Below is the first chapter of the year I spent bull riding in America.  This was a silly idea on many fronts, none more so than at the time I couldn’t ride a horse.  The book will be called Saltwater Cowboy.  It should be finished by this year.  If anyone is interested in my other book called Tunnel Vision (about a year spent on a professional surfing tour), you can buy it in paper form from www.allenandunwin.com. or ebook/kindle version from Amazon.

Cheers Sully.

Saltwater Cowboy

First Chapter.

I’m sitting on the back of a bull at a rodeo three hours north of Los Angeles.  To my right, a muscle toned maniac called Tom is asking me how tight I want my rope pulled.  Gary Leffew, bull riding guru, is beside him.  Behind them, a group of dwarfs dressed in cowboy outfits are doing stretches.  A few metres past them, a Mexican band in pin striped suits and capes are blasting out deafening Spanish music.  To my left is the arena.  Behind that, 1000 happy drunk Mexicans are chatting and laughing and dancing to the band.  Below me, between my legs, an 800 kilo black bull called Jawbreaker gives a slight quiver.

Fuck this.

Seriously, what the hell am I doing?  I did a bull riding school on a ranch in California to learn how to ride bulls.  I worked on that ranch for another six weeks to continue that progression in a rational way.   I do not want to die.  There is a feeling that bull riders get in the pit of their guts when their luck is about to change and I have that feeling.  It’s not superstition – more like math.   I’ve been on the back of 27 bulls and only suffered a mild concussion, sprained wrist and a few bruises.  The dark shadow has swooped above me.  Something serious is about to happen.

My fear is of the known.   I know the temperament of Jawbreaker.  I know it well.  Jawbreaker is an angry, powerful, irrational and incisive beast.  The bull has come from Gary Leffew’s ranch and is the rankest of a wild bunch.

“He’ll hook ya, that angry son of a bitch.”  Tom would say when we’d feed him on the ranch.  We would hurl a bunch of hay at his hooves and quickly close the gate behind us, often hearing the a loud bang as the bull would ram its body against the gate.  We were both deeply afraid of the bull.  Tom Banner, complete maniac and rider of over 300 bulls, had less reason it be afraid than me and he is petrified of Jawbreaker.  And now I am on his back, feeling the heat of his warm hide radiate through my thighs.  How has it come to this?  Seriously, how?

“Wanna ride this one for me?” I ask Tom.


“Why not?”

He turns and raises his shirt, revealing a fleshy bruise that is starting to swell on the base of his spine.  “That’s why not.  Why don’t you ask Louis?”

Louis, a Mexican with cowboy getup and a breath smelling of whisky, had magically appeared after the first two bulls had been loaded into the chutes at the start of the day.  As far as we knew, we were getting 25 dollars for each ride and were happy to give him a go.  No doubt believing he’d get a safe journey, Louis chose a small bull without horns called Little Bit, but the bull had more spirit than he’d expected and, after impressively riding out a few bucks, had thrown him quite savagely into the dirt.  I’d watched Louis crawl behind the chutes, drop to one knee and pant eagerly for the air to fill back into his lungs.  I didn’t feel sorry for Louis at that moment.  He’d landed hard but clear of the bull’s hind legs.  I had a feeling it wouldn’t take him long to recover and sure enough he emerged from the chutes moments later, proudly bowing to the crowd, then collecting a whisky bottle that someone had thrown from the stands.

I’d asked Louis if he wanted to ride Jawbreaker but he’d declined with shinning eyes and a smile.  He was three quarters of the way through the whisky bottle by then and having too good a time to risk jumping on that thing.

Jawbreaker is my second ride for the day.  The first was on a large bluish coloured Brahma called Idaho.  Idaho had dislodged me swiftly on its second buck and stomped on my leg as I lay on the dirt.  For fear of a broken bone, I had been too nervous to check the damage but now, with my right leg dangling around the girth of the black bull, I can see a rip in my jeans and blood seeping through the fabric.

Jawbreaker shakes again.  My legs wobble.  This is ridiculous.   There aren’t even rodeo clowns at this event.  Rodeo clowns have the task of getting between rider and bull if anything goes wrong to try to distract the bull, giving the rider enough time to escape.  I’d assumed the dwarfs might be rodeo clowns but discovered their role was not to protect but entertain.  They’d already given an interesting performance to an enthralled crowd, bravely laying on the dirt as the bulls charged over them.  No doubt they’ll be back at some point for a finale.

“I’m not doing it.” I shout to Gary over the Spanish music.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not going to ride this bull.”

“You’re going to puss out?” he asks, incredulously.

“Yep.  I don’t trust the bull and there’s no rodeo clowns.”

My head is a blur.  The Mexican band appears to be getting more feverish.  The smell of sausage, onion and dirt clings to the air.  I can taste fear.

“Don’t worry about Jawbreaker,” Garry comments airily.  “I’m going to throw my jacket at him when you come off.”

I briefly contemplate the odds of an 800 kilo wild animal being deterred by a flying red jacket.  I start loosening my rope off the bull.

“Tom, get your rope,” shouts Gary, and I make the mistake of looking at him at that moment and catching the disappointed in your eyes.

“Don’t worry.  I’ll ride him,” I find myself saying.  “Tighten the rope.”

I’m going to die from pride.  What a wasted emotion.

Tom pulls the rope hard and it jams down around my hand.   I do not frantically rub resign on my rope for extra grip – as other riders do.   I can feel my heart.  I can feel the strength of the hide of the bull below me.  I’m staring straight ahead at a set of horns.  This is it.

Suddenly, a piece of paper is thrust before me.

