A mere 23 people were injured during the most recent running of the bulls, which somehow is still a thing people do. The Associated Press has a gruesome rundown of the misfortunes that befell these silly twats, many of whom collided and bottlenecked at the entrance to the bull ring. Bulls then trampled, hurdled and gored. All of this happened Saturday even after everyone got a load of the Wes Craven scene Reuters captured on Friday, when a bull appeared to hoist an upside-down man by injecting a horn into his upper thigh. The man above got this cotton swab to the kidneys on Saturday morning. Seriously, there's another day of this shit coming tomorrow, too.
The Associated Press assembled a roster of the fallen just today. One person was gored in the armpit and another gored in the ass, a 19-year-old Spaniard had his thorax crushed, an Irish man suffered asphyxia when his chest was crushed, and someone had a heart attack while watching the stampede. A Spanish TV commentator described the horror show at the bull ring entrance as "Dantesque." This was all on just one of eight morning runs during the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona.
I get why people continue to volunteer to run through this meat grinder. Twenty-three people hurt? Yeah, well, hundreds not hurt. A photo caption the AP moved explained the phenomenon thus: "Revelers from around the world arrive to Pamplona every year to take part in some of the eight days of the running of the bulls glorified by Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises."
Not to absolve Papa for creating a suicide cult of manliness that has long outlived his own actual suicide, but we're going to take umbrage here with the term "glorified." Even in that legacy gift to 11th-grade English teachers, the running of the bulls was a nasty, brutish business. Where men died. In the mud. Here's the Sun Also Rises passage that supposedly launched a thousand schmucks:
The stretch of ground from the edge of the town to the bull-ring was muddy. There was a crowd all along the fence that led to the ring, and the outside balconies and the top of the bull-ring were solid with people. I heard the rocket and I knew I could not get into the ring in time to see the bulls come in, so I shoved through the crowd to the fence. I was pushed close against the planks of the fence. Between the two fences of the runway the police were clearing the crowd along. They walked or trotted on into the bull-ring. Then people commenced to come running. A drunk slipped and fell. Two policemen grabbed him and rushed him over to the fence. The crowd were running fast now. There was a great shout from the crowd, and putting my head through between the boards I saw the bulls just coming out of the street into the long running pen. They were going fast and gaining on the crowd. Just then another drunk started out from the fence with a blouse in his hands. He wanted to do capework with the bulls. The two policemen tore out, collared him, one hit him with a club, and they dragged him against the fence and stood flattened out against the fence as the last of the crowd and the bulls went by. There were so many people running ahead of the bulls that the mass thickened and slowed up going through the gate into the ring, and as the bulls passed, galloping together, heavy, muddy-sided, horns swinging, one shot ahead, caught a man in the running crowd in the back and lifted him in the air. Both the man’s arms were by his sides, his head went back as the horn went in, and the bull lifted him and then dropped him. The bull picked another man running in front, but the man disappeared into the crowd, and the crowd was through the gate and into the ring with the bulls behind them. The red door of the ring went shut, the crowd on the outside balconies of the bull-ring were pressing through to the inside, there was a shout, then another shout.
The man who had been gored lay face down in the trampled mud. People climbed over the fence, and I could not see the man because the crowd was so thick around him. From inside the ring came the shouts. Each shout meant a charge by some bull into the crowd. You could tell by the degree of intensity in the shout how bad a thing it was that was happening. Then the rocket went up that meant the steers had gotten the bulls out of the ring and into the corrals. I left the fence and started back toward the town.
Back in the town I went to the café to have a second coffee and some buttered toast. The waiters were sweeping out the café and mopping off the tables. One came over and took my order.
“Anything happen at the encierro?”
“I didn’t see it all. One man was badly cogido.”
“Here.” I put one hand on the small of my back and the other on my chest, where it looked as though the horn must have come through. The waiter nodded his head and swept the crumbs from the table with his cloth.
“Badly cogido,” he said. “All for sport. All for pleasure.”
He went away and came back with the long-handled coffee and milk pots. He poured the milk and coffee. It came out of the long spouts in two streams into the big cup. The waiter nodded his head.
“Badly cogido through the back,” he said. He put the pots down on the table and sat down in the chair at the table. “A big horn wound. All for fun. Just for fun. What do you think of that?”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s it. All for fun. Fun, you understand.”
“You’re not an aficionado?”
“Me? What are bulls? Animals. Brute animals.” He stood up and put his hand on the small of his back. “Right through the back. A cornada right through the back. For fun–you understand.”
He shook his head and walked away, carrying the coffee-pots. Two men were going by in the street. The waiter shouted to them. They were grave-looking. One shook his head. “Muerto!” he called.
The waiter nodded his head. The two men went on. They were on some errand. The waiter came over to my table.
“You hear? Muerto. Dead. He’s dead. With a horn through him. All for morning fun. Es muy flamenco.”
“Not for me,” the waiter said. “No fun in that for me.”
Later in the day we learned that the man who was killed was named Vicente Girones, and came from near Tafalla. The next day in the paper we read that he was twenty-eight years old, and had a farm, a wife, and two children. He had continued to come to the fiesta each year after he was married. The next day his wife came in from Tafalla to be with the body, and the day after there was a service in the chapel of San Fermin, and the coffin was carried to the railway-station by members of the dancing and drinking society of Tafalla. The drums marched ahead, and there was music on the fifes, and behind the men who carried the coffin walked the wife and two children.. . . Behind them marched all the members of the dancing and drinking societies of Pamplona, Estella, Tafalla, and Sanguesa who could stay over for the funeral. The coffin was loaded into the baggage-car of the train, and the widow and the two children rode, sitting, all three together, in an open third-class railway carriage. The train started with a jerk, and then ran smoothly, going down grade around the edge of the plateau and out into the fields of grain that blew in the wind on the plain on the way to Tafalla.
The bull who killed Vicente Girones was named Bocanegra, was Number 118 of the bull-breeding establishment of Sanchez Taberno, and was killed by Pedro Romero as the third bull of that same afternoon. His ear was cut by popular acclamation and given to Pedro Romero, who, in turn, gave it to Brett, who wrapped it in a handkerchief belonging to myself, and left both ear and handkerchief, along with a number of Muratti cigarette-stubs, shoved far back in the drawer of the bed-table that stood beside her bed in the Hotel Montoya, in Pamplona.
Truly it's amazing how current his account sounds, nearly a century later. The only update: the drunk is now protecting his cell phone in his hand — wouldn't want it to fall out of his shorts! — when he catches a horn under his rib cage. All for morning fun.
Photo credit: AP