Six Sentence Story: Press Gang for a Bull

Press Gang for a Bull. Drawing by Ford Waight. February 2021.

I’m linking up with Denise at Girlie On The Edge Blog, where she hosts Six Sentence Stories, and everyone is invited to write a story or poem constructed of six sentences based on a cue word given. This week’s cue word is Rodeo

Press Gang for a Bull

The rodeo clown chased me through town, his oversize clothes flapping in the wind, his shrieking laughter echoing about the deserted streets.

What a fool I was to get so drunk while on shore leave, to abandon my crew mates and walk alone in a strange town in search of adventure; yet, Lord, how could I have imagined to be so cursed as to cross that rodeo clown.

Finally he cornered me in a dark alley, and I bunched my fists to smite that crooked smile from his painted lips… but the last thing I remember was him clubbing my head with an iron bar.

Next thing I knew, I’m waking up at the rodeo, can feel syringes pulling out from my arm, and that clown telling me “Fella, all ya gotta do from now on is throw them skinny cowboys in the air and put on a show – who knows, maybe one day we’ll make ya champion.”

And as he led me out into the arena, I caught my reflection in the mirror of a Ford pickup truck, and, Lord, I was a bull – eighteen-hundred pounds of muscle and hide on four legs ready to buck, and that sonofabitch clown still telling me “Yes sir, you’re our prize Brahma now, and will go by the name of Lone Sailor.”

These days I’m treated like a star, and I put on a real good show for the folks who pay their dollars to come watch me throw cowboys in the air; though, Lord, I must confess, when I see that clown distracting me from making good a gore, I hunger for my old sailor fists to smite that crooked smile from his painted lips.


Words and drawing by Ford Waight.

Editor’s note

My story Press gang for a Bull concerns just one of the many events featured at a typical American style professional rodeo – namely bull riding, which has been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.”

In Press gang for a Bull I wanted to explore the idea of a sailor transformed into a prize rodeo bull by the will of a magical clown. I was also interested in turning on its head the idea of someone in naval service being ‘press ganged’ into an alternative service. To press gang is to take men into a military or naval force by compulsion, with or without notice, and was a practice used by European navies between the 17th and 19th centuries as a means of crewing warships.

1780 caricature of a press gang. Scanned from Vaisseau de Ligne, Time Life, 1979.

In this instance, my unfortunate sailor is press ganged into ‘becoming a bull’ and is renamed the ‘Lone Sailor’. He must now endure the rest of his days as a revered creature to the crowds, the judges, and the cowboys who try to ride him at the rodeo.

The rodeo clown

I based the clown of my story on the original rodeo clowns who back in the day were crowd entertainers who wore makeup and oversize clothing. As bull riding became more dangerous with the introduction of Brahma bulls in the early 20th century, the need for someone to act as distraction for a bull attacking a fallen rider fell to the rodeo clown. In the late 20th century, the term bullfighter began to replace the name rodeo clown, and in 2003 bullfighters in the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) organization traded their traditional rodeo clown makeup and outfits for sport gear with corporate sponsor logos.

The job of the modern day bullfighter involves bravery and strategic team working to place themselves in the path of a dangerous animal to protect the rodeo rider. The valour of famous modern day bullfighters like Frank Newsom, Shorty Gorham and Jesse Byrne was something for me to behold while I was studying video clips when making research for my story.

My drawing

I made it in pencils based on a photo of the bull rider Antonio Aguilars Charros riding a Brahma bull in Mexico circa 1975, although my story is set earlier than this.

Here are two digital renders of my original, as I wanted to see some colour  and texture ‘popping’ in the scene.

Press Gang for a Bull. Digital render in colour by Ford Waight. February 2021. Version 1.

Press Gang for a Bull. Digital render in colour by Ford Waight. February 2021. Version 2.