Leaning across me, with groomed moustache, crisp white shirt and black pants, is a Mexican official.   The piece of paper is some sort of waiver – that absolves the organisers of any responsibility should I get hurt.  They had not produced the waiver before Tom’s ride.  They had not produced the waver during Louis’ ride.  They can see what is about to unfold, and have produced the waiver now.


The official quickly hands over a pen.  Jawbreaker gives a sudden jerk below me as I scribble on the dotted line.  It’s the first time in my life I’ve signed for something left handed.   It’s the first time in my life I’ve signed for something while sitting on the back of a bull.  A flash realisation hits: what if I’m never able to laugh about this?  What if I really do die?

I nod my head.   Gary pulls the gate.  As the bull gives a slight turn towards the opening, I wonder why I ever wanted to be a bull rider.

Does this look like a good setting for a Christmas Party?
For this year’s Christmas party, treat your staff or valued clients to an incredible wine tasting and long lunch……at a fraction of the price.

The Ultimate Arimia Long Lunch will include:
# 3 ‘behind the scenes’ wine tastings at hand selected wineries.
# A delightful 5 course long lunch with matching wine at Arimia Estate created exclusively for the Flying Corkscrew by head chef Evan Hayter. (Your group will have a private table in a beautiful setting either on their verandah or underneath a Marri Tree on the grass).

All this for just $195 per person. (A discount of $120 per person from my normal rate!)
I am pretty much doing this for cost price, to give the locals a chance of having a relaxing day wine tasting with an incredible long lunch. Trust me, it will be amazing.
Group Size 4 – 12.





Caves Road.  The most iconic road in the universe.   I know Kerouac and his buddies had a joyful time in the 50’s on route 66, eating apple pie, drinking whisky from flasks and picking up dishevelled hitchhikers at their leisure.  I know the blood can fairly pump when you drive south along the Californian coast past Monterery to Big Sur.  I’m sure drinking a curb side coffee at a cafe on the Champs-Elysées would be memorable.

But for me, the best damn road in the world is Caves Road.  It is the road of Margaret River.

Caves Road stretches between two capes – Naturalist to the north and Leeuwin to the south.  It runs parallel to the coast but not along it, which, I reckon, makes it better.  By being a few kilometres off the coast, the Jarrah, Karri’s and Marri’s grow beside it,  with wineries on either side.  The wildflowers bloom from the shrubbery in spring – Marri’s tower like lumbering giants – their foliage throwing afternoon shade across the road.

Margaret River was a farming industry before the first vines were planted in 1967, and, if you go at the right speed, and you have the right mind set, all this is encompassed perfectly on the road.  Cows grazing in open paddocks on one side, and on the other are wineries with names like Vasse Felix, Cullen, Evans and Tate, and Moss  Brothers.   Voyager and Leeuwin are not far off the road.   Not counting the wineries, there is also McHenry Hohnen, that has quality meat, Gabriel, that has quality chocolate, Olio Bello, that has quality olive oil, and the Venison Farm, that has quality….you know what.  There is even an old yellow Tiger Moth aeroplane in a hanger at Edwards winery.  What more could you want?

This is the kind of road that needs the right car.  A cruiser – think mid 60’s valiant or even a cadillac if you want to be outlandish.  The road does not require a speed more than 80km’s an hour…..90 tops.  Do not speed.  Do not pass.  If you are in a rush then you are on the wrong road.  Ostensibly, you are on the wrong mind.

To the council – please do not widen it.  To the police – please do not police it.  To the people – please love and respect it.

Some winemakers reckon they can tell you exactly where (down to the kilometre) that wine has been made on Caves road. I don’t know about that, but it does give you a sense of changing soil, slope, and geography as you drive along it – the “terroir” if you want to be fancy.  You don’t need to be a winemaker to notice it.

As the road winds south, everything changes.  Brown turns to green.  Soil, shrubbery, and open paddocks are replaced by forest –  swaying Jarrah’s and Karri’s.

I defy anyone to drive through the Boranup forest and not be startled.   Just stop.  Get out of the car, walk, breathe, listen.  You will hear nothing but silence.  I have often wondered why, for me, Caves road evokes such a powerful sense of place.  I don’t think it’s from a youth spent driving an old kingswood along it, looking for dirt tracks that will take me surfing.  I don’t think it’s from its sheer beauty.  More than any else, it’s the feeling of being home.

From growing his own produce, to hand made pasta, to delivering food with love, this fella is one of the most passionate chefs in margaret river. Love your work Evan! And really looking forward to working with you at Arimia.

This unassuming character called Clive happens to produce some of the best wine in Margaret River. #frazergallopwinery #margaretriver #justanotherdayinwa #goodwine #flying_corkscrew #instacool #instagood #westernaustralia #westisbest #winetour

Flying corkscrew long lunch menu at wills domain. Amazing food, wine and service from a fantastic team of people. #willsdomain #westernaustralia #flyingcorkscrew #westernaustralia #foodie #instacool #instagood #longlunch

Flying corkscrew long lunch menu at wills domain. Amazing food, wine and service from a fantastic team of people. #willsdomain #westernaustralia #flyingcorkscrew #westernaustralia #foodie #instacool #instagood #longlunch

The entrance to Amelia Park winery. The ultimate “wow” statement. #margaretriver #flying_corkscrew #ameliapark #perthisok #instagood #instacool #winetour #dunsborough #westernaustralia

The entrance to Amelia Park winery. The ultimate “wow” statement. #margaretriver #flying_corkscrew #ameliapark #perthisok #instagood #instacool #winetour #dunsborough #westernaustralia

Finally, the sun has arrived! The view from the top of the stairs at surfers point. #margaretriver #sunset #flyingcorkscrew #foodie #instacool #instagood #westernaustralia #justanotherdayinwa