A Lifetime in Eight Seconds

Breathe.  

Pray.

Please let me make it through these next eight seconds.  

…just one more time.  

0.0″

Pure silence, then the vacuum of space explodes.

The rustic crack of the gate breathes fire into the beast below.

Stillness in the air is replaced by a typhoon.

With a jolt, my life begins again.

1.0″

Taunt but forgiving, I lay back as my world rockets forward and just as quick plunges off a cliff.

Amped up, fear begins its transition into a rush of adrenalin.

I revel in the high… “do not lose focus” I repeat to myself.

 

This trickling wave of confidence brings panic as well, “f  o  c  u  s”

2.0″

The whiplash spin shoots me to the left before I get blindsided by a gyration to the right.

Contradictory twists: the head floats one way, the hips another…

My spine begins to cry, impossibly trying to center itself.  Trying to center life.

Within this chaos, I feel at home.

3.0″ 

I rise, and for a moment I feel like a little kid being tossed in the air by my parents…

A smile breaks on my face ~ although buoyancy with a bull is never a good thing.

A coppery, metallic taste fills my head as I wonder, “am I flying, or am I dreaming?”

4.0″

The growing expanse of space between the bull and I no longer matters.

Even apart, I feel connected.

We share the fear and anger; our will to survive.

 

My hand and arm is a coil of steel, pulsating life throughout my body.  I will not give in nor will he.

All of time melds into the present. “I have no past, I have no future.” I love this beast I am riding; our moment to define freedom and strength, while bound by our fate.

5.0″

“F o c u s ” ~ My mind cuts back to previous failures, too many to count ~ matched by my broken bones.

Each failure preparing me for the next ride…each ride more expensive than the last.

Life is a game of inches, of missed opportunities, but this time I shall not lose…

6.0″

In a split second, my mind shifts to the crowd and just as quickly my point of balance ceases to exists.

 

Forces pull at me from every direction.  Gravity becomes a myth.

 

Chaos erupts and my mind chases to catch the moment.  My grip tightens further ~ a negligible pop in my wrist brings a searing pain and snaps my attention.

 

All falls quiet.  I listen…

7.0″

“…the sound of the wind, this violent wind is sweetened by the distant roar of a crowd.”

My arm is on fire, holding onto a knot of fury ~ hand clenched with a vow never to surrender.

“We are still one my friend, I’m not going anywhere…”  My heart explodes as I dance along the razor’s edge of survival.

8.0″ 

The howl of my voice matches the cadence of my heart.

My grip unravels.  I slide back and meet a timely swing of the bull’s hip, escorting me free into the air.

 

Embraced by the sweet calm of the night, dust fills my lungs as I hit and roll off to the side.  Hand cramping, wrist afire, I scan the crowd with hungry eyes of hope.

 

To see her smile, her eyes, her accepting me as the cowboy I am, but there is no one. Emptiness.

There are no words to match this pain.

~ DQ ~

She too becomes a myth.  This dream of a perfect ride.

Breathe.  

Pray.

Please let me make it through to the next rodeo.

…just one more time.  

209 Comments on “A Lifetime in Eight Seconds

  1. Exquisite as always Randall. Although I must admit I am not a fan of using the bulls this way, at least I see through your work why others do. The photography is incredible – you are the master 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Tina. I hope to give just a glimpse of the other side. I think for many they see the ferocity of the bull ride and instinct wonders about the care/stress places on these beautiful animals ~ but the care and love they receive from their caretakers is on an incredible level as well. I do understand arguments on both sides, from raising animals in the meat industry to the well-being of animals, the rodeo family does look to provide the best life ~ a longer life and freedom most animals never have the chance to see. Points on both sides of this discussion very valid, respected and always a tough one to discuss 🙂 Cheers to a great day ahead!

  2. Bull riding is really fun to watch. But I wouldn’t want to do it. Great photos.

    • I could not agree more Timothy, the cowboy and bull-rider are definitely of a special stock of people ~ I’ll stick to being behind the camera 🙂

    • Thanks Brad, the level of focus and determination these riders have as they prepare to ride is on a level I’ve seldom seen. Makes the photography and words flow that much easier as a spectator 🙂

  3. Enjoyable combination of writing and photos and it made me think about those 8 seconds, it’s a long time on the back of a bull.

    • There is nothing quite like the eternity of 8 seconds with bull riding or with bareback and bronc riding ~ it must seem like an eternity to these riders. Thank you.

  4. Eight seconds …… definitely a lifetime in a moment …… defying gravity. Have to say that I don’t like pain so I wouldn’t ever do it …… probably not be inclined in watching someone else do it either. Photography exquisite though ….. as always and the words to go with each shot ….. priceless. You never disappoint us.

