Running of the bulls in Pamplona (Source: Wikipedia)
By Jim Heffernan
I’ve missed the running of the bulls in Pamplona again this week. That’d be Pamplona, Spain, where each year during one of their many festivals they steer a bunch of angry pointy-horned steers into the streets to chase a passel of people — all males it looks like in photos — who prove their manhood — this all started before Viagra — by running like mad before the angry bulls, in extreme danger of getting gored or trampled or both.
Were you to count the words in the preceding sentence (I don’t dare) you would immediately discern the writing is very un-Hemingwayesque. I refer to famous author Ernest “Papa” Hemingway, known for his terse writing and short sentences and affection for all things bull — bullfighting, bulls running loose in Pamplona, but probably not Papal bulls.
He might tersely write something like: “The bulls ran in Pamplona again. The day was hot, and the radio-listening nuns crossed themselves imploring divine protection for the men running with the bulls.” See? Short and snappy.
I have never wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona. It sounds romantic when Hemingway describes it, but I’d be, to revive a pejorative from my youth, “chicken.” (There is a vast difference between a chicken and a bull, although both make pretty good eating unless you’re a lactose ovarian vegetarian.)
I doubt that Hemingway himself ran before the herd, although you never know. He led an adventurous life before he shot himself in 1961, at age 61. He was the kind of man who could wear a beret and there’d be no questions asked. Also a neck scarf in summer.
There was a time in my life, in my English lit studies in college, when I was very “into” Hemingway. In fact, I was taking an American lit class that included some of his writings — “The Gambler, the Nun and the Radio” — around the time he committed suicide. The professor was quite moved. We all were.
But no running before the Pamplona bulls for me, even in those carefree days of my youth. Earlier, as a child, I’d seen a boy about my age get gored by a bull in the forgotten Disney movie “Song of the South.” It made me so fearful around bulls that I refused to wear my red cowboy shirt when visiting the farm of a family friend.
Bulls hate the color red and attack it on sight, it’s been claimed. (At that same college, a political science professor described our congressman as “so red any self-respecting bull would charge him on sight.” I don’t want to use the congressman’s name, but we have a certain bridge named after him. Not Oliver.)
So in spite of my admiration of everything Hemingway at the time, there’d be no running with the Pamplona bulls for me. Heck, as a bullophobe child I was also afraid of turtles (turtlepobia). Not afraid of being trampled by turtles, mind you, but of having one bite off a finger or toe while swimming. If you have ever had dealings with a mature (how old? 100? 110?) snapping turtle you know what I mean. They are not as cute as painted turtles but they make a tasty soup.
As long as I’m confessing my early fears, I might as well mention also that I was deathly afraid of vegetable-based human blood drinking space aliens like the one in the movie “The Thing.”
Happily, I am no longer particularly afraid of turtles or Mr. Thing, but tangling with a bull in Pamplona still does not appeal to me. Besides, the sun is setting on my time in life for such adventures, praying nuns or no praying nuns.