James and the Giant Bull
Singer/songwriter James Hurley spent the night here after his House Concert yesterday. We hadn’t met James before but he came highly recommended by other musician friends like Larry Murante and Jill Trenholm and Carolyn Cruso, so we already thought of him as someone we knew. And as we often do for musicians who are on the road, we offered him a room for the night.
The concert was fabulous but I have to say that my favorite part of yesterday was sitting around talking to James afterwards. We lit the fire – not that it was chilly (though it was) but more for the ambience of the snap and crackle – and we sat and visited for a few hours. As I often tell people who are interested in hosting House Concerts, it’s the getting-to-know-the-musicians that’s the best part. And getting to know James was no exception.
As part of his patter during the concert, James mentioned that he’d dropped out of school ‘back in the day’ to ride the rodeo circuit. It was an argument with a bull that put him out of commission for a couple of years and led him to follow a totally different path – music! So, during the course of our fireside chit-chat, I asked him about that.
He described how he got into bull riding in the first place. He was sixteen and, basically, he did it for the money. He was living in Salinas, California, home of one of the biggest, most prestigious rodeos in the circuit. From his first “very short” ride on a bull, James found he loved it. With the proverbial “get back on the horse” attitude, he got back on bull after bull until he began to get it right. Until he and the bull became dance partners. “It’s only an eight-second ride,” he chuckled, “but that eight seconds lasts an hour.”
He compared it to an automobile accident and, having been in a couple of bad ones, myself, I knew exactly what he meant. Time slows down and every nano-second becomes etched in your mind. But, as he talked, his eyes glowed, his hands and arms described the scene, his body leaned and twisted. He used words in ways I’d never heard, yet his descriptions were so clear I was practically on that bull with him. I was reminded of Geno Leach, our local Fisher Poet, when he’s in performance.
James, or “Jimmy Hurley” as he was called then, found he was good at bull riding. In fact, very good. In fact, he was a first-place winner in ride-after-eight-second-ride. Until that one time that the bull ended up on top and Jimmy was put out of commission for three years. He was nineteen years old.
“I’d always fooled around with my dad’s guitar,” he said, “but when it wasn’t until I was flat on back with nothing much else to do that I got serious about it.” He loved it and made the decision to give up the rodeo and follow a different dream. But when he finally healed, he went back to the rodeo arena for awhile – just to make sure that he was basing his decision on the right reasons.
Well, I never saw him ride, but after hearing his music, I’d say he made the right decision. I didn’t think to ask him, though, if he’s put any of his rodeo experiences into his compositions. I hope so. If he has, I’m going to request those as a theme in his next House Concert here. Rodeo poetry set to music would be a first in Oysterville, and with James Hurley in the saddle, it would be another winner!