I hurt in places I’ve never hurt before. My right wrist is stiff. And I’m a little sluggish today. But because of it all, the SafeNest domestic violence shelter is $500 richer.
Last night was the grand opening media party for Stoney’s North Forty, a new country nightclub at the Santa Fe Station hotel-casino in northwest Las Vegas. It builds on the success of owner Stoney Gray’s original Stoney’s Rockin’ Country location, offering more than 9,000 square feet of yee-haw fun, complete with line-dancing-ready dance floor, pool tables, video games and — of course — a mechanical bull.
Now, usually, the last place you’d find me at is a country bar. I have a pretty strong distaste for country music, American beer and overly white culture in general. I’ve turned down plenty of invites to the Las Vegas Boulevard Stoney’s before, but as I figured I’d give this party a shot — I swear, the open bar had nothing to do with it. OK, maybe a little.
Members of the media were invited to enter a mechanical bull-riding contest, with the top three riders winning $1000, $500 and $250 respectively for a non-profit charity of their choice. For some crazy reason, I signed up, with little hesitation. I was one of only four people.
After putting away a couple of those free drinks, I gathered with the rest of the contestants — and friends, colleagues and onlookers — at the side of the fenced-in, cushioned bullring. After some quibbling over who’d go first, a tough, well-built young woman eagerly stepped up, slid on a glove, and rode that wild animatronic bull into the sunset. Of course, I had to go up next.
Let’s remember that I’ve never ridden a bull, robotic or otherwise. Or a horse. Or a motorcycle. A bull-riding expert escorted me to the burly machine as he explained how not to suck: One hand in the air, rock with the changes, keep knees forward. The words made sense but there was no time to process their application as the controller started pulling levers, causing the bull to buck, twist and gyrate. I don’t know how long I stayed on, but I do know I got tossed off to the inflated surface below.
My right hand was a bit sore, but my right groin area felt stretched and bruised. I was glad it was over. I swore I’d never climb back on one of those torture devices again. I suggested shipping a mechanical bull to Guantanamo Bay for interrogation use. I watched a couple more riders — younger guys actually wearing cowboy boots — give pretty good shows, though one did fall off. Then I was told I’d have to do it again.
This time, Gray himself coached me. He told me to just stay on top of my hand, and that if I felt myself slipping back, just to pull up on top of my hand. I faux-confidently mounted the mechanical beast, switched from right to left for a gripping hand, and took off for another ride. And 22 seconds later, it was over. And I was still on top.
After limping off to get another drink, one of the girls from the public relations firm representing Stoney’s came to bring me back to the bullring. Thankfully, it wasn’t for another ride. It was to inform me I’d won second place, and therefore Stoney’s would donate $500 to the charity of my choice, SafeNest. I was dumbfounded. It must have been a sympathy decision. Or maybe I have found a new career …
Either way, my first experience at Stoney’s was actually … fun. The music wasn’t too twangy, the atmosphere wasn’t too hokey and the, um, entertainment was, well, you know. But one thing is for sure: Now I know why cowboys walk kinda slow and funny.