    • So true Mazigrace, it is something else to see people step in an area (or field of play, or a ski slope, North Shore waves for that matter), knowing they will be experiencing pain and risk ~ to test the limits of their bodies and mind. Tough to watch at times, but simply fascinating. Appreciate the thoughtful comment.

  5. You have captured so well the fury behind the bull with incredible
    verbal descriptions and thrilling photos.
    These exciting moments gave us a real look a the hard life of a bull rider.
    This must have been exciting for you as well Randall. Thanks for these precious moments

    • Thank you Eddie, growing up and experiencing the Pendleton Round-Up every year always left me thinking just how some of these guys do this, week after week. From talking with them I walk away even more impressed with their commitment in handling injuries, endless travel and so much uncertainty. These are incredible moments.

  6. 8 seconds, 8 minutes, 8 hours and on and on. Then, to the lucky or the committed, comes the realization that time is a mental construct and can be as empty as the arena the day after the rodeo leaves town.

    • “Empty as the area the day after the rodeo leaves town” a great contrast to those moments in life we all face where the intensity is ratcheted up to such high levels. How we managed the fury of such moments and then the opposite extreme when such moments pass can be one and the same. Thanks John.

  7. Amazing photographs. I really like how the distortion around the riders and bulls give a sense of “slow motion”.

    • Thank you Betsy ~ I did want to give a more surreal feel and to slow down time with this post. I imagine as with most things, when you can ‘slow down time’ you get closer to achieving what you set out to do.

  8. Awesome. The action photography is outstanding, Randall. Your captivating words slows it down perfectly and brings photographic storytelling to a new level. A marvellous stretch for those eight seconds. It’s absolutely fascinating being on the other side in a world totally unbeknown to most us.
    xox

  9. Yes, you say it (and practice it) so well Dina, sharing new cultures, thoughts, and ideas to others around the world. The rodeo/ranching/farming lifestyle is definitely a piece of the western part of the USA and as a young kid growing up in this area, I figured everyone had such rodeos every year 🙂 The beauty of an open mind and curious spirit is being able to experience cultures around the world ~ and to have people welcoming you in with open arms. Wishing you well!

    • Agree totally, with you Randall. And your thoughtful work is outstanding in the blogosphere.
      Wishing you a lovely weekend ahead,
      Klausbernd

    • It has been a busy year Indah, a feeling that it has gone by way too fast but also seems there was too much going on as well 🙂 How have you been, and wishing you well as the summer begins its final stretch. Take care!

  10. Just by seeing this sport, i get afraid of being there. Only professionals can do justice to the fun it gives. Wonderful shots!

    • Thank you Alok ~ it does take a certain breed of man to make this sport a way of life, professionals to the core.

  11. “My hand and arm is a coil of steel, pulsating life throughout my body. I will not give in nor will he.”
    Captures the feelings and intensity.

    Amazing photos, Randall, I believe your rodeo photos are an opportunity for reflection on using animals in sports, and especially the bull rides, the spikes in the boots, the unfairness of the animal’s position of no choice in participating in the sport, versus the cowboy’s privileged position of having the choice to participate or not.
    And your rodeo photos also display the tenacity and strength that animals have in the most difficult circumstances…

    • Hi Genie, I figured this could be a difficult post for you to read and view 🙂 Thank you very much for the words and thoughts. The post is a tribute to the cowboy and bull (and all rodeo animals), to their emotions and as you mentioned to their intensity and tenacity as well. A strong a difficult dance between two strong souls. Wishing you the best ~

    • It is a hellish sport, one where injury and pain are a given and the risks never fade ~ the electricity of the event is something the crowd appreciates and rides along with the participants. Thank you Eliza, hope you have a fantastic end to your summer.

    • Thank you Linda, shooting this event it was impossible not to become absorbed which made finding a decent photograph or two much easier 🙂

    • Thank you John ~ have you ever made it east to Pendleton for the Round-Up? 🙂 Wish you a great summer and as a true Pendletonian would say “Let’er Buck!”

  12. The times I’ve watched bull riding were mostly through my fingers. It requires an astonishing level of athleticism on the part of both the human and animal. You did an awesome job of capturing what I imagined it must be like, without having to experience it myself. 🙂

    • You are so correct Judy, the level of athleticism with both the rider and animal is astonishing. What is most impressive is the intense level of focus and determination they have… Thank you very much for the words. I think this is a sport where no words could ever convey what goes on for those eight seconds 🙂 Cheers!

