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P. 1
A Hat in the Ring

A Hat in the Ring

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Published by samlagrone
USNI Story from 1968 about 6th Fleet sailors fighting a bull in Portugal.
USNI Story from 1968 about 6th Fleet sailors fighting a bull in Portugal.

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Published by: samlagrone on May 10, 2012
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05/10/2012

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A
tfirst,mostoftheaudienceconcentrated
.1\.:
onthepreliminarypageantryinthebullring,showingapoliteindifferencetothehundredsofblue-uniformed,white-hattedAmericansailorswhowerepickingtheirwayupwardthroughthecrowd.Forourpart,wewereonourbestbehavior.Wehadbeencautionedinamessagefromtheadmiral:"Eachofyouisanambassadorofgoodwill.Ourcountryisjudgedbyhowyouactashore.Don'tletherdown."TheSixthFleetwas
in
Lisbononthissunnysummerafternoonin1954andaspe-cialbullfightwasbeingstagedinourhonor.MyshipmatesandIarrivedtofindlonglinesofLisboanswaitingtoentera
corrida
thatwasalreadypackedwithPortuguese.Fromthesefun-lovingpeople'sviewpoint,itwouldbeanexcitingafternoonifthematadorsweredaringandthebullsaggressive.Thoseofuswhohadneverseenabullfight,however,didn'tquiteknowwhattoexpect.Wehadbeentoldthat,unlikethefightsinneighboringSpain,Portuguesebullsareneverkilledinthering.And,inthehopethatthesamecanalwaysbesaidofPor-tuguesematadors,thebulls'hornsaresheathedinleather,makingthemnolessdangerous,ofcourse,butfarlesslikelytodrawblood.Orsowethought.Wewatchedintensesilenceas,inthefirstfightoftheday,ahandsomeyoung
toureiro
wasslammedagainstthewallandmauledviciously.Whenthemaddenedbullwasfinallyluredawayfromhim,hewascarriedoutonastretcherthattrailedsmallredsplashesontheground.Shortlyafterward,a
cavalerio-one
whofightsonhorseback-wentflying.Hismount,amare,washoistedonthehornsofahugeyellowbullandwasseeminglyheldaloftmomentarilyforthecrowdtoseebeforebeingdashedtothegroundbytheenragedbrute.Shediedinspasmsandconvulsionsinapoolofherownblood.Bythen,manyofthePortugueseseemedmoreinterestedinlookingatthepale-facedAmericans-who,inturn,seemedmoreinter-estedinlookingforaconvenientexit-thaninwhatwashappeningbelow.Icouldfeeltheeyesboringintome,andfrombehind,Icouldhearthesnickersofsomeyoungfellows."Maybetheyareseaseeck,"onevoicestage-whispered.ItlookedasthoughweAmericanswere,indeed,ontrialand,thusfar,thejuryseemeddownrighthostile.Then,asthefinaleventofthedayap-proached,Isensedagrowingairofexpec-tancyallaroundmeinthecrowd.Knowinglookswereexchanged.Amusedglanceswerecast.Somethingwasabouttohappen.Ablareoftrumpetshushedthecrowd.AnannouncementboomedandechoedovertheloudspeakersinhaltingEnglish:
Ladeezandgennulmen.WearepJeezedtooffer-theeprizeofacaseofshampain-toanneepersonintheaudience-whocarestofightabool!.
Apreposterousideapoppedintomymind.Couldthisbeaninternationalpracticaljoke?Werethebullfight'simpressariosinviting
Americansailors
tofightabull?Insane!ItwouldbelikehaltingaWorldSeriesgameinthelasthalfoftheninthwithtwooutandathree-twocountonthebatterwiththehometownteamtrailingbyonerunandhavingtheP.A.announceraskiftherewasanybodyinthestandswhowouldliketopinch-hit.Crazy!Yet,ifthatwasnotthemanagement'sin-tention,therewerethoseinthestandswhoapparentlylikedtheidea.Myloud-mouthedneighborjeeredtohiscompanion,"PerhapstheezYankeetouristswee
I
fightonlycows-orgreezedpeegs!"Ilookedupatthecolorfulflagsflutteringinthebreezearoundtherimofthestands,andIcouldalmostseetheprestigeofAmeri-canfightingmenfloatingupoutofthatringandwaftingawayinthewind.Then,suddenly,Iglimpsedaflashofwhitethatsailedovermyhead.Itwasasailor'shat-adroll,dinkylittlesailor'shat-anditlandedwithanabsurdlittlepuffofdustnearthecenterofthering.Everyheadinthearenaturnedtoseewhohadthrownit.Notfarupbehindme,standingstiffiyerect,wasalankyred-headedgunner'smatefrommyship.Iknewhimonlyas"Red."Redseemedoblivioustotheburstofap-plausethatcame,mostlyfromtheAmericans.But,astheclappingsubsided,tittersoflaughterrippledaroundthestandsandRed's
 
