout homebase position Photo Credit: Ed Arnold, Capturing Life Photography
The third and last day of school consisted of more bull riding and the ride-off competition, where everyone left standing would compete to see who was the best or most improved. The day went off with a few big injuries, one person left in an ambulance, but Chaos did not reign supreme like the day before. Thomas sat out initial rounds due to injury but participated in the ride off. Richard ended up riding a bull for a full eight seconds, one of his stated goals for the weekend. Unfortunately, he ended up with a pretty bad shoulder injury, when a bull dumped him and gave him the stomp. David re-aggravated a hip injury incurred in Iraq, but was otherwise in fairly good shape at the end of the day. The ride-off winner ended up being Jason Martinez, of KKW ranch, Bandera, Texas; and the most improved was Joey Raley, of Haslet, Texas. The best of juniors was the super impressive Alejandro "Hondo" Flores, 13, of George West, Texas. At the end of the day, another survey was taken in the lunch room. We were all asked again if there was anyone who wasn't injured. This time, no one raised their hands.
The day came to a close with our class saying warm goodbyes to each other, relieved and grateful to have survived our experiences and also stoked to have been privileged enough to participate in such a surreal life event. Thomas and I ended up sharing a hotel room that night, and had great conversations about life and God and many other things over a couple of beers and a weird Texan melon called a Santa Claus. We saw that thing in the store and had to get it. It was pretty dang good, too. We feasted upon it, and also upon our memories of our truly wild weekend.
So as it turned out (and thank you, God) I didn't get hurt really bad that weekend, but got hurt badly enough to remember it for a long time. I could feel the injuries in my chest every time I inhaled for a full month and a half, especially when I tried to sleep, but after having considered what could have happened to me, I felt really fortunate. All in all, I was left feeling completely grateful to have been able to experience such a challenging and defining life event. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to McDonald's to get another double cheeseburger, whilst musing over the memory of that angry little black bull who made it all possible. Revenge is sweet.
All Capturing Life Photography used by written permission.
I spent several school holidays in Windhoek with family
friends. Much later I took each of my kids (U.S. born & raised) on
separate trips to my native, Cape Town and "Overlanded" through
Namibia into the Kaokoveld. I enjoyed your travelogue immensely. Please
advise me if you ever publish a collection of your travel experiences.
The apple strudel at Helmeringhausen somewhere after Ai Ais was the best
Merv Hayman, Sarasota, FL
Hi Merv, thanks for the correspondence,
glad you enjoyed the article. It sounds like that country got into your
blood, as it has in mine. I'm looking forward to getting back there someday
and seeing much more of the place, Namibia has a peculiar allure. Thanks
for the complements and I will certainly put you on the list for a travel
Cheers and happy travels!
in Texas" Article
I love your website. It has shown me that all this time
my boyfriend was lying to me about who he was. On his Facebook page he
was using the picture of "Thomas Bosma"... Btw great story and
MaKayla, Rapid City
Hi MaKayla, glad we could be of
assistance in busting your prevaricating suitor! Thanks for the complements
All the best, Jim
Arctic " Article
Just wanted to say 'Hello' love your intro/bio Mr.
Boitano, fits the call of excitement/steelo of Mr. Friend. Hope to keep
correspondence, and hope all your travels keep you busy but safe, Check
Mico Gonz, Seattle, WA
Very interesting, I find it very important for me because
my BF is there. Hope he is fine...His name is Sgt.Jason Adams...Thank
you and God bless...
Leonila, Guiguinto, Bulacan, Philippines
Cpt. Disi was at Kutschbach with the guys of 2nd platoon.
I was in 4th, we were right up the road at FOB Morales Frazier. I don't
think I read anywhere about you being at KB but if you were up there in
Kapisa province with us you would have loved it. It was 10x better than
Jbad. The air there was so full of smog, and you couldn't really see that
far out early in the morning when the sun was rising. But its nice to
see someone like you who was out on patrols and documenting all the things
we did. Great stories. Keep up the good work...