Thanks for bucking with us 🙂

32 thoughts on “Six Sentence Story: Press Gang for a Bull

  1. Fabulous post!!! I really appreciate that you included the bit of history–that rodeo ‘clowns’ became ‘bullfighters’. I was an “honorary” PBR bull rider “mom” for years. Not sure if he may have retired, but Flint Rasmussen continued to act as “clown” for entertainment at some of their events–where as the team of bullfighters did the serious work 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Avia. Yes, Flint Rasmussen was a name that popped up frequently when I was researching. That’s so cool you were an honorary PBR mom bull rider – you must have so many fun and fond memories!!
      I wanted to include some history on the riders, barrelmen, and also the bulls in the way that the bulls always score points and can go on to become World Champion and be inducted into various halls of fame etc. I was reading about some greats like Little Yellow Jacket, Bodacious and Red Rock. But the post would have ended up a novella length just for my notes 😄
      Was a fun and fascinating prompt word for sure this week! Thanks for the read and comments 🙂


      • You’re definitely a fan after my own heart! It’s not just an “extreme sport”–if you get interested in it, you’re likely to become an “extreme fan” 🙂 I credit the PBR (and God, of course) with getting me through a siege of depression which lasted the full first 6 months of 2006–I’d drag myself through the week just to spend the weekend glued to the TV, as I “adopted” all my new sons. That first year, I not only wrote fan letters–but sent gifts to a few of the “boys”, mostly bags of candy…what else, right? In all that I gave, I received one letter back–but it was worth it, as the young man was so grateful for my interest. Unfortunately there were some changes (business decisions, as PBR is in it for the money) which eventually dampened my enthusiasm for PBR. However, up until last December, the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas was a fine substitution–and it includes all events, not just bull riding; but Covid messed up a lot of sports…and I lost my sports channel when I had to downgrade services. But maybe this year… You haven’t lived till you’ve heard Joe Beaver commentate the timed events–he was a multi-year champion steer wrestler, and he’s loads of fun! Thanks for the chat! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pretty great, especially considering it’s only 6 sentences.
    I did know what a Press Gang was. Horrified by the idea, it is yet another example of how far society & laws have come since those days. I am also horrified by so called sports that are harmful to animals, such as bull fighting, rodeos and fox hunts. Horse racing could be okay, but it is corrupt with drugging the horses and other unforgivable practices. I do protest. Perhaps a bull should be put on a man’s back for a ride. I know that would probably also be harmful to the animal.

    Your drawing is wonderful. The digital renderings are fabulous. You are very talented,Ford!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Resa. Good points. From what I read there is some regulation and reform for the welfare of rodeo animals, and certain disciplines have and are being removed due to welfare issues, whereas in bull fighting and fox hunting for example there is a deliberate will to injure and kill.
      One might argue that no animal should be made to partake in any type of event or entertainment – and strictly and fairly that could apply to dog and pigeon racing, cat and dog pedigree shows, show jumping, keeping fish in an aquarium, maybe even sticking a hat and bow tie on a pet cat for social media likes, etc etc.
      The meat and dairy industry, animal-based clothing and products. It’s a complex path with lots of twists and turns for the human relationship with animals – but one that I think should put the welfare of the animal at its centre. Sadly not always the case.
      The American scientist and activist Mary Temple Grandin has done a huge amount of work in her life on animal behaviours, and is an advocate for the humane treatment of livestock. A reformer rather than abolitionist, her ideas still seem the most sensible and practical at this point in time in our relationship with animals.
      And the environment? Eating meat and dairy – maybe lab processed proteins will be the way to go? This might include non animal based proteins like soya, which is becoming harmful to produce now due to demand.
      And see how electric vehicles are at last becoming an affordable option in many parts of the world? Plus more electric bicycles and scooters.
      There is some hope (hopefully) 😁😃

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, there is always hope.
        I’ve been a vegetarian most of my life, but I have worn leather in the past.
        My higher conscience is constantly awakened. Humanity is an endless lesson.
        I am somewhat ashamed of what I was taught about animals, by my parents. In spite of becoming a veggie at a very young age, there was still much I have learned along the road to now. However, I believe one of the abilities to reach these ideas of animal respect, has been that I am a veggie. It has allowed me to confront myself about the past, and put best foot forward for the future. X 😀 O
        Hope this makes sense.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It does make sense. And you’re right that humanity is a constant lesson. I started as veggie at a young age but with lapses. For me now it’s about doing the best I can when I can, and to spend wise and informed. Not easy at times, but doable.
        Yes, best foot forward for the future :)X

