And From That Day On, They Called Her ‘Grammatador’ [Bad Asses]

By Christian DeBenedetti | June 14, 2010

Excuse me, but are you Betty White?

Excuse me, but are you Betty White?

I was on vacation in France in September 1999 when my friends and I headed south to a wonderful small town called St. Remy de Provence.  We happened to arrive just before their “Ancient Festival” in late
September where the locals, dressed in traditional outfits, celebrate their heritage. There was a parade
through the village complete with shepherds with their sheep and goats, carts with shepherdesses pulled by donkeys, the French cowboys on horseback and women dressed in long gowns and mantillas on horseback. Delightful!

We had noticed signs posted throughout the town with bulls and “Attention” in large letters. After the parade we watched while the locals attached tall, sturdy metal fencing from building to building and it was explained in broken French/English that there would be a “bull demonstration”. The trip was getting better every minute.

Then suddenly with a massive  cannon boom the bulls were loose in the streets, buck wild and running in every direction. The cowboys rode with the bulls, goading them on with long poles, and the local men, now dressed in white and red sashes were running in front, by the side and behind the bulls.

Since this was a vacation, I decided, after watching a couple passes of the men and bulls, that this was an opportunity of a lifetime….

What happened next might seem hard to believe, but I swear it’s true. I shoved my packpack into my sister’s hands, squeezed through the fence and took off, trying my best
to run like the wind. I watched and would dart through the fencing when a bull was in hot pursuit…. sometimes more successfully than other times, as the locals didn’t always give me much room to escape. At one point while I was running a policeman ran up beside me. He was very worried for some reason (“attention madame…dangereux!”) and told me to climb into a phone booth but I decided that the phone booth could easily be a bullseye for a bull so just kept running. One man had run up a stairway to a hotel and the bull came right after him, ramming him in the thigh. Too bad for him; he was carried off as I circled around again. Hey, I thought, this is fun!

I ran for over two hours, my adrenalin wouldn’t settle down until late that night….and I had the time of
my life.  I was 54 years old and celebrated my adventure/survival that night with a great meal,
wonderful wine and a very early morning call home to my husband and son. —Linda Miller is a travel agent based in Portland, Oregon and told me this story on a recent flight when we happened to be seated in the same row. Then, as now, I thought, ‘I’m not worthy.’


1 Comment

Gail Zimmerman on June 14, 2010 at 8:31 pm.

I was one of the “friends” referred to in this piece and I can vouch for it all! Linda truly tries to get the most out of every experience she encounters….She was the lone foreign entrant in this unique local event–I didn’t know she could run that fast…Gail (Portland, OR)


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