I was in the stands near the fence when Raymond got tossed (and tossed again). Third bull, first night of the 3-day Roughrider Finals. Out of more than 60 rides only three bulls were covered (ridden for a full 8 seconds). I didn’t take the footage. I could see Raymond’s face when he was in the air looking down with the notion to land on his feet only to see the bull’s nose between his legs. This was the pen of Junior Bulls and just the beginning of an intense weekend for multiple reasons. The bull riders vote for who they want to protect them at Finals – an honor Raymond is humble about and an honor he won’t get again as he went into the season with a plan to hang up his cleats and retire after Roughrider Finals. Before, during and after each event this year I could see his conscious effort to make the most of his final season. Seven years ago when Raymond began the arduous journey of stepping in front of and around bulls, he was an age when most bullfighters are retired. I tell him often it’s a good thing purple is my favorite color since bruised up and swollen happens at times (broken, split and stitched happens also). I discussed this aspect of bull fighting with two kids in the hot tub Sunday morning at the Jamestown North Dakota hotel, hours before Raymond’s final event. BIG eyes got bigger when I told the little girl and her brother that my husband was one of the bullfighters. Reverent silence followed, broken only by the hot tub jets and finally the little boy asked, “Did you see that guy get flipped?” His sister nodded solemnly with recollection. “That was my husband.” Long bubbly pause then he whispered loudly, “Did it hurt?” “Yes it hurt but that happens sometimes when bullfighters put themselves between the bull and fallen rider, near the fence, in the corner (added challenges to a challenging sport).” Banged up, Raymond continued to protect the riders that night, the next and next. Lotsa good saves by both Raymond and his partner Tim Walford. Rank bulls and intense moments down to the last bull on the last day with a final big bump and tumble when “Goldfinger” a great big o’l bull ran over Raymond after Raymond smoothly shot the gap to distract the bull from the tossed rider. Rider safe, the bull went for the barrel man whom Raymond ran to protect. So the scariest action happened just when I thought he was finished with the last bull and after the rider was safe. Obviously things aren’t always pretty, predictable or graceful in the arena with a 2000 pound bull. But they are real (as is my relief and pride).