Kevin Myrick, Calhoun, GA
* * *
Love your writing. Have you read Spike Walker's books
Kerry, Wenatchee, WA
* * *
Christian Louboutin, New York City
* * *
I do not believe I've seen this described in such an informative
way before. You actually have clarified this for me. Thank you!
Janice Randall, Post Falls, ID
* * *
I like the style you took with this topic. It isn't every
day that you just discover a subject so to the point and enlightening.
Charles David, St. Anne, Manitoba
* * *
Hey Jim! LT Singh just checking your site.. looks great
very slow internet here.. will be home in 2 weeks.
Alvin Singh , New York
* * *
Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older
articles are not as good as newer ones. You have a lot more creativity
and originality now. Keep it up! And according to this article, I totally
agree with your opinion, but only this time! :) .
Arthur Cox, Next to Paris
* * *
Jim. Take it all in, smother your senses with the culture
and people. Watch your top notch and have a once in a lifetime experience.
Jeff and Andrea, Los Angeles, CA
* * *
Fascinating photos Jim! Singly they are all fodder for
short stories; together they really capture an out-of-body trip! Enjoyed
mine, thank you! I'm curious what those compounds contain...mostly businesses?
residences? Love that the T-Boy card is making it's way around the globe!
Wendy, Los Angeles, CA
* * *
These are outstanding photos. You capture scenes that
I've never seen in the "mainstream media." Haunting images that
make me think that there is danger around every corner.
Al Burt, Friday Harbor, WA
* * *
Enjoyed your article immensely! Your title is fun and
so is learning about bin Laden skipping out without paying the rent -
what a loser! It's great you could meet with Mr. Jouvenal, hear the stories
and see the guns. Give our highest regards to T.G. Taylor and the other
military personnel serving in Afghanistan. Courage to you all!
Steve, Renton, WA
* * *
Jim, I enjoyed this fascinating article. It reminded me
of how sublimely surreal life is. Also, I would like to thank you for
your courage, and to express gratitude towards your bringing this piece
of the world, with its foreign realities, to my doorstep. I look forward
to reading more from you.
Sandra, Seattle, WA
* * *
This is outstanding reporting, Jimmy F! Fascinating stuff.
You've taken on a dangerous, important assignment in Afghanistan, and
we readers appreciate your work with the military and your unique observations.
I look forward to your next post. In fact, I'm going to go through the
archives to see your entire body of work on TravelingBoy.
Terry, Los Angeles, CA
* * *
I really enjoyed my entry into Kabul with you and the
visit with Peter Jouvenal... look forward to more of that adventure.
Brenda, Richland, WA
* * *
Great story, Jim, a story really "as current as yesterday's
news." Now there's a real TravelingBoy!
Eric, San Diego, CA
* * *
Jim you have probably revealed more about Bin Laden than
anyone...his rage on the world has to be linked to his limp handshake.
Be careful over there!
Janet, Caldwell, ID
Thanks Janet! I get the distinct
impression that his handshake isn't the end story to all that's limp with
bin Laden's physiology!
* * *
What a fantastic piece. You're a modern-day Hemingway.
Your writing is compelling and fascinating. I look forward to much more
of this great adventure.
Roger, Puyallup, WA
Wow, Roger, what an awesome set
of complements. Thanks a lot. My first journal entry of 2010 was: "The
stories will tell themselves. I just need to show up." So far, so good!
Jim, first time reading your stuff. Very cool. I hope
to read about our units and life in eastern Afghanistan very soon since
you will be coming to our area as an embed. BTW, I'm the PAO here in Jalalabad
and will be coordinating your visit with CPT Disi.