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What an interesting post! I’ve learned a lot from your research, having known very little about rodeos myself. And it’s a great story. Anything involving a clown makes me shiver, but I didn’t see the transformation coming!
    Gorgeous drawing, but that clown’s face… shiver

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fun Six on multiple levels:
    a) Dude! a rodeo clown as prompt word representation… (though my rodeo clown is, technically way hotter than yours….lol)
    2) press ganged… aka shanghaied (Personal experience (sorta) … so, back when I was a commercial fisherman I was desperate to get a site* and found one on a scallop boat out of Newport. Standing around the dock waiting and the captain says, ‘Well, lets go get the rest of the crew and we walked from bar to bar until he had as many as he needed… (yes, inspiring confidence in one’s co-workers in a famously dangerous profession
    D) clowns.. surely the most frightening of images, if for no other reason that the false insistence on what funny is…. no. clowns. not. funny.
    3) loved the notes. the research behind the words is surely the best of the fun of this thing of ours**

    Proceed with your healificationing***

    a site: a job on a boat… deckhand
    ** cosa nostra
    *** not a ‘real’ word

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Clark. Well, I enjoyed your account of seeing some shanghai in action back then!
      Yep, your rodeo clown wins the hottness stakes, and agree that clowns make for the most frightening of images for a good old spot of horror.
      Agree too about the editor note thingies and deconstruction – should have added that the sailor inspiration also came from Bowie’s line in Life on Mars, as well as the Press Gang element.
      Healificationing away, good sir!
      (when o when can we have a collected works of all your “not a ‘real’ word” words?)


      • as to the growing vocabulary and compiling it, funny thing about that, after I’d been here, in the land of blogs and bloggers (deep in the proto-continent of Rhetoria) I started to realize how good everyone around me was with the writing thing… I suspect unconsciously I started to use words like an aggressive drunk uses his glass when cornering people at the party… ‘Well, I’ll tell you (slosh slosh)’
        Speaking of standing in a field of already processed poppy plants… if’n I had half the energy I had when I was a quarter of my age, I’d be.. “Hey! Everyone… flash fiction is a thing…a marketable thing…. why don’t we anthologize the two years of set lists that we’ve all be creating?”


  5. Most excellent opening sentence, V. Nothing more frightening than a crazed clown (for real, lol)
    “..fists to smite that crooked smile from his painted lips”. The repetition of these words, in each context, drove home exactly who the antagonist is – a rodeo clown gone bad. Very, very bad 😆
    This was a very enjoyable first person telling of a horror story of which nightmares are made. I like your drawing and the digital renderings as well. Did any one of them in particular (or all) help in writing the story? Which came first – drawing or writing? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, D. As usual your prompt words bring out the best in looking for creative angles. I knew zilch about the rodeo apart from some school story books and the odd film maybe, so it was fun reading up and watching clips on Tube of the You for research. The bull riding in particular really appealed.
      Felt a bit bad making the clown a ‘baddie’ as the rodeo clowns/barrelmen/bullfighters are true brave heroes – but yes as you say this clown in particular turned out bad!
      Thanks again – the drawing and renders came after the writing. I searched my adverts and catalogue archives for something suitable but found nothing, so thought why not draw my own pic? 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, amidst everything you are dealing with (or because of) , you did it again Word whisperer! Said it before, me loves some perspective reshuffling!!
    The drawing rocks; especially version 1 emits a Gauguin sent.

    Hope you stay strong and healthy – creative you ,obviously and undaunted, are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ‘Perspective reshuffling’ is a great description. I too love version 1 pic.
      Good news I got back into negative following a test last Wednesday, hooray, but man going back to work has been physically exhausting, so I was a lot weaker than I thought.
      Weekend off now 😁
      Thanks for the good words mate 😎

      Liked by 1 person

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