Once in the chute, the mellow bull becomes true to his nature.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
With red-rimmed eyes, Rotten Nanners stands in a small enclosure at King City’s Salinas Valley Fairgrounds, lazily munching on alfalfa beside a dark bull named Black Twister. A 5-year-old, 1,500-pound bull, Rotten Nanners has a surfer-like tan on his head and neck, along with a couple of brands that adorn his body like well-placed tattoos.
Rotten Nanners’ owner, J.D. Escobar of the Flying High Rodeo Company, says the young bull’s disposition is similar to that of his wave-craving human counterpart– most of the time. “He’s the most kick-back, mellowest [bull] you’ve ever met,” Escobar says.
But when Rotten Nanners, whose name is a play on overripe bananas, gets into a bull-riding ring he becomes another animal altogether. So far this year, all four riders who tried to stay on the bucking bull at Professional Bull Riding competitions hit the dirt in less than six seconds.
Escobar says Rotten Nanners, whose father was a bull that competed in the National Finals Rodeo, “bucks like one of a kind.”
“He tries harder than any average bull,” he says. “He’s got a great heart.”
While admiring the bull, Flying High stock tender and bull rider Colton Lyons volunteers to ride Rotten Nanners at the fairgrounds’ Rava Equestrian Center. An 18-year-old wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses, Lyons is initially full of youthful swagger. “I’m not scared,” he says. “I’m going to go 110 percent and try to beat him.”
But as Lyons puts on his chaps and tapes his left hand, he becomes more anxious. “Nanners looks the best he has ever looked,” Lyons says.
While Escobar slaps Rotten Nanners on the rear to get him through different bucking chutes, tension in the arena mounts, and a small crowd gathers. “Whoa, Nanners,” Escobar says. “You got a lot of muscle, dude.”
Then Escobar looks around for Lyons. “Did Colton leave?” he asks.
“He’s in the restroom,” someone fires back.
After the laughter dissipates, Lyons quietly walks up the platform above the bull, which is crammed into the final bucking chute. He puts on a protective bull vest and a helmet. Then he sticks a piece of gum in his mouth in lieu of a mouth guard. Meanwhile, Rotten Nanners is snorting rhythmically like a steam train gathering momentum.
Lyons hops on the bull in the chute and grabs a rope tied to Rotten Nanners in his left hand. “Nanners, it’s time to rock and roll,” Escobar says.
In a flash, Rotten Nanners shoots out of the gate and into the arena. He immediately starts spinning wildly to the left and throws his back legs high above his head. Lyons manages to stay on for two rotations before being pitched to the ground like a discarded piece of laundry.
After the ride, Lyons, who was not hurt, stands outside the ring in silence.
“That’s a cowboy’s high right there,” says Escobar’s father, Earl.