the wax paper

Carl and the Bull

There is an old saying, " Never let your alligator mouth bite off more than your hummingbird ass can handle." The same is true about your mind when it comes to running with the bulls.

Over 24 years I have only been on the ground four times but the fourth fall was tough. To fall in the Encierro is frightening and very dangerous.

The date of my fourth fall was July 10th, 2009. It happened near the top of Estafeta. I decided it was the right day to catch the lead bull and run him through the Callejon and into the bullring. This is fine in theory, but it is rife with logistical problems. You are working without a net because all the steers and five more bulls were behind the leader. If anything goes wrong a bunch of things have to go right for you to come out unhurt.

It is also very hard to see the lead bull behind the crowd. You have to watch the balconies, listen to the intensity of the screams and the increasing speed of the runners while not getting whacked by panicked people. Bomber recalled this run as the day I joined the "Hood Ornament Club.”

Well, here they came and there I was with the leader. Looking into his right eye I could tell that all he wanted to do was keep running. Mr. Distler taught us that years ago. He had accepted me as one of the herd. Terrific; next stop Callejon, into the ring and glory! EXCEPT, while rapidly looking back and forth some guy outran himself like an eight year old on a playground and took a header while I was looking back. I hooked him with my right foot and did an immediate 180 degree flip nailing both knees and my shoulder. On my back I looked to my left and saw the third bull veer from his lane to kill me. I heard his horn scraping the pavement and got both of my hands on his head (note photo).

He caught me with his right horn right between the shoulder blades but by some miracle and a little white knuckling by me the horn didn't enter my back.

The next thing I know I was standing between two men.....Graeme Galloway and Steve Frazier. Each was holding one of my biceps. I said, " How are you guys doing?" and they said, " No, how are you doing?" I said I'm fine and they said," Well you weren't fine 30 seconds ago, you were out cold!" Seems I got flipped pretty good.

Later in the day I asked my running mate Peter Remington why he didn't come back for me since he saw me go down and he said, "at that moment I was very busy."

Spanish television showed the clip repeatedly and my friends came from the four points of the compass thinking I was dead. In fact, after a brief visit to the ambulance I was fine. Very sore but fine.

Sadly, just across the street from us, moments later, a young man from Madrid was killed by a bull named Cappuchino.

“A San Fermin pedimos, por ser nuestro patron, nos guie en el encierro dandonos su benedicion. ¡Viva San Fermin, Gora San Fermin!”

Carl Burtrum has recently retired as VP of the Broadcasters Foundation of America. He has run with the bulls ninety-nine times.