Scenes From Saturday's Great Bull Run and Tomato Royale at Texas Motorplex.
If there was one thing to be learned from the Great Bull Run that took place at Texas Motorplex in Ennis on Saturday, it was this: Bulls charging at you may look terrifying, but people are far worse.
And this, of course, is a bit of a surprising thing to come to terms with. Because, simply by taking part in a running of the bulls event, you sort of expect to be rather terrified by the bulls. I mean, they have big horns, they outweigh you by a couple hundred pounds, and they're barreling in your general direction.
But, then again, these bull runs weren't the fabled ones of Pamplona. So, in lieu of letting loose dozens of bulls down narrow city streets, bulls were released along the stretches of the Mortorplex eight at a time. And they were mainly a skittish lot, a far cry from the pissed-off, rage-fueled bulls of Spain.
Well, except for one bull.
His name was Moses.
This bull, in just a few runs, quickly garnered acclaim as a murderous beast, striking fear into the heart of many participants. One person even warned his friends before a run started: “Watch out for Moses! Moses is gonna try and get you! He's crazy!”
Still, even with one rogue bull, the Great Bull Run was safe — and surprisingly so. The rules put in place by the staff of the Bull Run seemed specifically aimed at making it nearly impossible to get seriously injured. They shouted their instructions all day long, telling participants not to stand in the middle of the narrow corridor created by the red metal fencing — or else the bulls will see that they are blocked and not move. And they emphasize running alongside the bulls where you can be seen, rather than right in front of them, as, it turns out, bulls are goddamn terrified of things that are out of their line of sight.
Of course, even with these simple rules, you had your “thrill-seekers” who would run in front of the bulls for a good 20 yards and then leap out of the way. And, sure, you had a handful of people get run over, both by the bulls and the men of horseback guiding them.
But no one was seriously injured or killed in all six bull runs. So, really, how bad could it have been?
Not too bad. I'd say.
Still, the rush you get from seeing thousands of pounds of future steaks running at or near you is very real, dangerous or not. This rush is amplified every time you see a person thrown into the air or trying to slap a bull's ass as it runs by.
But, again, the bulls were easily the second-most dangerous beasts at this affair. After all the bull runs finished, a tomato fight was held. A portion of grass was fenced off with thousands upon thousands of tomatoes piled high in the middle. A massive crowd of hundreds gathered outside of the fenced off area, shouting and screaming for blood before being let it.
All of this was for the Tomato Royale — a massive, no-holds-barred tomato fight. People participating had varying levels of preparedness. Some wore paintball masks and multiple layers, as others — this writer included — wore street clothes and nothing else.
Once the gates were opened just a crack, the mass of people rushed in like a tidal wave of flesh, knocking an entire side of fencing to the ground and running anyone over who was unfortunate enough to lose their footing.
These people were in some sort of Viking-like blood-rage. Eyes fixated on tomatoes as hundreds of people vied for the same area. Some stuck the perimeters of the fight, trying to avoid getting massacred. Others jumped right into the center of the tomato pile, arming themselves with a near-unlimited supply of munitions.
It's hard to say which move was the safer choice. Those on the outside may have gotten hit less, but standing farther away allowed a thrown tomato to gain a bit more velocity before it smashed against your face. Those in the center, meanwhile, were unguarded from all sides, but also inaccessible to most of the mob.
Almost immediately, the ground was turned into some horrid mixture of mud and crushed tomatoes, making solid footing impossible. So, along with tomatoes being thrown at your head, you were slipping and sliding, attempting to maintain some sort of balance while failing to dodge flung vegetables.
But the reason that the Tomato Royale was more violent than the Bull Run was simple: People are assholes.
People taking place in the tomato fight understood perfectly what was going to happen, sure. A no holds-barred excuse to cause other people as much bodily harm with a tomato as possible? Yeah, sounds good. But, when thrown with any amount of technique, a tomato can hurt, folks.
Seeing hundreds of people all throwing tomatoes at each other was a sight all its own. Tomatoes were thrown blindly and in arcing paths through the air. Some were shoveled by the armful directly upward. Others were pitched directly at a specific target.
A few minutes in and everyone was covered in the shred of tomato skin and tomato seeds. Tomato juice streamed through people hair and faces. Some had more tomato showing than clothes.
This madhouse persisted for more than 30 minutes. A handful of folks got the hell out of there midway through, but plenty stayed through the pain and kept on tossing tomatoes right up until the festivities were through.
In the end, the smell of manure and a nice, thick coating of tomato seeds and juice were well worth the excitement and bodily harm caused by the bull runs and the tomato fight.
Next time, though, I'll be considering some goggles.