T.G. Taylor, US Army, Jalalabad, Afghanistan
* * *
I saw your email address included
on a couple of correspondences, and I cannot wait to spend some time with
you, and even yet more of our honorable fighting forces over there in
that bleak neck of the woods in Afghanistan in January, including CPT
Disi. This is truly a trip of a lifetime for me, and I'm completely looking
forward to absorbing the experiences there and recording the sufferings
and sacrifices of so many of those of you who continue to strain and press
to make Our Country Great, those of you who daily labor to assist those
in other countries whose lives had once withered under the burden of tyrants,
and whose hopes can now flicker again with the help of those like yourself.
Thanks so much for putting it all out there for us every day. My fervent
hope is to honorably document the expenditures of each of your individual
lives in the midst of this conflict, those of you who "anonymously"
struggle daily to make what We Hold As Good prevail in what, at times,
is a dark and wicked world.
Thanks so much, man. Great to hear
from you... See you soon!
Sad to say, this is the first time I've read one of your
articles Jim. What have I been missing!? Thanks for the funny, informative,
and just plain awesome read! Take care and have a great Turkey day!
Jeff, Pasco, WA
* * *
Jim, I just loving reading your blogs. As I've dreamt
about going to Costa Rica for at least 20 years, this was a very insightful
and fun read for me. You always make me laugh.
Deborah - Burbank, CA
Wow, what a HILARIOUS guy!!!!! I really really enjoyed
the article. The Village Artist is my 'uncle Boyd" as I call him.
He is closing his shop next year. That made my day and thank you for letting
me know of this on the world's BEST travel information source.
Sandy - Sitka, Alaska
* * *
Comments like those that you wrote
make all the hassles and travails of writing resoundingly worthwhile,
thank you! I am so sorry to hear that Boyd is closing his shop! The Alaskan
State legislature should immediately intervene to make his shop an Alaskan
cultural heritage site of some variety (not kidding). Meanwhile, from
the sound of the conversation Boyd and I had, it's the federal government
that's confused and harassed the poor guy with inconsistent and random
applications of federal law to the point where it's probably not worth
it anymore. I hope that's not the case, but I wouldn't be surprised. Whatever
the reason, I am really sorry to hear that he's closing shop. I'm privileged
to have seen it... once in a lifetime. Thanks again for reading and thanks
a lot for your comments!
Now I know what you were doing on the Alaska cruise when
I wasn't around. Besides playing cribbage. I'm glad that you, a younger,
more slender and fit person, also saw the value in cruising. I didn't
come back with a tan, but I did lose 3 pounds while sleeping every night
and eating every meal but one. Jade and I are looking forward to three
weeks exploring Mediterranean ports in May. We put down our deposit for
it on our last night on board and have starting our training. Sleeping
in the same wonderful bed every night makes such a break-neck pace completely
possible for a grandma like me. I'm looking forward to reading your Afghanistan
piece WHEN you have returned.
Janice - Seattle
* * *
Yes that was a blast! I would do
all of that again any day of the week. Have fun on your Mediterranean
cruise, that sounds like great fun!
Love your expeditions. Keep writing.
Karen Cummings - Yakima, WA
* * *
Jim can't tell you how much I am enjoying your writing.
One other commenter mentioned you are living the life we all dream of,
ain't that the truth. As far as looking for a place to live that will
challenge you to be able to make a real living and supplying a steady flow
of women looking for the bbd (bigger better deal) then you should try the
Yakima Valley here in Washington State (inside joke). Look forward to
reading more from you.
Huston Turcott (hooter) - Yakima, WA
Awesome!!! I love Japan!
Maja - Chur, Switzerland
Jimmy my love,
I totally thought you were kidding when you told me you went bullriding. OH MY GOSH you actually did it. (SIGH) Am I going to have to smack you around a bit?? heheheheee Seriously, come see us!
Leah, Richland, WA
Rock on Friend! Living it up... inspiring us all to do the same!
