There is a commotion as the beast tries to escape its cramped quarters. The crowd oohs and ahhs as an enormous head comes into view for just a few seconds. The cowboy fights to maintain his seat. He doesn’t want to get thrown off inside the chute. Others on the gate help to get the bull back in position. The gate opens and two tons of fury roars out twisting and turning, trying to dislodge its unwelcome passenger. The rider, holding on with one hand and flopping around like a rag doll, fights to stay on for eight long seconds. Unsuccessful, he flies off landing in a most awkward position. The bull rushes in with massive horns bent on finishing the task.
Then someone jumps in front of the snarling brute. He gets into the face of the bull staring into its crazy eyes then lures it away from its intended target. This someone is called a "bullfighter" ("rodeo clown" in my day). The bullfighter’s job is to protect the rider until he is out of harm’s way. He tows a thin line between safety and disaster. Thankful for the bullfighter, the fallen gladiator regains his bearings and runs for the fence.
Most of the time distracting the bull to get him back in the pen is enough. There are instances when the bull refuses to cooperate. Cowboys and fighters run for safety to keep all body parts in tact until the mounted cowboys maneuver the critter back in the right direction.
Fate has a way of springing into our lives when we least expect it.
Our granddaughter, Kaitlyn, was selected Youth Ambassador for the 72nd Southwest District Livestock Show and Rodeo in Lake Charles the first week of February. One of her responsibilities was to go to each rodeo performance and be introduced. We enjoyed it and my wife, Fae, took hundreds of pictures.
This was the first time I sat through a one rodeo performance much less four in about 50 years. As luck, or fate, would have it, Kenneth Bergeron, Jr. better known as Kenny was one of the bullfighters. Kenny is my first cousin’s son. I haven’t seen him in some years, but knew he had an interest in rodeos since his dad was a clown.
As I watched him and the other bullfighter perform their duties, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would want to do such a job. As in any dangerous profession - and bullfighting is definitely dangerous - one has to have a certain agility and fearlessness for the job. It is not for the faint of heart and it would be better if one was young.
I also thought what fun it would be to do an interview with him, cousin on cousin. After one performance I went to get more information on his career and was surprised at what I found. Kenny has been around longer than I thought. He has been nominated for bullfighter of the year awards and participated in rodeo’s biggest events. He is held in high regard in the rodeo community. Someone had already done an interview with him so that was out the window.
After the Thursday performance Fae, Kaitlyn and I went to meet him and say hello. I was surprised at how much he had grown. Fae, being an avid photographer saw a photo op. Kenny, still dressed in his bullfighter outfit, readily agreed to take a picture with Kaitlyn. The only other time we had an opportunity to visit with him was before the afternoon performance on Saturday. He was walking around in street clothes and posed for another picture with Kaitlyn.
Kenny is a success in his chosen profession and likes what he is doing. Not many people can say that. With all his accolades, publicity, and the call for his attention, he has remained a humble and polite young man. His dad Kenneth, Sr. must be proud of him. A lot of people would call him insane for what he does, but I say he answered his calling, and not all callings are safe and sound.
If Fae would not have entered Kaitlyn in the rodeo pageant and if Kaitlyn hadn’t won we would not have attended the rodeo and I would not have had the chance to renew my acquaintance with Kenny.
Such is fate.
Copyright © March 11, 2011 by Lowell Bergeron