freckledfaceflushed.Hisfaceusuallyworeagrinbuthewasn'tgrinningnow.Now,ShortyCook,theship'sbaker,witharound,cherubicfacelikeoneofhisownhotcrossbuns,wasstandingupbesideRed.Shorty,whogenerallysmiledwhenhismatescalledhim"Short-cake"or"Short-order,"wasn'tsmilingnow,either.Together,theyedgedouttotheaisle,hesitated,thenstartedtheirdescenttothering."Show'em,Red,"urgedagrizzled,oldchiefasthepairpassed.Acrossthe
corrida,
anotherblueuniformstoodup;andthentwomoresailorswereontheirfeethighuponmyleft.Soonadozensailorsandonebig,shiny-buttonedMarinewerepickingtheirwaydownwardthroughthecrowdtothebottomofthesteps.Theyvaultedoverthewalltothehard-packedearthoftheemptyring.IrecognizedtheMarineastheadmiral'sorderlyfromthecruiserflagship.HeworeaSilverStarhehadwoninKorea.Hewastall,aswereallexceptShortyCook,withthechestandshouldersofamiddlelinebacker.Everyeyewasonthemeninblueastheygatheredinafootballhuddleatonesideofthering.Red,likeacenterwhohasheardthesignalandisn'tinterestedinwhatpasspatternsthereceiverswillrun,wasthefirsttobreakfromthehuddle.Hewalked
AHatintheRing85
Therewasadelaywhilesomeattendantscameouttospreadsawdustoverthepoolofthemare'sblood.Thelaughtergrewstrained,faltered,andgavewaytoarustleofnervouswhispering:"Aretheydrunk?""Whatdotheyknowaboutfightingbulls?""Fools!""Dotheywanttobekilled?"Thejoke.wasnolongerfunny.
"
AsIlookedatthem-Red,Shorty,thebigMarine-theylookedalikedespitetheirdifferencesinheight,build,andcoloring.Whatwasit?Thenithitme.Everylastoneofthemwasbowlegged!Theylookedlikemenwhohadspentalotoftimeinasaddle.HadtheygrownupinWyomingorMontanaorTexas?
If
so,theyprobablyknewsome-thingabouthandlingcattle.But,abull?Abullthathadbeenbredtofightandkillinthering?Suddenly,witharollofdrumsandablareoftrumpets,thebullpengateflewopen.Outchargedthebiggest,blackestbullinthehis-toryofbulldom.Instantly,thecrowdwasonitsfeet.
"T'oro!"
theyscreamed.
"Ole!-Ole!""Torrro!"
Then,alleyesturnedbacktotheraggedknotofsailorsstandingstiff-leggedandwaryinthecenteroftheringanditwasasifsome-onehadswitchedaradio'sdialfromblaringrock-and-rollmusictochurchservices.Intheominousstillnessthatfollowed,themon-strousanimalsawthemenandpulledupshorttosizethemup.Themusclesofhisneckrippledandtwitched,asheswunghisheadinjerkingmovementstolookfirstatoneandthenatanotherman.

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