Are you for real? You're living the life many people only dream about. You're
obviously not yet married. What wife would allow her husband to do all
the crazy things you do? This Virginia skydiving adventure is probably
the scariest yet. Your writing style helps bring the exhilaration out.
Great photos too. Loved the caption about you striking that "gangsta
rap" pose. Come to think of it, why do we do that in front of the
Thanks also for the tips. $250 for a few minutes with nothing between
you and mother earth is a bit costly but I guess if you have a death wish,
this is definitely the way to go.
You mentioned that 25 people a year lose their lives doing this. With my luck
I will be among that number if and when I decide to do this.
Enjoyed it very much. Can't wait for your next adventure.
Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA
Found ur Glacier trek (I will Destroy You Glacier Peak)
to be serious kick ass. To be honest, Im such a lightweight, Ive
never been more than a day tripper. When u really get out there on one
of those long solo treks, and the water runs short can u drink
from local streams? Ive heard that pollution is so bad that even
places untouched by man are now off-limits.
* * *
Great to hear from you and thanks
for the complement and question. That is a seriously cool name, by the
way: VitoZee. Just from the phonetics of it, I get the impression that
you might be a very friendly and mild-mannered hitman working out of North
Jersey. Really cool.
As for your drinking water from
streams question, there are a lot of answers for it. The simple answer
is that, no, you can almost never implicitly trust stream water sources,
unless they are flowing straight out of the ground (via an aquafer or
spring) bubbling up right there in front of you. That's your best bet,
but you rarely see that in the wild unless you're looking for it, and
even so, I have actually gotten sick from drinking spring water straight
from the source at Panther Springs on Mount Shasta. You never know what
you're going to get drinking untreated water from the wilds.
Most of the time the pollution you'll
be dealing with out in the wilderness is not man-made, it usually comes
from bacteria and parasites that inhabit the bodies of wilderness animals.
For example, on this Glacier Peak trip, I drank from a stream I was confident
was trustworthy. In the immediate vicinity were living quite a few marmots.
A number of days after I got home I fell ill, and had to wonder if I hadn't
picked up something from the water I drank, as there was not much of any
other explanation for my symptoms. I knew a trip to the doctor would probably
result in them sending me back home with a plastic cup that was required
to be filled with my own poo, which would need to be delivered back to
the lab steaming hot so they could figure out exactly what kind of bacteria
or parasite they were dealing with. (Not a joke, remember Panther Springs?)
After this diagnosis, I would then have to go back to the doctor and get
a prescription, but by then, my body would have probably fought off the
tiny invaders completely on its own. Not worth the trouble, and all of
this would certainly = Jim minus $280. So I suffered it out, and whatever
happened to be bothering me left my system in about 7 days or so. Yuck.
Anyway, I don't recommend drinking
straight from the streams of the wild, but in a pinch, I do it everytime,
unless I see a bear or a moose straight upstream from me pooping in the
river, which has only happened about ten times. (Or zero times.) Anyway,
sometimes I get sick, sometimes I don't. If I'm exhausted and thirsty,
to heck with it, I'm drinking it.
All this notwithstanding, or withstanding,
or notwithoutstanding, whatever, they just recently invented the coolest
thing in the world though, so you might want to check it out. Previously,
for treating your water in the wild, you'd always have to put a pellet
of iodine or a congregate of other evil ingredients into your jug of stream
water and let it sit there for an hour before you drink it while the chemical
cocktail thoroughly treats your water. That is ridonkulous because when
you're hiking and thirsty, you aren't going to wait a full hour for that
pill to dissolve and work properly, you are going to guzzle. Anyway, they
just invented this magic wand of sorts that you can find at any decent
backpacking or outdoors store. You turn it on and dip it in your stream
filled water jug, and the ultraviolet light it produces irradiates everything
to death on the spot, after about 30 seconds or so. Kind of like my pinky
finger, which I keep forgetting to treat my stream water with, because
I'm always so dang thirsty.
