it all comes down to this

Running of the bulls in Pamplona NavarreI swear, I don’t know what gets into people.

This latest head scratcher starts when the morning’s news feed flashes a headline about an American from Virginia Beach, Virginia who gets “run through” – i.e.: seriously gored – by a bull last weekend as he ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Now the intuitive thing to do — or at least my intuitive thing to do – when I read a headline touting such events is to dismiss them as “hoax” or the proverbial “fake news.” No, seriously, the idea of purposely allowing oneself to be chased by a bunch of bulls is just “crazy talk.” It’s the stuff of barber shop lies and nights out with the boys when the raconteur has knocked back a few too many Miller High Life’sAnother reason I’m thinking maybe it’s fake news is the headline or copy doesn’t include the words Trump,” “Kardashian” or Jay-Z!”

But despite my initial suspicions, I am nonetheless still intrigued and I read on. It turns out that running with the bulls has become increasingly popular since Ernest Hemingway first wrote about the event in a nearly hundred years old novel, The Sun Also Rises. Each summer since Papa Hemingway helped to lionize the event, people with questionable judgment, not just from Virginia Beach but from all over the planet, actually part ways with hard earned money — cold cash – to fly to Spain to voluntarily be chased through the narrow, winding streets of Pamplona by numerous 2500 pound, raging bulls – all with sharp horns – during Spain’s Annual Running of the Bulls Festival.

Taunting an angry bovine such that one is soon running for his very life would seem rank near the top of the list in the pantheon of remarkably bad ideas along with the proverbial “tuggin’ on Superman’s cape,” “pissin’ into the wind” – or maybe telling one’s spouse you’re leaving them immediately because you’re in love with another and you and “another” are several months preggers. Of course, it beats me as to why anyone would want to run with the bulls in the first place, though it seems like it would be a good idea to run like hell away from said bull once you’ve gotten his attention, once he’s locked his bull radar on you or whatever internal mechanism it is angry bovine use to keep a tormentor – and soon (very) likely victim – in focus.

The news feed article goes on to explain that the human beings in these running with the bulls proceedings are thrill seekers, who do it for the adrenaline rush. They say they do it because coming through the experience unscathed is “life affirming” – like nothing else they’ve tried before. Some even say they do it as some kind of rite of passage though if you ask me, they do it as a rite of passing away – from Earth.

I have no idea why the angry bovine participates but one speculates it certainly has something to do with revenge, mayhem and the fact that the human participants probably taunted something about the bull’s mother, which gets almost anyone upset and causes them to want to take matters into their own hands – or in this case – their own horns.



As I ponder all of this, it occurs to me that maybe running with the bulls is educational. “Could be your garden-variety adrenaline rush can be down-right instructive.” Truth is I’ve had my own adrenaline goosed a few times. I’ve had a few of those ticks of time in which my life flashed before me at warp speed, adrenaline coursed through my veins and I couldn’t help but think inwardly and longingly “so it all comes down to this!”  I’ve always learned from such experiences too – mainly, I learned not to get my ass in that sling again.  Take the time my adrenaline was rushed during a carjacking. In 1987, I was jacked right out of the driver’s seat of a 1985 Buick Skylark late one weeknight.  Nothing will get your blood flowing like having a gun pointed at you. Nothing makes you learn faster either. For example, I learned VERY QUICKLY the carjacker obviously needed that Skylark more than I did and I got the hell out of the car, keys still in the ignition – and walked home. What I also learned from that experience was to take the long route home from now on and to never drive through that neighborhood again!

When I was growing up, I got my adrenaline rushed as I was chased a few times by Sylvester, this mean-ass, stubby-legged bulldog, who lived along my paper route. Believe me it’s hard to throw newspapers or even pedal a bicycle very fast when a bulldog has locked his jaws onto your pant leg. In that instance, I learned I could pedal, for a few yards anyway, with only one foot. I also learned that Sylvester could be distracted long enough for me to escape his jaws by throwing a couple of Milkbone Dog Biscuits directly in his path. Lastly, I learned that Sylvester’s owner was going to like reading the Atlanta Journal that he bought – from now on – at the local drugstore just as well as the one that I had been delivering!

A few years later, in high school, there was the time that Ramona Starkwell’s father rushed my adrenaline as he chased me home because I’d brought Ramona home a half-hour after her curfew. While I was never able to take Ramona out again. I learned that it was entirely possible for fifty-year old, balding, tire iron-toting, raging, ex-college linebackers with gorgeous teenage daughters to run exceedingly fast no matter how fat and out of shape they might appear.

I was usually able to talk my way out of trouble or in my young, skinny days I had enough fast twitch muscle to outrun my would-be assailant, Mr. Starkwell, Sylvester, etc.

Still, despite these “heart in my throat” moments, I was still unlike the Pamplona folks.  I never went looking for trouble, I never had a death wish.


All these years later and even at the end of the news feed article about the gouging of the “Virginia Beach-running-with-the-bulls-in-Pamplona” guy  I still don’t know what gets into people. I’m still scratching my head, flummoxed about such guys that run with the bulls and wondering if they even have ‘walking-around’ sense. I think not (although the ones that gored by the bull “have it coming.”)

Then again, maybe, at the end of the day as it were, running with the bulls is a younger (and quite possibly drunk) person’s game. I know my own adrenaline is not goosed or rushed by the same things as it once was:hot cars, fast women, paper-boy chasing bulldogs or even Mr. Starkwell running after me with a tire iron. It’s one of the benefits of achieving seniority, I guess.  Thank God too, because I don’t know how much adrenaline goosing my heart can stand anymore. As I’m older now and adrenaline rushes are easier and cheaper to come by. I don’t have to spend money on airfare to Pamplona or lose sleep in the hospital like that guy in Virginia Beach wondering whether say, being gored by a bull is covered by Obamacare.



I hope Ol’ Virginia Beach has learned his lesson and I hope he recovers. In the meantime, I’m rooting for the bulls.

Image: Running of the bulls in Pamplona Navarre by fotosub and licensed on by using contributions from generous readers like you.
Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.

  1. Trevor Stone Irvin

    I too have always been perplexed by the psychotically unhinged who “Run with the Bulls” … I had a friend who for many years I respected and trusted his judgment. Until the day he told me he had run with the Bulls. That was a bridge too far, and I stayed the hell away from him from then on.
    And to quote one of the Bull Runners in your piece – “the experience unscathed is “life affirming.” Well. I can’t agree. My take is, lying on the couch with a seriously good looking woman and a cold six pack is life affirming. Running from a enraged bull is life threatening and unnecessarily taxing.
    Great piece, enjoyed in immensely.

  2. Well done, old boy. I especially enjoyed the “rite of passing away.” But who are you kidding when you say you no longer get a kick out of champagne, AKA “fast
    women”? What exactly do you get an adrenalin rush from now that you’re in your dotage? And where is Ramona now that we need her? Funny story.

  3. I feel the same about sky diving. A perfectly good airplane and some dang fool pays to jump out. I should have started charging people to jump off my roof. I probably could be retired by now!

  4. Ken Peacock

    Loved the story Will. I can’t understand it either tho I must fess up that I was in Pamplona for the running of the bulls in 1959. Ernest Hemingway was there for the festival. We both drank a lot of red wine to build up courage for the run. I didn’t actually run WITH the bulls I ran ahead of them – the day before. Must have been the wine.

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