    • Thank you very much Christine ~ I could imagine a more exciting place to be than on a back of a bull 🙂

  13. Incredible images! The bull has been an object of fascination and fear throughout the ages and all around the world, as men have tried to master it’s strength and spirit. I cannot even enter a field with a peacefully dozing bull in it, just their sheer size and power turns my legs to water! 🤣 But I am afraid of many things. Enjoyed your post, and good to see you ‘back in the saddle’…. ooooh, hope you’ll forgive me that!

    • I have to love the great pun 🙂 You have a great point, cultures around the globe being fascinated by the bull; an icon of strength and spirit around the world. Yet no matter how hard we try to capture their spirit ~ it remains elusive. As a kid, just walking by the Brahma Bull pens were exciting, king of the rodeo. Thank you Ali, and I trust you are having a great Irish summer!

      • It’s rushing by too quickly, Randall, like it does every year. Have you enjoyed yours, wherever in the world you were? I’m sure you have made the most of every minute.

      • Agree, the months are flowing like days it seems ~ making the most of it 🙂

  14. 4.0 appears to be riding with the wind. Exciting rodeo! Howdy, was just thinking what happened to you? Glad to see you here.

    • The law of physics seem to go out the window when it comes to bull riding, it is something else to see 🙂 Great to hear from you Perpetua, there is nothing quite like the rodeo to get the blood flowing. September will be my hometown rodeo, the Pendleton Round-Up always a sight to experience. Cheers to a great day.

    • Thank you very much Georgia, having the photos and experience behind the photos makes the writing process fun, to try to combine the two. 🙂

  15. These are some of the most extraordinary images I’ve seen of a rodeo anywhere, ever. WOW. Congratulations on your beautiful work!

    • There is something about being so close to the action with the camera ~ it is easier to get into the flow of the action which helps to anticipate, and then find the shot that I am looking for. Thank you very much Heide for your comment, hope to catch you at a rodeo some day!

  16. Randall, you know I was raised around the rodeo and a few in my family still travel the circuit. My mother included. Anyone associated with the rodeo worth their salt takes good care of the animals and the history of what once was, and still is, in some places.

    I read each word slowly, and twice, while focusing on the image. I felt a part of the rider and closer to someone other than myself, more than ever before as each second became the sum of hours within his breathing.

    The third time I read your words, I didn’t picture your images at all. I pictured myself and envisioned my journey. At the end, coming up for air as I’d held my breath, unsure of how I ever made it through my own choices.

    This is your writing, Dalo. This is how good you are. Wonderful to read you again. ♡ (your poetry is beautiful, btw)

    • There is something about the soul of someone brought up in the rodeo community Audrey 🙂 A great comment, and I can see how you’d be able to find the meaning in the photos and words and then see your life and journey, battling along the way ~ it is the beauty of life that gives us such moments. Taking the responsibility for the decisions and moving forward is noble and a sign of how you respect the life you’ve lived. Beautiful. You’ve got many more adventures and choices to make ~ enjoy every one (every bruise and every smile along the way). As for calling me a poet…I’m not real sure about that :-/
      Wishing you continued happiness and adventure ~ and thank you again! 🙂

      • Being able to find oneself inside another’s writing, about something else entirely, is a sign of truth. You’ve never disappointed me, Mr. Collis. Thanks for the encouragement in your words.

        You’re a poet. This I believe.

      • I like the way you think Poetess, getting lost in words is a great way to live 🙂

  17. The pictures and the narratives are so powerful. They moved me along as if I were on the back of the bull myself. I could feel some tension and panic to hold on as strongly as I could. Your pictures also just like 3D, still but moving at the same time. Awesome!

    • While writing this post, the photos made me think about how I would be feeling at this moment ~ no matter how brave and confident I would be, there would always be this underlying panic and fear for those 8-seconds. So much could go wrong. Then I think that with all this adrenalin and excitement in the rodeo arena, there is the life outside the arena which can be just as difficult as well. I could imagine how the rush of the ride becomes another world for the cowboy 🙂 Thank you very much YC for the great comment.

  18. Your narrative and the images are always perfect, Randy. Here is a story of thrill and courage, as I believe one must be brave enough to make bull riding a way of life, but the end paragraphs totally gripped me…that tone of sadness and melancholy.

    I am really glad you are back into writing again, or should I say, finding the time to do so. Cheers to a fantastic life wherever life takes you! 🙂

    • Hi Maricel, I very much like your comment and your description regarding how you felt with the ending. Originally, I went into writing this post with a more happy ending, but then I wanted to really touch on the reality of the world and definitely the rodeo world. The highs & lows of life both create a lot of emotion, and this is a great thing. Emotion is where inspiration is derived and no matter what life throws our way, we carry on. Do the best we can 🙂 Wishing you well, and thank you again.

