A bull named Fumanchu
It’s not a big secret that I’m not a huge country music fan so it probably won’t come as a big surprise that I just recently discovered a song performed by a fellow named Tim McGraw called, “Live like you were dying.”
The song, which it turns out was a huge hit during the first “W” administration, is about a man’s reaction after learning he had some sort of serious if not terminal disease. If you’ve been living under a rock or, like me, just listen to rock you should take a few minutes and listen to this song.
It’s a decent song and is really well written … even I can like a country song that’s well written.
I suppose it struck me more because I was in a similar situation a while back when I got that diagnosis that we all dread. I wish I could tell you that I waxed poetic, got busy on a bucket list and became a better man like the guy in the song. I wish I could tell you that but I don’t want to lie to you.
In the song the guy is asked how he plans to live, knowing that he is dying. He answers that he went skydiving, Rocky Mountain climbing then in the coolest line in the song he say he, “went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu.” I don’t care who you are or what kind of music you like, a bull named Fumanchu is cool — full-on Steve McQueen cool.
I can assure I have never been that cool, certainly not after my got my diagnosis.
The thing is that I had already done all of those things long before I knew I was sick, not because I’m that cool but mostly because I was young and stupid at the time. To be honest, I never really went skydiving.
Technically skydiving is willfully jumping out of an aircraft on your own then, after some period of freefalling and theoretically experiencing some Zen-like rush, pulling your rip chord, opening the chute and enjoying the ride down. Suffice it to say my experience just a bit different.
I knuckled in to peer pressure and participated in a group static line jump back in my misguided youth. I’m pretty sure I would have chickened out before the jump if anyone had actually asked me, but no one asked and I didn’t want to be the only guy to not jump so I did. I remember my girlish screams being drowned out by the roar of the air rushing by, the punishing jolt as my chute opened and forgetting everything they taught me about landing. So departing a functioning airplane didn’t make my list.
I’ve never technically been mountain climbing either, but I’ve taken 50-foot flying face-plants off Rocky Mountain cliffs from my mountain bike so I’ll check that block. Heck, you could almost count that as skydiving now that I think about it.
Of course I never did 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu either, but I did jump on the back of a bull my friend’s dad had in a corral when I was a teenager. Most of us had never seen a real bull up close and we were amazed at how big he was.
A kid named Tommy Yazzie offered $5 to anyone who would jump off the corral onto his back.
I didn’t have $5 or the sense God gave a care, so I jumped from the top of the corral landing about three quarters mounted on the bull. No one was timing my ride but I doubt it took 2.7 seconds for the bull to run through the corral fence, sending me flying as he raced off into the pasture. I never heard my friend’s dad call that bull by any particular name but he called me a few names that afternoon.
The song makes a valid point, too many of us live our lives doing things we’d never do if we knew our days were numbered and time was precious. The thing is our days are numbered from the day we’re born and time is precious.
I’d like to tell you that’s why I’ve made so many dumb and rash decisions since that diagnosis like retiring in my 50s … but it’s really not. I live this way because I’m a self indulgent slacker, if the song makes it sound kind of noble I guess that’s cool but not as cool as a bull named Fumanchu!
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.