Drumbeat - Madrid
Drumbeat - Madrid
The gate opened and a black and very angry two-year-old bull charged out into the plaza, skidded to a stop and looked around for something to hit with his horns. They weren't the horns he'd develop in two more years, but they were wide-spaced and already sharply pointed and could do plenty of damage.
"Diano Segundo," shouted the vaquero who had opened the toril gate. Even at the age of two years the bull Diano the Second had a formidable hump of muscle running from neck to shoulders, and the black tail shot straight out behind him as he spotted something to attack and lunged into a full gallop again. I began to appreciate the fact that I was seated on a bench behind the protective wooden barrera .
What Diano Segundo had spotted, as he was supposed to, was a group of four horsemen across the plaza, directly under where I was sitting with Axel Spade. One of the horsemen broke away from the others, trotted toward the bull and then set his mount sideways to the line of charge.
"This should really be something to see," Axel Spade told me. "Old Sotomayor will do the pic-ing himself."
Captain General Santiago Sotomayor, ex-commander of the Guardia Civil and now a bull breeder, a fighting bull breeder, here in Navarre in the north of Spain, was wearing a picador's round-crowned and round-brimmed hat, a picador's embroidered jacket and a picador's buff-colored trousers, but no protective armor on his right leg. The horse was protected, though, by a thick mattress strapped to his body on the right side.
As Diano Segundo approached, moving very fast now, Sotomayor leaned out of the saddle, horse and horseman looming over the bull, and shot his vara home. It was a lance, eight feet long, and he drove it into the bull's back just behind the shoulders. Diano tossed his head, trying to reach the horse with those horns. But at two years he wasn't big enough yet, nor strong enough, not if the lance had been shot home just right, as it had. But nobody had told him that. He tried, the lance holding him off, and after a while they let the steers into the plaza, and they took him away.
" Toro ," called out Captain General Santiago Sotomayor, indicating that Diano Segundo had passed his test by charging bravely and not cringing under the bite of the lance. Had he said " carne " instead, Diano's career as a fighting bull would have ended before it began, and he would have been castrated, fattened on grain and sent to the slaughterhouse.
When the toril gate had shut behind Diano and the steers, Sotomayor dismounted. That is, two vaqueros helped him from the specially constructed saddle that had made it possible for him to keep his seat astride and settled him into a folding wheelchair which a third vaquero had brought. They rolled it up a ramp to where I was sitting with Axel Spade. Sotomayor was semi-paralyzed from the waist down. Thirty years ago, before the Civil War, he had been a brilliant horseman and a rejoneador -a bullfighter, usually a member of the nobility, who does his fighting on horseback. Now he had enormous chest and shoulder development and sat very straight but could walk only with the aid of canes or crutches. He was sixty years old and had the coldest, most arrogant blue eyes I had ever seen. They looked even colder and more arrogant when his chair had been rolled into the wide aisle next to Axel Spade.
"I thank you for coming to the testing," he said swiftly and formally in Spanish.
Spade answered in the same language, which I understood and spoke as well as he did. "It was a pleasure watching you work, maestro ," he said.
"That will be much toro , that one," Sotomayor replied, his eyes briefly going soft. "Could you tell?"
"The way he kept trying to get at the horse," Spade said.
"Yes, and with his lips clamped and no foolish snorting. They don