John F. Russell: Living out a dream

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It's not every day that a person gets the chance to live out a childhood dream.

I've never been a cowboy, but I'll admit there have been times in my life when I've dreamed of throwing caution to the wind and hitting the road as a professional bull rider.

I shared this dream with my wife - once. When she finally stopped laughing, she responded with five simple words:

I don't think so, John.

At my age, odds are I'll never be a rodeo cowboy, but two weeks ago while I was on vacation, I got the opportunity to feel like one when I climbed on the back of a rank bucking bull at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

So this bull wasn't made out of horns, muscle and hate - more like metal gears, hydraulics and plastic. But that didn't matter.

For a few seconds, I sat on top of the world, feeling more like Tony Mendez than a 40-year-old father of two.

As I held on tight to the mechanical bull, which was spinning just faster than the hour hand on my wristwatch, I could almost hear the roar of the crowd in my ears.

But when I finally opened my eyes, I realized the noise was coming from a couple school-aged children waiting for their turn on the beast. They weren't really cheering for me, but simply yelling at the teenager who was operating the bull to speed things up a bit.

I guess watching a middle-aged man riding a slow-moving mechanical bull wasn't their idea of a good way to spend the final days of summer vacation.

The operator must have agreed because he flipped some switches on the control panel, and a few turns later, I was on my back, staring up at the sky wondering where my dream had gone wrong.

It was at that moment that I realized my lifelong dream of becoming a bull rider would never become reality. The dream died that day, but at least I have my health and a pretty stable life to carry me through.

I walked away from the experience with little more than a bruised ego and a new respect for the bull riders who come to Steamboat Springs each summer.

Luckily, you don't need mechanical bulls or the fear of broken bones and embarrassment to gain this same respect.

If, like me, you're one of those people who believe bull riders are cooler than John Travolta in "Grease," you should just head to the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena today and check out the PBR bull riding event. Gates open at 3 p.m., and the first bull is scheduled to come out of the chutes at 5 p.m.

As for me, I'll continue to jump on the back of rank bucking bulls, but only in my dreams.

- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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