Keep it comin' Jim. Sounds awesome.
Matt Langley, Duvall, WA
Enjoyed your Victoria article. It was an intersting slant
on a city that is generally just promoted as a destination for tea rooms,
gardens and double-decker buses. Now let's get serious ... are the Canadian
women there really that attractive, good-natured and open-minded? Maybe
I won't get married either and just move up there. It sure sounds refreshing
after having to deal with the smugness of all those LA starlets, trying
to make it in Hollywood.
Gary, Santa Monica
* * *
Thanks so much for the communique. I can honestly tell you that there
was little exagerration involved in my description of the girls there
in Victoria. God, in his infinite wisdom, has thankfully granted American
mankind a few other places than the great old U.S. of A. to relieve our
hearts of the burden of the eternally-self-absorbed, career-tracked, Bill-Gates-as-a-husband
seeking beastly variety of female. I know, after living here in the States
forever (especially in Seattle), how it is. I was recently researching
a trip to Columbia, and heard the same news implicitly spoken about the
women there, they are apparently of the same caliber of those that live
in British Columbia. I invite you, before relocating, to take a trip up
to Victoria, to see for yourself. I'll never forget it.
And my brotha', if you think you have it bad in the Los Angeles area (I
lived there for six years), try Seattle (where I have lived for the last
laborious three). Seattle seems to be crammed with nothing other than
Ice Princesses, who live their lives completely within the confines of
darkened cerebral domains, mental attentions locked firmly onto the goal
of marrying the next Bill Gates, hoping to live in one of those big houses
smooshed up against Lake Washington, hearts available only to the ultimate
goal, the dream of all dreams ... being on Oprah someday...absorbing the
jealous attentions of the millions of suburbanite women watching, all
hoping to sit right there across from Ms. Winfrey someday, too, while
regaling her with the tales of the good life, closets full of the savvy
and smarmy garb purloined at Nordstrom's, their husband a virtual "Prince
Charming," their family-owned barnacle encrusted yacht anchored firmly
in some northern fjord. Oprah smiles back approvingly amidst a cacophony
of applause, screen fades to commercials, all conduits nourishing The
You're my kind of guy, Gary. Hang in there, amigo. I look forward to meeting
your smokin' hot wife someday.
You're going to get hurt:
You had better just plan on it. You might end up with bruises, you might end up with a lot worse, but at bull riding school, you're going to leave with something on you busted up or hurting.
I went to Sankey Rodeo Schools, and it was mostly an excellent experience: Everything there was great, but stay away from Lyle (Sankey) as much as you can, he will eventually blow his stack at someone for some real or perceived sin. Maybe he was just having a bad weekend, but I saw it get really ugly once or twice. Their website is a confusing mess, but for a class near you... behold: www.sankeyrodeo.com
You don't have to buy your own rodeo gear, they have everything you need:
If you go to Sankey, you won't need to buy your own gear like some silly people did (me). The gear they rent is totally quality stuff and is totally worth the relatively small price. However, you need to bring your own boots, and most schools require that you find your own lodging.
Come to school sharp:
I showed up to bull riding school completely burned out from work, and it was not the mindset I wanted to be in. At all. I was having difficulty keeping up, and it was a very uncomfortable feeling knowing I could be missing information that could potentially save my precious little rear end from some trouble.
The cowboys won't make you feel like an outsider, even if you are one (like me):
I was worried bull riding school was going to be a bunch of goat ropers looking to cast vibe. Most of the cats there realize they're fixin' to die on the floor of the arena just like you, and everyone is too busy being concerned about their own fate to vibe yours. The only guy in our class who acted a bit hot left with a badly broken ankle.
Think you're too old to bull ride? Guess again! One of the most popular characters in our class was 61 year old Eric Jacobs, of Burbank California. That's right, I said 61 years old! He rode through the whole three days with a busted up wrist he acquired on the first day, and was a complete joy to have around.