I came looking for redemption. What I found was embarrassment once again on the arena dirt floor.

Last year saw me entering the Bucket List Bull Riding at the inaugural Cowboy Cross and what a blast. Event organizer Matt Webb asked me if I wanted to try and once again give a writer’s interpretation of a bull ride. Without thinking — and I really should’ve consulted those not blinded by fabricated rodeo glory — I jumped at the chance. I shouldn’t have. It was a buck off in precisely the same amount of time as last year. Two years, two glaringly obvious examples that I’m meant for the reporting side of rodeo.

Don’t get any wild ideas: The third time won’t be a charm next year. The fans are going to have to find a new hero, this guy is retired.

While my three girls were in the stands cheering from afar last year, it was just Adelyn with me this year as my Brittany was busy at home prepping Delaney for homecoming. Adelyn was behind the chutes with me ready to shoot an award-winning cell phone video and offer words of encouragement.

“Do you know how much this big boy weighs?” she asked.

I didn’t, but what I did notice was the size of this thing. Make no mistake about it, Ellensburg Enigma — the moniker I lovingly gave the bull handpicked by stock contractor Daniel Beard — was significantly larger than my bull last year, Red Menace.

“This bull is way bigger than last year!”

“So are you!” gateman and Rodeo Board member Dave Adams said with his immediate — and honest — assessment.

If I wasn’t so laser focused, I would’ve laughed at the joke. Honestly, it wasn’t focus, it was utter fear that hindered my ability to enjoy the quip, which is too bad, because it was a good one.

You know what else wasn’t helping? Sean “The Enforcer” Clark. Sean was with us bull riders — can I lump myself into that elusive group? — and he was pumping me up while I readied myself. “You got this, baby! This is so awesome!”

Really? If it is so cool, why wasn’t he sweating through his shirt with anticipation? Where was he the past year during my training regimen? In all fairness, my training consisted of switching to light beer the week before the Cowboy Cross. When you put it in perspective, it wasn’t much of a commitment, but it was my kind of pledge.

I was fifth and last out among us less-than-amateur bull riders. I borrowed equipment from other “real” bull riders including a vest, riding glove and a Brazilian rope owned by Dalton Davis, last year’s Cowboy Cross winner. The rope could’ve been magical, threaded with gold and unearthed from the pyramids but it wasn’t going to overcome my inability.

Dalton discussed technique. He offered key points over the course of one minute to get me to the same level of expertise he’s taken one decade to master himself. I was a disgrace to that free clinic of info he gave me.

Here’s how it went: Kissed Adelyn and gave her a high five, climbed into the chute and aboard Ellensburg Enigma, stared down Sean as he once again neglected to prove to me why cheering me on was better than him joining me in this mess, earnestly listening to Dalton’s last-minute ideas on how not to die, remembering my brother James texting me the other day on how it would take a court order for him to get on a bull and realizing at that point that he’s always had more common sense than me, hearing the faint sound of the Rocky theme and realizing it was just me singing in my head, saying “screw it, we’re doing this,” and then yelling “let’s go!” as I nodding my head, a split second later opening my eyes and realizing I’ve already been bucked off and am literally flying in the arena, slamming down on the ground, popping up immediately and throwing that Resistol in the air as though I won a Gold Buckle.

I turned around and there was Daniel and Dave.

“You’ll get ‘em next year!” they said with smiles.

“No, I’m retired,” I said dejectedly with a mouthful of dirt.

I found myself between them both hugging their shoulders, mostly for the literal support needed as I hobbled to the gate. I’m pretty sure I found my right rotator cuff in the arena dirt, but I was too numb to verify. It took all my strength to pick myself up from the initial buck off, I wasn’t going to risk getting down in the dirt again.

I limped back to the chutes only to be greeted by Adelyn’s backhanded compliment.

“If you put both of your times together it’s 0.2 seconds. I’m proud of you.”

I choose to not pay attention to her first sentence and focused on the second one. And I’ll choose not to get on a bull again. I’m thinking about skydiving now.

Jon Guddat covers rodeo — from the kids to the kids at heart — with a weekly rodeo column in the Daily Record. Contact Jon with story ideas at jonguddat@yahoo.com.

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