      • Totally agreed and you did it so well with presenting a contrast of emotions that is pure and very real, Randy. I am always an avid fan of your work. Thank you also for the inspiration. 🙂

  19. A lot can happen in 8 secs! Imagine if we were all as focused in life as these bull riders? Everyone says they have no time, but really we just don’t use our time in a focused manner. Thankyou Randall for always taking us so beautifully into an intimate experience of life, it expands our vision and perspective. 🙏🏻

    • You touch upon perhaps the most important question anyone could ask themselves: what if we could maintain a razor focus throughout a day/week/month/year? For me, I suppose I should start with “minutes” and then move to “hours” 🙂 It is motivating just to think of the possibilities, and then take small steps to making it happen ~ wonderful comment Karen, very insightful and wishing you a wonderful day too!

  20. Oh, oh, you have captured them perfectly. It’s nice seeing your photos again Randall.

    • It is great to be able to take the time and get back to something I love ~ thank you Arlene!

    • Thank you Alison ~ putting the words down along with the photos can be the most gratifying of the whole creative process at times. With this post, it certainly was.

  21. I can only imagine the length of those 8 seconds while on the back of that animal.. So well done, with the words adding to the excitement of the photography.

    • I think it would be the longest eight seconds of my life on the back of a bull 🙂 Thank you very much Christy!

  22. Wow. You’ve REALLY captured the power of these rides, not only in your photos but in your words and cadence as well. Incredible from every aspect, Randall. Excellent, as usual.

    • To have a great subject to shoot and experience sure goes a long way in the creative process 🙂 Thank you very much Kelly, it was a fun post to be able to put together.

  23. Time stands still……. Powerful images and poignant words. You are a master storyteller!

    • These riders really do give it their all ~ an experience just to watch ~ thank you Sidran, wish you well!

  24. Wonderful, wonderful wonderful!!! Definitely a man’s sport :)) Rodeo still lives on in Hawaii, as well. Many of the farriers there do rodeo . . . and have all the broken bones to prove it. Must fill some kind of primitive masculine rush. You captured it perfectly, in picture and in word :)) Dawn

    • I think the DNA required for bull riding may be some of the rarest on the planet 🙂 While I’ve never been to a prize fight before, I heard the level of concentration and electricity is very similar ~ thank you very much Dawn, hope to see you at the Pendleton Round-Up one of these days!

      • Yahooo!!!! :)) Well put. I drove Starboy in his Meadowbrook (Amish-made) cart the other night, and he took me on a fast, free-flowing magic carpet ride . . . That’s my DNA, a lot safer than the bull-riding sort :))

    • Thank you very much ~ things are going well, although this year seems to be moving at a pretty high speed 🙂

  25. Incredible images Randall! You can feel the adrenaline in these photos. One remembers not days, but moments, in life. I wonder if your photos overlap with the moments these guys will remember. A great piece.

    • Just watching these riders prepare for the ride was pretty awe inspiring ~ and then watching them got the adrenaline pumping for everyone. Your message about remembering moments is spot on, pieces of life that stick with us and remain valuable. Thank you very much Shawn for the comment and insightful thoughts. Cheers ~

  26. Wonderful, wonderful photos. I loved this too: Contradictory twists: the head floats one way, the hips another…
    My spine begins to cry, impossibly trying to center itself. Trying to center life.
    Within this chaos, I feel at home.
    It must be incredible to watch, to see the focus, determination and strength of these cowboys.
    Wish the girl had been there watching him, though – I like a happy ever after!

    • To watch these riders locked into the moment as they approach the ride, and then go from what seems to be a serene scene of concentration to the chaos of the ride is something to see ~ a hard life they live, but also rewarding. Yeah, a “happy ever after” ending did have an appeal, but there is something about the lonesome life of a cowboy that is stitched into the fabric of this lifestyle 🙂 Thank you very much for your comment Mary ~ wishing you well.

    • Thank you Adrian, it is something to see and also feel ~ the electricity of the ride and the audience really adds to the ambiance.

  27. A touching post and as always such amazing photos. This is such a special event – and spectacular. I have for a long time wanted to photograph a rodeo. May I should try to get myself down to Pendleton one of these days. Good to be back on your blog, Randall. I have been absent too long. 🙂

    • You would truly enjoy a rodeo, especially the Pendleton Round-Up. The first, and most obvious sight would be the rodeo itself ~ an amazing group of world class athletes and animals make the action an artistic scene. But what I think you’d really enjoy is all the activity around the rodeo week: there is a teepee village put on by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation which for me is the highlight as tribes from around the USA come to celebrate and meet ~ and every night they put on a historical show “Happy Canyon” that wows. And then there are the people, the best part! Wishing you well Otto, and let me know if you ever do show up in Pendleton it would be great to meet up. Cheers!

