At Pamplona, I Root for the Bulls

Here is what Bill Hillman wrote in the book he recently co-authored about how to survive running with the bulls in Pamplona:

“At its most pure, this is daring street-art, a dance with death and majesty, a chance to come into harmonious contact with one of nature’s fiercest monsters. At its worst, it’s a bunch of panicked tourists falling all over each other in an idiotic stampede.”

Hillman may want to add a new chapter: “How I Wound Up Humiliated and Hospitalized While Participating in One of the World’s Stupidest and Most Repugnant Traditions,” after he was gored in the thigh at the annual event and had to undergo emergency surgery.

While I’m not overjoyed that the 32-year-old Chicago man was one of several men injured during the nine-day Spanish festival that ended this week, I don’t have much sympathy for him or the others, either.

I feel much worse about a 1,300 pound bull that on the festival's final day festival gored a 25-year-old Aussie, puncturing his lung and ripping a gash in his thigh. According to News Corp. Australia, the bull was then killed and butchered, and people have been lining up to pay about $6 a pound for a hunk of its steak.

As you must know, we can blame Ernest Hemingway’s 1925 classic, “The Sun Also Rises,” for perpetuating a barbaric ritual that dates back to the 16th century, which only proves that young men haven’t evolved much in 500 years.

In addition to featuring a half-mile mad dash among stampeding bulls on Pamplona’s cobblestone streets, the San Fermin festival also encourages participants to leap from the top of a fountain in the city’s Navarreria Plaza. Almost as many lunatics are injured by this stunt as by bulls, which reminds me of the joke about a redneck’s last words: “Watch this…”

I enjoy a good laugh at least as much as the next person, but have never found the “Jackass” movies or “America’s Funniest Home Videos” episodes where guys get kicked in the crotch particularly amusing.

The Pamplona event is even more repulsive because it glorifies bullfighting, which, despite Hemingway’s attempt to portray it as elegant and manly, joins cockfighting, dog-fighting, bear-baiting and big-game trophy hunting as repulsive blood “sports” that most civilized cultures have outlawed.

Not surprisingly nearly all the “victims” during the running of the bulls and similar death-defying activities suffer from acute testosterone poisoning, which is to say they possess the dreaded Y chromosome.

Really, guys, is this the best you can do?

I did get a chuckle the other day, though, when reading about a recent University of Virginia study in which volunteers who were asked to spend 15 minutes alone in a room doing nothing but sitting and thinking then were given the opportunity to give themselves mild electric shocks.

Only about a quarter of the women elected to self-administer the jolts, compared to a whopping two-thirds of men. One guy shocked himself 191 times.

On that note, Hillman, the gored, disgraced author, said from his hospital bed that he plans to return to Pamplona next year.

Too bad the bull that nailed him won’t have that option.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

Who Needs Clean Air and Pure Water? Bring Back Unrestricted Strip Mining, DDT and Toxic Waste Dumps to Make America Great Again

The main problem with President Donald Trump’s efforts to boost the economy by eliminating oppressive environmental regulations is that they don’t go far enough.

The Good Book Has It Backwards: To Every Season, There Is More Than One Thing

Forget about what Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says (and Pete Seeger sang) about "To everything there is a season.' As far as I’m concerned, it’s always the right time for fun and adventure.

Kayaking Over the Falls on the Salmon River

The thunder of tumbling water roared as I gripped my paddle the other day, waiting my turn to plunge over a 4-foot drop at a broken dam on the Salmon River in East Hampton.

Home Is Where the Hut Is (Warning: Don't Read Part of This if You Have a Weak Stomach)

Embarking on a winter expedition to Mount Katahdin a few years ago, I hooked up with a few casual acquaintances accompanied by other climbers I only met just as we began the long drive from southeastern Connecticut to northern Maine.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in New Hampshire's White Mountains, Part I: A Voice in the Wilderness Saves the Day

While snowshoeing on a tamped-down section of the Ethan Pond Trail in New Hampshire’s White Mountains the other day, our group approached an untrammeled stretch of the Zeacliff Trail that descended into a ravine below frozen-over Whitehall...

Who Doesn't Love a Blizzard? (OK, Maybe a Few Softies and Killjoys)

I know there’s a good chance I’ll be eating these words when I’m shoveling, shoveling, shoveling, or huddled with a candle next to the wood stove while melting snow for drinking water after the power has been knocked out for...

Destructive Deer, Bugs, Vines and Snow: It's Always Something

In a "perfect" world – i.e., one in which all living creatures and meteorological phenomena benefited human comfort and bowed to our supremacy – there would be no need for deer fences, bird netting, herbicides,...

Prime Time for Eagle-Watching by Kayak on the Connecticut River

While kayaking just north of Lyme’s Hamburg Cove on the Connecticut River the other day, Robin Francis, Phil Warner and I watched a wildlife drama unfolding above us.

In Waning Winter, An 'Above Par' Snow-Kayaking Adventure

With snow cover stubbornly lingering and whitewater kayaking season still more than a month away, what’s an impatient paddler to do? Easy: Snow-kayaking.

What Snow and Ice? The Maple Sap Is Running!

Every year about this time, after having spent the past few months shoveling tons of snow from the driveway, lugging tons of firewood from the shed, getting out of bed dozens of times at 3 a.m. to stoke the stove, hauling countless buckets of...

Finally! A Worthy Snowstorm -- Maybe Even a Bombogenesis!

Just when we winter worshipers had resigned ourselves to another snowless season, and only a day after the temperature climbed ridiculously into the 60s, our prayers have been answered not just by an ordinary storm but by a meteorological...

Animal Tracks in the Snow: They All Tell a Story

If you thought most forest animals hibernated in winter, or at least slept through the night, take a stroll through the woods the morning after a snowfall.

What Does the Fox Say? Yip-yip-yip! Chance Encounters With Creatures Great and Small

While I lugged logs from the woodshed the other morning a yip-yip-yip! pierced the still air. First reaction: Did the neighbors get a dog? No, they were out of town for a few days. Yip-yip-yip!