      • Thanks for the added information. It really feels like the thing I should do. I won’t be able this year, but I will seriously look into next year. See you then. 🙂

  28. What a gorgeous collection of photos and what a powerful story! You always touch my heart!

    • Thank you very much Dana ~ the Round-Up is almost like a storybook setting, with so much activity and passion from everyone involved (from the riders to the audience). Really a great show. Wishing you the best ~

  29. Wow, these photographs are superb, Randall. They capture not just the action, but so much emotion that goes with it.

    • The level of excitement was very high, Jolandi, these guys could really ride and the bulls could dance like to other 🙂 Thank you.

  30. Any guy who thinks himself a manly man should look upon these riders and reconsider. The courage, determination, and near certainty of injury will put the posers in their place. Your photos vividly illustrate the speed and danger of the sport, your words, the passion.

    • Amen to that ~ I am not sure if there are too many professions with such danger and difficulty ~ the intense state-of-mind a person needs to not just be willing to get on a bull, but to last all eight seconds is something I could not imagine. Thank you for the nice words about my photographs, I got so wrapped up in the competition and was happy to be able to walk away with a few that could tell a tale. Wish you well Dave, enjoy the rest of the summer.

  31. Randell, I am left breathless, with dust in my eyes, your description of those eight seconds.. WOW. And my admiration only grows for all Rodeo riders.
    Your photo’s are stunning.. Those eight seconds each one caught a perfect moment in time for those riders.. Brave or Bonkers lol.. But my admiration goes out to them.
    And to you.. And hoping that those boys and you make it through.. You most certainly have my prayers 🙂 💙

    • I’ve often wondered if you needed to be a little crazy in order to get on a bull, and I think your right…a mix between bravery and craziness 🙂 Their day at the office is quite a bit different from most people, that’s for sure. Wishing you a great day and thank you very much Sue for your great comments and thoughts. Cheers to a great ending to the summer.

      • I am sure they all must have that edge within their spirit Randell It must have been awesome to watch… I doubt I could have watched though.. I would have had my eyes closed and probably pasted out from holding my breath 😉 But the images you captured were just stunning..
        Wishing you a wonderful Autumn.. I feel it creeping in early this year.. 🙂 Take care.. Sue 🙂

    • Thank you very much ~ watching these rides it seemed like a very intricate, yet violent, dance between the cowboy and bull.

  32. Oh wow are those beautiful images. They are so full of emotion, energy, life force with the humans and the bulls. I have never seen shots like this of bull riding and it may be the very first time I could feel why they do it. I feel glued to this post for awhile. Did you show the pictures to the riders? I bet they would love them.

    • There is so much that goes on behind the scenes, and a culture of riders, livestock and their owners and making sure all is perfect…then this wild dance between cowboy and bull begins. Truly a sight to behold. Thank you very much for the comment Judy, and if you are ever in the mood just let me know and I think I could get a bull for you to ride 🙂

      • 45 years ago I probably would have taken you up on it!!

  33. Yet another brilliant post, Randall! Your photos alone convey a very intense emotion, but your beautiful writing really brings this into life. Glad to have you back in the blogging world.

    • These were some of the more intense photos I’ve taken ~ also some of the more enjoyable. I’ve been going to the rodeo for decades, and every time I go it seems as though the emotion and effort is the best I’ve seen. Thank you Bama, it is real good to be back writing and of course shooting 🙂

  34. Wow. This series is amazing. Such brilliant captures of the action in the ring reveals just how great a photographer you are,

    • Thank you very much Vicki, there was so much beauty in these rides that it would have been difficult not to have taken a nice shot or two. The athleticism and emotions of these rides were something else. Cheers to a great day ahead.

  35. Pingback: Stealing my thunder | Life Is Like That

  36. Hello my friend! I’ve been late in commenting because it took me some time to digest the images and story. Everything has already been said, but yes 8 seconds can indeed be a lifetime and I have much respect for the riders and their family. It must become even more challenging to maintain such traditions and dedication in our ever-changing world. Bravo for such great imagery and storytelling!!

    • Hi Takami ~ great to know you are doing well. Yes, I think the culture and community of smaller towns and cities are pushed further away from the mainstream, which makes things more difficult to understand but also can make such traditions that much stronger. Wish you a great weekend ahead!

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